Friday, July 20, 2007

If you have a handbag fetish....

I was on a mission to find my daughter, Isabelle, a gift for her 18th birthday on July 19, the day I return from Europe. Well, Isabelle had given me a tip, “Mom, buy me a great bag. Not black. I just bought a black one. Brown. Slouchy. Cool.” Subtle, those teenagers.

So, I trusted the advice of my uber-tasteful friend, Laurel, and wiggled my way through the curving streets of Firenze to find the leather artisan who makes her bags. She has been telling me about this place for over a year, but I have not taken it seriously enough to find it. Today we did. Now, I should tell you that on the way, we did a lot of window shopping but all the bags looked commercial and machine made and a little shiny. Trusting Laurel’s directions, we made our way to Borgo S. Apostolo and walked until we found a leather shop. We entered and a soft-spoken man greeted us. I knew I couldn’t handle this one in Italian, asked if he spoke English, and he, naturally, said he did. “Grazie,” I said.

It was very clear immediately that we had found a wonderful shop. There were no labels. No Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. This was a shop where an artist worked creating amazing, tasteful, hip, classy (you name it – the dude has great taste!) leather goods! I was thrilled to find it. Within three minutes, I knew I had hit the jackpot and would find the perfect bag for her 18th birthday. The problem now is that I had found three bags that all “spoke” to me.
I tried them on, looked in the mirror and, with Lee’s help, found the right one. I might have selected another, but he was right and the proprietor agreed.

But, truly, as I continued to look, I could have bought 5 different bags and maybe someday I will. Just unbelievable. And the sweetest part….he could see we appreciated his work, his taste. He told us that 30 years ago in Florence, there were many artisan shops where people made beautiful things. Over time, the Chinese and their products have come into the city, bringing cheap goods. (Quite frankly, we see them sold illegally by street vendors from Africa – selling nothing but a label. They are not selling quality.)
It has changed the character of the Florentine market. Yet, thankfully, this shop has survived. Eugenio, the owner, told us they just do what they love, try to be creative, make beautiful things, not worry so much about the money.

Lee and I have talked a great deal about the life of the artist in Firenze. It is a sacred role, at some level. We met one today. I include his website here. But, guess what? You have to go to Florence to get these. They aren’t available at Neiman’s.

Or send me. I’ll gladly pick them up for you. (Okay, can go to the website, but I'd rather be your personal shopper. See web link and Favorites in Firenze.)

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