(Main photo) Serpenti Afterglow Python bag in aquamarine. (Above) Serpenti Forever Shaded Karung Crossbody Bag (Photos: Bulgari)
Wearing a snake is a cool, calculated move. It’s a planned seduction. It’s bold. It signifies power. In the modern era snakes owe this position – their big break – to Queen Victoria. Prince Albert gave her an 18-carat gold, serpent engagement ring. Albert reportedly had designed the ring that sparked off a trend among the ladies of the European courts. The craze for snake inspired jewellery carried well into the 20th century. By the 1940s Sotirios Voulgaris,the founder of Bulgari, had decided that serpents were the thing, giving the snakes a permanent home in high jewellery. Victoria’s ring had rubies for eyes, diamonds for mouth and a large green emerald set on top pf the head – it was her birthstone. Bulgari’s ever evolving Serpenti rings now come coiled once, twice, even thrice. In all shades of gold. With and without diamonds. With sapphires or rubies or emeralds for eyes. Hypnotising women. Even Elizabeth Taylor succumbed, wearing her diamond encrusted Serpenti bracelet watch on the sets of Cleopatra in Rome in 1962. In 2019, the Bulgari viper was seen around Charlize Theron’s neck as she walked the red carpet for the Oscars. Another one was coiled around her wrist.
The Bulgari snake has morphed into bracelets (sometimes with watches), necklaces, brooches, rings, and earrings, before crossing over into handbag territory. The first Serpenti bag appeared in the 2012 Fall-Winter collection; the viper head taking over the clasp and the chain. And there it has remained. Becoming an icon of glamour. Accessible glamour even.
Glamour that has kept pace with the times. Last year Korean-American designer Yoon Ahn, the co-founder of Tokyo-based brand, Ambush, reinterpreted the iconic serpent and key pieces (Serpenti top handle shoulder bag, belt bag and minaudière). Her serpent got an ‘adorable’ spin. Especially the heart-shaped minaudière. Alexander Wang and Nicholas Kirkwood had come before her with their own spins.
The 2021 Fall-Winter Oasis collection sees the Serpenti evolving once again. This time with the introduction of raffia and with striking colour combinations. Bulgari gets seriously playful here. Raffia dresses two styles: Serpenti Diamond Blast with detachable top handle and thick gold chain strap, and the other with a thinner jewel-inspired chain. Playful fringes outline the bag, the captivating contrast between neutral hues and gem-inspired nuances and the shade-on-shade matt finishing of the iconic snakehead closure make this new interpretation a perfect urban masterpiece with serious cred.
Clockwise from left: Serpenti Forever in varnished calf leather; Serpenti Cabochon bag breaks into the season with a new Maxi Soft Matelassé look, Serpenti Diamond Blast Three Maxi Chain Frame shoulder bag, Serpenti Maxi Chain Nappa and Serpenti Nebulous Python
The ever-evolving chain and snakehead get a whole new take with Serpenti Forever Maxi Chain and its thick and bold chain handle. The Serpenti Cabochon Maxi Soft Matelassé stands out for the disrupted proportions of its bold quilting, while Serpenti Diamond Blast brings in multiple chains of varying widths outlining the bag’s (on the flap) shape. New gem inspired colours have led to the aquamarine Serpenti Forever in Varnished Calf Leather in a glossy finish.
An absolute masterpiece is the new Serpenti Afterglow Python bag. The chain motif connects with python skin in “blue gold”, reinterpreting the water element for an urban vibe. In all the shades of Teal, the front-cut python skin is first hand-painted to build thebase colour with an airbrush. With a manual sponging process, the nuances can take different depths, resulting into a show-stopping 3D effect, while a final step lends the pearlescent finish. The snakehead is set with grey mother-of-pearl, while the bag’s edges are outlined in teal. The copper hued Serpenti Nebulous Python is just as dramtic. For this naturally-treated front-cut python skin is first drum-dyed in Caramel Topaz, then hand-sponged with the Deep Garnet. The result is an ultra-modern bag with an enamelledsnakehead in caramel and garnet.
What brings a smile to face is the rainbow that is Serpenti Forever Shaded Karung crossbody bag. A chromatic masterpiece crafted with an innovative digital print technique. The pearly effect is achieved with a mix of hand-sprayed iridescent pearls, followed by foil. The dissolving rainbow colours have a grey and turquoise snakehead presiding over them.
In micro-bags choose from the Serpenti Forever mini crossbody in Raffia (below) with its playful fringes and contrasting leather details. Or the Serpenti Forever Chain Pochette bag in calf leather with its compact rectangular shape, a thick eye-catching chain and the heritage snakehead design; or the Serpenti Forever Mini crossbody.