For heritage brands and long-standing fashion retailers that have diversified and expanded with each successive generation, storytelling and their products are intertwined, just as how monogrammed trunks are associated with far-flung adventures. Stories are threaded intimately into brands to not only bolster the luxury quotient but also serve as a lynchpin between businesses and customers in an overly automated word teeming with faceless entities. Instead of zealously revering past fashion, brands are viewing them as a foundation for future creations. The challenge is, how do they break with the past while simultaneously preserving their heritage?
Bonia sees the triumvirate of history, craftsmanship and storytelling as a valuable commodity to build upon. With every turn of the fashion calendar, the retailer digs deep into its catalogue of previous designs to reintroduce the brand story to a new generation of consumers. Instead of retrofitting history, partnering new names and faces helps designers and collaborators revisit the brand’s origins through fresh eyes. The Bonia x Scha collection, launched in collaboration with Malaysian model and actress Scha Alyahya just in time for Raya, seeks to capture the needs and wants of the empowered woman while paying ode to the brand’s deep-rooted heritage in Italy.
Ushered onto the shelves this season are cross-strap heels with a pronounced squared toe, slender straps and calf leather insole, as well as silk scarves with minimalist art print inspired by sculptures of Flemish sculptor Giambologna. If handbags have the status of collectibles, the Adjani Shoulder Bag — available in five catching colours — is just as coveted. Borrowing motifs from the shelled carvings and sculptural flowers that appear on Tuscan pillars, the Adjani can be worn on your shoulder or nestled in the crook of your arm like a clutch. The playful ruffle strap, which can be accentuated with a twilly scarf, echoes Scha’s fun and laidback personality.
The crystalline update of the Venice Re-Edition can easily pass off as a shimmering sculpture you can display on your entryway table or dresser — that is if you can get your hands on one of the 10 limited pieces. Inspired by Italian columns, the Crystal Venice Petite studded with a kaleidoscope of Swarovski crystals is an object in its own right, rather than part of a silhouette that has been rehashed. On the other end of the bling spectrum, Bonia’s slightly more demure 2002 classic Camilla — rendered in the brand’s crocodile embossed leather — now comes with a “baby Camilla” microbag to whittle down your everyday needs to the (very) bare minimum.
Fashion is a world of secrets but sharing them and giving outsiders creative licence have resulted in interesting collaborations. Bonia’s marketing and communications director Datin Sri Linda Chen and Scha sit down for a rapid fire verbal volley that takes us behind what inspires them and the collection’s key looks.
Linda Chen: Name three words that describe your sense of style.
Scha Alyahya: Easy-going, approachable and minimalist.
S: Define yourself in three words.
L: Adaptable, driven and always curious.
L: What is the one essential for your daytime look?
S: I have quite a few but I would definitely say my cap. I am always in my white tee or collared shirt, so a cap is a versatile accessory.
L: And your night-time look?
S: My lipstick. Definitely my red lipstick.
S: What about the essentials in your carry-on?
L: Hand sanitiser, wallet and my AirPods.
S: We have the same things!
L: What is a style staple that everyone should own right now?
S: Puff-sleeve shirt.
S: What is the one thing you had to learn the hard way?
L: Learning to juggle my career and family has made me realise that we should not be quick to judge or bear any grudges.
L: What is the best fashion advice you have ever received?
S: Always be yourself. Keep it simple and never wear more than three colours.
S: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
L: To be fluent in Japanese because I am learning it now, and it could be useful for the business in the future. Second, to have dinner with Michelle Obama. Last but not least, to film a movie with you acting in it.
L: If you could raid one woman’s wardrobe, whose would it be?
S: The Olsen twins, although that answer would qualify as two ladies. I have always thought of them as fashionable even though their sense of style is minimal.
S: If you could switch lives with one person for a day, who would it be?
L: My mum. I want to know what she was thinking when she was younger.
L: You have a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and products with history. Why does heritage mean so much to you?
S: Heritage is important because we need to honour the history of those who came before us. It keeps us connected to our roots even though we crave new things as consumers.
S: What is your favourite quote or motto to live by?
L: I believe that we have two lives. The first is the life we learn with; the second is the one we live after.
L: You travel a lot but who would you go on a road trip with?
S: That would be my husband. Awal [Ashaari] is quite the opposite of me because, contrary to popular belief, I am actually more reserved. He is more adventurous and makes me do things I would never imagine doing.
S: What’s the one city you have always dreamed of travelling to then?
L: Vienna. I love any city that enables me to fantasise, visualise, dramatise and broaden my imagination.
L: What motivates or keeps you going these days?
S: One of them is working hand-in-hand with notable brands [like Bonia] that really speak to my sense of style and personality. The Bonia x Scha collection is so close to my heart because each piece we curated is bold, empowering and cool. I have enjoyed every step of this partnership.
S: Was the experience the same for you?
L: Most certainly. We wanted to collaborate with you for our latest collection because you embody the qualities we admire at Bonia. You are confident and have a strong appreciation for craftsmanship.
S: How would you define the perfect bag for the modern woman?
L: A timeless piece that speaks to one’s personality and taste. Something that is versatile yet effortlessly functional.
L: How would you work pieces from the collection into your Raya celebrations?
S: The Adjani for visiting family; Camilla for casual hangouts with friends; and the Crystal Venice for dinners.
S: Finally, why should fans be excited about the Bonia x Scha collection?
L: We took a lot of time going through the archives to bring something new to our customers. History is very important to us but so is our vision to look forward. The limited-edition Crystal Venice Petite is testament to our dedication to craftsmanship. If our fans would like to live a day like Scha, this collaboration is not to be missed.
This article first appeared on Apr 19, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.