The fashion scene may have seasonal dalliances with mock-croc, fake reptilian and leopard print, but when it comes to the real deal, exotics have always held a certain cachet, unaffected by time or place. Columbian designer Nancy Gonzalez, whose bags made from exotic skin have been a favourite across the world for over 20 years, has confirmed this by extending her retail reach in over 400 multi-brand stores to Harrods, which is now playing host to her eponymous brand's first London boutique.
In this month’s style special (W*156), we explore how a select crew of luxury brands like Nancy Gonzalez are branching out their production line to directly engage with the farmers and producers at the source. By overseeing the production process from raw material to finished piece and controlling its crocodile farms and tanneries where the skins for the bags come from, Nancy Gonzalez believes it guarantees customers the best-quality skins available.
This extreme attention to detail is also reflected in the 300 sq ft shop-in-shop, where the constraints of a department store setting have not scuppered the brand's exacting standards. Bags are displayed on ultra-thick cubes of plexiglas which have much larger dimensions than the usual shop standard. Banishing metal from the space, the boutique, located in Harrods' Egyptian Room, uses only bronze detailing on cabinets.
Framed with a backdrop of silken velvet walls, the interior is dominated by highly polished rosewood fixtures that were sourced in Columbia and shipped over to Budrio, Italy, to be assembled by luxury shop furniture specialists Arredoquattroindustrie.
When commissioning New York-based Rawlins Design to design the overall space, Nancy's son and company president Santiago briefed them to combine the sensibility of designers such as André Arbus, Jean-Michel Frank and Gabriella Crespi (whose influence can be see in the demi-moon rosewood cabinets in the boutique's central space) with minimalist art - Gonzalez cites Donald Judd as a heavy influence on his conceptualisation for the boxy-shaped cabinets.
Meanwhile, a carefully-considered lighting scheme, which ensures not a single shadow is cast on the bags, reflects Gonzalez's desire for a space that had to be 'very precisely lit' with perfectly balanced lighting.
And gone are the days where the hues of exotic accessories are limited to innocuous browns, tans and creams - at Nancy Gonzalez, it's all about eye-popping brights.