Elizabeth Street Meets Christine Innamorato

“You just missed Matt Lauer’s wife,” one of the saleswomen says to me when I arrive at the two-story Bonpoint store at 805 Madison Avenue. It’s the middle of a Tuesday, but plenty of other stylish shoppers remain, browsing the goods that might detract from the perfectly elegant space if they weren’t so well designed themselves. To the left of the entrance are shelves lined with gentle creams and Bonpoint’s 26-year-old signature perfume by Annick Goutal. The white bottles feature the brand’s name written in the familiar, old-fashioned script, as well as the cherry logo. This mix of high sophistication and childish whimsy is also apparent in the children’s clothes, which are often passed down and around families and friends and are, of course, the store’s main attraction.

The woman behind the well-cut blazers, darling day dresses, and cashmere confections is artistic director Christine Innamorato. She studied at the esteemed ESMOD and designed for Cacharel, another standard-bearer of French chic, before moving to Bonpoint in 2006. Aware that the image of a global lifestyle brand requires diligent maintenance, Innamorato weighs in on nearly everything, from the famous window displays to the casting for Bonpoint’s biannual fashion shows. But her style of working also lives up to the brand’s reputation as a true maison.

In the studio atop the flagship boutique on Rue Tournon in Paris, she fits every item of clothing, 300 per season, on every age from newborn to teen. “A woman might convince herself to wear something uncomfortable, but there’s no fooling children,” Innamorato says. During the fittings, she listens to the children’s preferences—“twirling skirts for the girls, no pink for the boys!”

It’s a typical portrait of designer and muse, except that these muses’ quick growth necessitates they be replaced every year. All the better for Innamorato, who welcomes change in her constant efforts to push the brand’s creativity while respecting its DNA. She doesn’t follow the ever-expanding high-end children’s fashion market, which she believes often ignores its wearers in favor of creating miniature adults, but does take cues from other realms. In addition to film and travelling, motherhood has certainly shaped her design perspective. “From the moment you become a parent, you’re swimming in the world of childhood,” she says.

Innamorato hopes that wearing Bonpoint opens children up to thinking about color, art, and beauty. At 23, Innamorato’s own daughter, Litchis, has long outgrown her girlish duds, as well as YAM, Bonpoint’s teen line. (It stands for y en a marre, or I’m fed up, and is intended for those ready for something new after wearing Bonpoint all their lives, poor things.) That’s not to say she’s removed from her mother’s work, though. Together, they design Innamorato, the adult line separate from Bonpoint but sold on the second floor of the New York flagship. The collection’s comprised of feminine separates, classics with slight twists to which, Innamorato says, Litchis lends “balance with her specific eye as a younger person.” Given this mother-daughter collaboration, it’s fitting that in Italian, innamorato means in love.