Celebrities, Fashion and Beauty

Positano chic: why fashion fell for the Amalfi coast

Positano chic: why fashion fell for the Amalfi coast

August 12
14:55 2017

“Positano bites deep . . . it is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there, and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” So wrote John Steinbeck, recounting a vacation to the Amalfi Coast in Harper’s Bazaar in 1953. 

Steinbeck is right. Positano is a picture-perfect postcard of pastel-coloured houses nestled into the cliff face leading down into the Tyrrhenian Sea; a tiny village of winding roads and seaview balconies that hang under the air of delicate frangipani. The most famous of the string of resorts that comprise the Amalfi Coast, it’s so idyllic that traders with wooden carts sell freshly squeezed lemonade to the fleet of Vespas flying past. 

The Amalfi Coast is quintessential moodboard fodder: and despite being one of the world’s most fashionable holiday destinations, where scores of jet-setters flock each summer, it remains curiously unspoilt. It’s no surprise that fashion designers are inspired by its resorts: The Row offers flat leather Capri mules in gold, swimwear designer Heidi Klein has a Ravello swimwear range (from £190), the mens’ label Hackett does Amalfi shorts (£80). 

Tom Ford named his newest fragrance in honour of it. Released last month, the Mandarino Di Amalfi eau de parfum blends base notes of musk and amber with top notes of mint, black currant and — unsurprisingly — lemon. Other beauty houses have also tried to capture the region’s distinctive scent: Cire Trudon collaborated with Giambattista Valli on a limited edition Positano candle (£78), while Fornasetti’s Sol di Capri scented candle (£140) is held in a porcelain container illustrated with whitewashed buildings and a smiley sun. 

“Southern Italy is a great reference for us thanks to its colours, perfumes and atmospheres,” says Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana. The designers are constantly inspired by the fabrics, prints and colours of the coastline. “Napoli, Capri, Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento are all places that represent the Italian spirit at its best.” For SS17, the designers unveiled a Capri capsule, with painterly tote bags, miniature chain-strap purses and phone cases that pay homage to the island with the slogan: “All I need is love and Capri”. The same spirit also inspires photographer Akila Berjaoui, whose scenic shots of Amalfi holidaymakers capture the hazy holiday romance of a bygone era, shot on analogue film. 

Akila Berjaoui ‘Baby’ photograph, A$700, akilaberjaoui.me

“The Amalfi Coast was a favourite vacation spot for my parents,” says the model Heidi Klum, who launched her swimwear line in 2016: her blue and white print recalls the deep azures of the sea. She says: “We loved its coastlines, people and food — it’s still one of my favourite places to this day.” 

Jewellery designers Marte Frisnes and Aurélie Bidermann, and womenswear designer Gül Hürgel, take inspiration from the colours of the Positano cliffs for their collections. “It just captures your heart,” says Hürgel. “You feel like you’re living in a dream.” Hürgel’s crisp, cotton and linen dresses, in sorbet-shaded stripes with broderie anglaise frills, have been worn on location by everyone, from the stylist Giovanna Battaglia to the actress Suki Waterhouse. 

Gül Hürgel, Cotton dress, £643, matchesfashion.com

The area’s old-fashioned glamour has lent the resorts a sartorial style of their own. Saturday nights in Positano see flocks of women heading to the al fresco Franco’s Bar dressed in flouncy checked dresses and skirts by Caroline Constas, accessorised with Rebecca de Ravenel’s striped pom pom earrings — inspired by the southern Italian beach umbrellas — or wide-trim, ribbon-tied boater hats. 

“The Amalfi look is a great alternative to the more boho vibe that has become so popular,” says Coco Chan, head of womenswear at Stylebop.com. “Here the mood is more crisp, polished, yet charming and effortless . . . I keep thinking of all those iconic scenes in The Talented Mr Ripley. Gwyneth Paltrow in gingham shirts and dresses and basket bags — who wouldn’t want to look like that?” she continues.

Dodo Bar Or, of the eponymous resortwear label, agrees. “We are chameleons,” she says of her scarf-print kaftans and dresses embellished with tassels and trimmings. “Clothes represent how we want society to capture us . . . On vacations in the Amalfi Coast, it seems people adopt the same look.” Creative director and founder of The Store boutiques Alex Eagle vacations on the Amalfi Coast every summer. “Positano is one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” she says. “It inspires you to wear something timeless to fit your surroundings. It always feels 1940s to me.” This season, she created a special Alex Eagle Positano collection, naming all the pieces after her favourite places along the coast: the Nureyev, named after the late ballet dancer’s private island Li Galli (a location in Homer’s The Odyssey), is a striped dress (£560); the Sirenuse, named after one of Eagle’s favourite hotels is a striped cotton shirt (£445). “The coast is incredibly romantic and such fun,” she says. 

Alex Eagle, Sirenuse shirt, £445, alexeagle.co.uk

The 58-bedroomed Le Sirenuse is one of only three luxury hotels in Positano, and its balcony, with enviable views, has achieved a cult-like status. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once holidayed there, and recent residents have included Eddie Redmayne and Anne Hathaway. In 2013, the hotel’s co-owner Carla Sersale launched a luxury resortwear label — Le Sirenuse Positano — to sell in the hotel’s adjacent boutique. Where most luxury hotels have multi-brand stores, Le Sirenuse is one of the rare few that has created its own, standalone label (it was picked up by Matchesfashion.com last year) and its signature prints are reworked across garments including kaftans and swimsuits (from £202). The collection, designed by Sersale and her niece, Viola Parrocchetti, is handmade by artisans in India: this year’s bestseller is the Anita garden-print maxi, covered in red roses and seahorses. “If I make something in white, it doesn’t sell,” says Sersale. “Everybody wants the colour, everybody wants the print.” 

Le Sirenuse is at an advantage, in that its store is one of only two luxury boutiques in the village (the other is Missoni). “No more hotels and shops can be built here because there is simply no space left in the cliffs,” says Sersale. For Bidermann, who has been holidaying on the Amalfi for the past decade, it’s essential the big brands don’t move in. “If it became commercial, I wouldn’t holiday here any more,” says Bidermann. “Positano is a bubble, it’s a special place for me — all there is to do here is swim, eat and relax. I come here to escape the real world . . . ” 

It remains as charming as it was in Steinbeck’s day. “It’s impossible to overstate the allure of the Amalfi Coast,” says Chan. “It’s romantic, old world yet low-key and rife with colour and folklore.” Or, as Dolce & Gabbana say: “It’s magic.” 

Le Sirenuse Positano, Anita garden-print maxi dress, £324, matchesfashion.com
Aurélie Bidermann, Positano bangle, €240, stylebop.com
Heidi Klum, Catalina Kisses swimsuit, £105, heidiklumintimates.com
Le Sirenuse Positano, swim shorts, £162, matchesfashion.com
Dolce & Gabbana, Capri tote, £1,425, dolceandgabbana.com
Caroline Constas, Irene cotton top, £455, net-a-porter.com
Dodo Bar Or, Nathaniel Shirt, £240, avenue32.com
Fornasetti Sol di Capri candle, £149, net-a-porter.com
Rebecca de Ravenel, Pia earring, $275, rebeccaderavenel.com
Marte Frisnes, Tassel bangle, £165, net-a-porter.com
Tom Ford, Mandarino Di Amalfi EDP, £155, tomford.com
The Row, Capri mule, £920, matchesfashion.com

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