Two women, a shared Italian background, a passion for beautiful shoes and a firm belief in the importance of exceptional craftsmanship. Since its launch in 2007, Bionda Castana‘s rise to prominence has been nothing short of stratospheric. The London-based brand’s sophisticated shoes have graced the pages of every global glossy worth mentioning and been sported on red carpets and catwalks from Moscow to Milan.

bionda castana

Despite having met while studying business and gone on to work in banking and marketing after graduation, Natalia Barbieri and Jennifer Portman’s passion for shoes is evident.  “A perfect balance between British cool and Italian chic” describes the brand perfectly – and Bionda Castana most definitely make shoes for girls who like to run in heels. We found out a little more about the creative duo making our footwear dreams come true…

Motivation for me is all about…

Natalia Barbieri: Seeking new challenges.
Jennifer Portman: Loving what I do. Having creative licence to design collections, yet having a 360-degree involvement in running a brand. But ultimately, nothing is more gratifying or motivating than creating shoes which people love to wear.

Success means…

NB: Having the ability to relax and recharge every now and again and to take pride in my accomplishments. It’s easy to get caught up in every day life of work, so I take pride in myself when am able to switch off from it all.
JP: In today’s day and age the sorry truth is that our culture would have us believe that success means money or fame. For me, success means neither of those things. Success in life means having a rewarding combination of both personal and professional fulfilment and trying to be the best at what I do every day.

bionda castana shoes

I couldn’t have got there without…

NB: My mother, father and older brother. Ultimately, they were the only ones who believed in me from the beginning.
JP: The unfaltering support of my family, my business partner Natalia and our artisan factory – through thick and thin, blood, sweat and tears.

I always start my day…

NB: With my morning meditation followed by a pilates class. Essential to the start of a productive day. (Am a bit of a health freak.)
JP: An espresso. Coffee is king. Only then, do I feel like I have the “fuel” to start my day.

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When I don’t feel inspired…

NB: I take a trip to my mother’s village in Northern Spain to regroup and refocus. There is nothing like fresh air and no wifi.
JP: Take time out to reflect. It’s always better to walk away, do something else no matter how banal, and then return to the task at hand with fresh eyes and renewed energy.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

NB: It should. We are here and have a voice and have some of the most powerful jobs in the world. But let’s not focus on being female. We need to focus on being the best entrepreneurs and businesspeople we can be.
JP: The landscape is positive, in that women are increasingly seeing entrepreneurship as a compelling alternative if their career path is stunted.

bionda castana heels

The trait I most deplore in others is…

NB: Ignorance. But there are a few more I could add to this list.
JP: Laziness. Anyone who demonstrates laziness or lack of drive infuriate me.

I’d like to be remembered for…

NB: Being a person with integrity who always gave everything she could in any aspect of life.
JP: I just want to be remembered for being a person who tried their best and did their best.

What makes me happiest is…

NB: When am creating and developing new ideas.
JP: Simple pleasures. A morning coffee and gossip with the girls, a night out to see a cool new band, or sometimes just having the solitude to go for a walk. Sometimes finding a balance between professional and private life is challenging – so whatever free time I have, I enjoy it.

bionda castana founders

Can I run in heels?

NB: It’s my favourite sport.
JP: Oh most definitely – if I really have to. But then again, it would depend on who’s chasing me…