A Designer Inspired by Club DJs, Fishing Apparel and Ceremonial Masks

Simone Bellotti, the creative director of Bally, shares his influences.

Article by Laura May Todd

The designer Simone Bellotti.The designer Simone Bellotti. Courtesy of Simone Bellotti.

For most of his 23-year career, Simone Bellotti, 45, the creative director of Bally, worked behind the scenes. In fact, that was the plan when, in October 2022, he became the Swiss brand’s design director under Rhuigi Villaseñor, the then-30-year-old founder of the Los Angeles-based streetwear line Rhude. Bellotti, a well-liked veteran of the Italian fashion industry, was to quietly help Villaseñor run the 173-year-old house. But when Villaseñor left Bally in 2023, after a little over a year, Bellotti was pushed into the spotlight. “I was happy and surprised,” he says. “And a bit stressed.”

Bellotti was born about 20 miles north of Milan in Giussano, a town known for producing furniture. His father, Romano, was an upholsterer; his mother, Bruna, assisted Romano and looked after their three children: Bellotti, the middle child, and his two sisters, Roberta and Emanuela. “I still remember the noise of the machine [in my father’s workshop] and the perfume of the wool,” he says of his childhood, which he describes as carefree. When Bellotti was 13, his father, then 49, died unexpectedly. “After that, it was not so easy.”

At 18, he began studying fashion design and patternmaking at Milan’s Istituto Secoli. But unlike many of his classmates, who sought internships at bigger houses after graduating, he was drawn to more outré independent designers like Martin Margiela and Veronique Branquinho. “I was attracted by the aesthetic coming from Antwerp,” says Bellotti, who apprenticed for eight months at the Belgian label A.F. Vandevorst. In 2007, after working for various Milan-based companies — Gianfranco Ferré, Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana — he relocated to Florence (he would later move to Rome) to design for Gucci, where he spent nearly 16 years. Although Bellotti speaks fondly of that experience, he says that when Bally called him back to Milan once again, he knew it was his time to go: “It felt like a new beginning in my old town.”

For his spring 2024 Bally debut, Bellotti nodded to the brand’s history as a leather goods house, sending out men and women in copious amounts of leather: bombers, blazers, trenches, even summer dresses. Yet the collection also felt distinctly alpine: clean, utilitarian and sporty. “Switzerland isn’t just precision, chocolate and banks,” Bellotti says. “It can also be something less rational.”

At top: “This picture was taken by my fiancée, Martina [Zerneri, 36]. It was the summer of 2015, and we were on our first trip together, in Berlin, at the König Galerie, [a contemporary art gallery] in a Brutalist-style church. Martina and I met at Gucci; she used to work in the brand image office. Everyone was scared of that office because everything had to [be approved] by them.”

© Samuel Goldwyn/Everett Collection; Carlotta Manaigo/Courtesy of Bally; Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast/Shutterstock
From left: © Samuel Goldwyn/Everett Collection; Carlotta Manaigo/Courtesy of Bally; Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast/Shutterstock

Left: “In the movie [‘Wild at Heart,’ 1990], Isabella Rossellini has the kind of beauty that’s not obvious. I read that the makeup [for her character, the scornful Perdita Durango] was inspired by Frida Kahlo and her eyebrows. When we were casting our [spring 2024] show, I was looking for models with a similar type of unconventional beauty.”

Centre: “This is a backstage photo [of the model Lydia Reid] from my first show at Bally. Everything went so well; I felt like I was surrounded by people who were happy to be part of it. For the music, I worked with Leo Mas, a legend in the club scene. When I was 16 or 17 and going out a lot, he was one of the most important D.J.s. He [was an originator of] a style of music called Balearic. That’s why we titled the playlist for the show ‘Ballyaric.’”

Right: “This is [the American artist] Cy Twombly’s house on Via di Monserrato in Rome. I used to walk down that street every day on my way to the Gucci office, and I’d always look up at his windows. In photos of the house that were taken [for Vogue] in the ’60s, you see this very classical-style house with Roman statues and then a painting on the floor by Gerhard Richter and these neo-Classical chairs — so modern, but elegant.”

Pictures from simon's childhood.
Courtesy of Simone Bellotti.

Left: “I’ve always listened to music. Then I discovered tube amplifiers [which are said to produce a warmer sound]. I learned everything I know [about audio technology] from the sound engineer Ekkehard Strauss, who has a blog that covers hi-fi equipment. I’ll send him a video of the way I’ve positioned my speakers, and he’ll say, ‘Can you move the right speaker a bit more?’ With this type of equipment, I listen mostly to jazz and classical.”

Centre: “When I was growing up, there was always something happening at our house. My father worked on the ground floor. My mom is also very creative; every month, she’d rearrange the furniture. I had many friends on my street, and we’d play football or play in the fields. After my father died, I grew up in a house of women: my mom, grandmother and sisters. My mom and younger sister still live there.”

Right: “My father liked to fish. This was the corduroy vest he wore when he went out. I’d go with him sometimes to some of the minor lakes between Como and Giussano. It was a disaster. I was always breaking the fishing lines. But it was nice to be with him. And I like this very utilitarian clothing.”

Images of a wardrobe, a cat and flowers.
From left: Courtesy of Simone Bellotti (2); Axel Hoedt, “Butz, Grosselfingen,” 2012 © Axel Hoedt

Left: “This is the entrance of my apartment. While looking for a house in Milan, I said I wanted somewhere that felt like Rome, where you’re always surrounded by people. I found a 17th-century building near Via Torino [in the city’s historic centre]. Many people asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to live in an area with so many tourists?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it reminds me of the mess of Rome.’”

Centre: “Isotta [left] is a Scottish fold. Cosimo [right] is a Scottish straight. She’s the boss, even though she’s smaller than him. He’s usually good, except when I’m listening to music. He sees that I’m not paying attention to him, so he’ll go to the speaker and start scratching it. I have these special speakers that were made in Germany, and every time they’re on I play with him [to distract him].”

Right: “This photo [by the German artist Axel Hoedt] was taken in the foothills of southern Germany, where they have these beautiful traditions with ceremonial masks. I like the proximity of man to nature; the masks are all made from [flowers and other adornments]. I bought [Hoedt’s 2015 book, “Dusk”], and I also gave one to Alessandro [Michele, the former creative director of Gucci], and he loved it.”

An image of a car, an ocean and a book.
From left: Courtesy of Simone Bellotti (2); courtesy of Bally

Left: “This is a Saab 900 Turbo Aero from 1990. When I was in Antwerp, I saw it everywhere. And when I came back [to Milan] in 2002, I wanted my own. This is my third one, which I bought in Palermo in 2010. I only drive it on weekends, though. I still use my bike to get to the office every day. This morning, I ran into an old Gucci colleague who said, ‘Simone, you’re still riding your bike? I thought you were the creative director!’ But I love it, and it’s the fastest way to get around.”

Centre: “We’ve been going to Sardinia for the last couple of years. This is close to Barbagia, in the central part of the island — really in the middle of nowhere. To get to this beach, you have to walk for an hour and a half over loose rocks. It’s harder than a hike in the Dolomite mountains. If you survive, it’s so beautiful. But then you have to hike back.”

Right: “This image was taken by [the British photographer] Alasdair McLellan for Bally’s fall 2023 campaign [and later used, as seen here, on the invitation to the spring 2024 show] at the end of a long day when it was starting to rain. These three jumped in the water even though it was freezing. I remember there was a kind of silence. For me, it was really the beginning of this new chapter of my life at Bally.”

An image of a book, a frame, and people lying in water.
From left: Courtesy of Simone Bellotti (2); courtesy of Carol Christian Poell, photo: Stefan Zeisler

Left: “‘The Baron in the Trees’ [the 1957 novel by Italo Calvino] is one of my favorite books. It’s about Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò [a young nobleman after whom Bellotti named one of his cats], who decides to climb a tree and, for the rest of his life, he never goes back to the ground. I love that he doesn’t compromise or change his mind.”

Centre: “Martina bought this oil painting on copper at an antiques shop in Lisbon two years ago. I like its colour and that it’s surrounded by a red frame. It’s from the 17th century, maybe a bit later. Since living in Rome, I’ve been less attracted to contemporary art. Of course, there are exceptions — I love Richard Prince, Cyprien Gaillard and Ragnar Kjartansson — but I prefer to go deeper and take my time rather than keep up with what’s new.”

Right: “I interned with [the Milan-based Austrian designer] Carol Christian Poell for a few months early in my career. This presentation, staged on a bridge in the Navigli [the canal district of Milan] in 2003, the year after I worked there, was epic. I thought, ‘Maybe Carol will walk the models over the bridge.’ But then we saw a pair of shoes floating on the water and all the models coming down the canal. It was interesting because, in that moment, the bigger conglomerates [were taking over fashion]. I thought it was poetic that an independent designer did this; he knew everything was changing.”