Q&A with Bally Creative Directors, Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler


Original interview in English for Velvet Magazine October 2012

Q&A with Bally Creative Directors, Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler

 By Graciela Martin
They say two heads are better than one, and such is the case of Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler, who have been widely acclaimed for their work at Bally since taking over the creative direction of the house over three years ago. The legendary Swiss brand, celebrated for its unequalled craftsmanship in shoes and leather goods since it was founded in 1851, has regained international success thanks to the British duo’s ability to create up-to-date, simple, yet elegant ready-to-wear and accessories whilst maintaining the house’s heritage intact. At the same time, this has allowed Bally to further broaden its offer in accessories and to quickly expand its number of stores around the world.

You both seem to have very different personalities and very different things inspire you. For instance, Michael has mentioned that he is very inspired by his home, which was built in 1710, and Graeme finds modern architecture and functional design fascinating. How do you marry your distinct personalities into such a great balance? Could you imagine not working together?

Fortunately, we genuinely like one another and talk all the time, sharing ideas and seeking the other’s input. We’ve been working together for over 10 years now and while we both have our moments, we ultimately respect and trust each other enormously.

You have both been at Bally for over three years, what has been the most challenging part of the job so far?

Finding the right balance between our work commitments and spending time with our respective families. We’re both workaholics who love our jobs so it’s not easy but time at home is extremely important to both of us.

Working with a brand of such a great heritage comes with a great deal of fantastic archives as well, how do you manage not falling into retro and nostalgia?

Bally was founded over 160 years ago and as a result, has this incredible heritage and amazing archive. When we first arrived, we spent a lot of time at the archive, coming to understand the brand and connecting with its history and aesthetic. We sought out inspirational pieces from which we could build our collections and develop an authentic Bally mood that still reflects the brand’s playful spirit. Customers expect Bally to deliver on its promise of excellence in quality and craftsmanship in every piece we design.

We took a lot of time at the start, coming to understand what Bally stood for and what the brand wanted to be. While we want to respect that heritage, we also want to create highly relevant, contemporary collections that set the benchmark in leather design and craftsmanship. The archives are our inspiration to design collections that are iconic and desirable; a contemporary heritage for now and the future.

Until now which pieces have you found to be the most inspiring? 

We’re constantly looking for inspiration and particularly love spending time at the Bally archive, hunting around, digging up hidden gems. It could be as simple as a heel shape or a colour around which we can base a collection.

While obviously maintaining a certain aesthetic for both lines, how does the process change when designing for men and when designing for women?

Most men’s fashion is made for conventional styling so the challenge is to maintain a balance between classic, practical design that is still innovative and interesting. Women on the other hand want it all – and we’re here to give it to them! For the Bally woman, we still keep things simple however the brand has a very playful side and there is definitely more scope when creating an informal luxury lifestyle for the cosmopolitan woman.

The collections are effortless, slightly sporty yet very elegant. Do you think women today care more about being practical rather than dressing up?

Who says you can’t have both? Our collections are designed for women who want that sense of freedom and enjoyment luxury products bring. It’s about really allowing yourself to be enveloped in a world that is both extremely comfortable and unique.

In spite of the great rise of fast fashion and the global financial crisis, high-end fashion retailers are still going strong. How do you see the future of fashion? How are you preparing yourselves for it?

Fashion is an expression of our culture and time, and Bally is about creating classic and iconic shapes and interpreting them in new ways. We want to produce a product that is beautiful and allows our customers to appreciate it because it’s desirable. Bally’s heritage is shoes and luxury leather goods, which represent authenticity and integrity. ‘Bally Switzerland 1851’ speaks for itself: simple, modern elegance; fine craftsmanship; and beautiful leathers.