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Leather goods giant Tod's expands its vision to the whole wardrobe

Booth Moore
Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Tod's, the Italian leather goods empire built on the success of a luxe, pebble-sole driving loafer, has a new point of view, and it's all about a leather wardrobe.

Alessandra Facchinetti, a veteran of Valentino and Gucci, was appointed creative director of Tod's in February 2013. With three well-reviewed collections under her belt, she traveled to Los Angeles recently to share her laid-back vision for the brand.

The day we met, Facchinetti was soaking in the sun on the VIP terrace at the Tod's store on Rodeo Drive. She was dressed completely in her own designs: black sailor pants and a black perforated cotton tunic top; futuristic-looking sunglasses with triangular side-arms and a chunky, architectural cuff bracelet with a leather disc framed in metal and crystals.

On view inside were pieces from Tod's spring 2015 collection, shown on the runway during Milan Fashion Week. Inspired by an Italian garden, the collection is a combination of soft silhouettes and even softer leather, including skirts, shirts and bags in floral patchwork that nods to the 1970s; perforated leather tunic dresses with leaf and twig motifs; crisp cotton skirts and tops in a palm tree print; and a sophisticated denim trouser suit.

New bag styles include the Fold, a soft-sided tote with corners that can fold in for a dressier look or fold out when you need to fish for your cell phone. It comes in several neutral hues, with or without flower patchwork. The Basket is a drawstring bucket in smooth leather, which comes with or without crystal studs. For the feet, Facchinetti crossed the driving loafer with an espadrille and put a crystal safety pin on top for a chic, utilitarian embellishment.

The ready-to-wear collection is available in 15 Tod's stores worldwide, including the Rodeo Drive boutique. Shoes start at $425, bags start at $850, and clothing starts at $625.

I sat down with the designer for a few minutes to chat about her new take on Tod's.

When most people think of the Tod's brand, they think basic and sporty — and maybe Princess Diana, who really helped put the driving loafer and Tod's tote bag on the map. What are you bringing that's new and different?

Most of my work centers around leather, which to our customer before had just been related to the bags and shoes. We're trying to treat it more like fabric and create a sporty and sophisticated vision for the clothes, but with a feminine edge. We're also doing some experimental things that combine artisanal touches and new technology. But everything is casual and comfortable.

You have designed for lots of different brands. What made Tod's appealing?

I like the realistic point of view. They don't scream anything. They are just concentrating on making beautiful things with quality. Everything has to be wearable, which is important today.

This is a moment when many people are wanting items that are less branded and more exclusive and different. Does Tod's fit into that mind-set?

Sure. It's in the DNA. The business, credibility, lifestyle; it's the right moment for many reasons.

And the way people wear leather has changed so much. It's not really a trend anymore; it's beyond that.

That's why when we started, I really decided to concentrate on the leather story. I have always worked with leather, but it has been a more traditional approach. We're creating a new language with leather, with super-light weights and different textures to wear during the day.

Has it been difficult to achieve technically?

Yes, it's a long process, but it's been interesting. And what we've accomplished is seasonless, which is also important.

Is it the same machine that makes the perforated holes for the clothing as for the soles of the shoes?

Yes, it's a big metal press with lasers that go down. Then, there are machines that wash the leather as well. That's all done in Florence, but my studio is in Milan.

How is it working with Tod's chairman Diego Della Valle? He's such a titan in the industry.

We are very open to talking with each other. He is very opinionated but in a nice way. At the same time, I'm free to do my own thing.

booth.moore@latimes.com

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