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Italian crafts.

Ok, so here’s a good one:  Rather than spending some money every so often on faux leather or plastic handbags made at some sweatshop somewhere far away, or huge amounts of money on the designer stuff, why don’t go for some excellent handmade crafts?  If you know what and where to get it, you will get much nicer bags than at the luxury brand stores, and for a fraction of the price.

So, if you have your ways through Venice in Italy, try stopping by at Mazzon Le Borse. They are at Sestiere San Polo, 2807, just off campo S. Tomà. The family-run handicraft leather workshop has been managed by master Pietro Mazzon since 1963. High quality leather bags and accessories are handmade in a variety of colours and styles. The workshop produces items almost exclusively made-to-order, with an expected waiting period of about 20-days. If you are lucky, however, you’ll find something among the items they happen to have ready when you visit (as I did with the orange bag in the above picture).

Now the best part is that you can place an order with them over the internet using e-mail. They have a web page showing some of the models (but not all the colors!) http://www.2venice.it/en/shopping/mazzon-le-borse/   A word of warning though: their business is making beautiful handmade leather items, not web pages 🙂  Hence please don’t be disencouraged by the maybe slightly conservative colors and models they’ve selected for the web gallery.

The obvious number one source of all things leather is of course Florence.  Over there the market at Piazza San Lorenzo is a good source, but because of the oversupply of faux products imported from China(?) and India(?), here too you need to be careful when selecting your vendors and items.

Perusing the shops, stalls and markets for many years in Italy and elsewhere I’ve learned to look for the following features:
– a bag made of a good quality leather is soft and will be heavy. Leave the ones made out of the stiff shiny “leathers” alone.  They are often not leather at all, and will not age gracefully.
proceed to ensure that the interior is made of calfskin, suede or similar (not cloth). A leather interior is a sign of quality, and you will appreciate how it feels against your hand when you shuffle through the bag looking for something in it.
– check the stitching and seams. The stitching should be exact, with no loose threads sticking out anywhere. Check that seams are actually sown, not glued. All perforations should be lined with stitching.
– check all zippers, locks and mechanisms.  The zippers should run absolutely smoothly and the finishing of the buckles and metallic parts should be good.
– check the price, a good quality bag should cost USD 150-300, no more, no less.  Occasionally you will find a good bag with a cloth interior. In this case the price should be well below USD 200.

In Florence I’ve come to like the following leather workshops:

Toro Pelletteria Firenze. They have three locations,
– Via Dei Cimatori 18/r/Via dei Cerchi 13/r,
– Piazza San Lorenzo Stand 11-12
– Mercato Del Percellino.

Giostra Firenze. They have stands at the Mercate Del Percellino and elsewhere, and you can also get them on Amazon and occasionally in the US at TK MAXX(!).  Their models are usually a little funkier, and may have cloth linings, but come at very reasonable prices.

In Rome, Delmar is a good choice. They are at Via Mesopotamia n°7. Founded by Marcello Del Giudice together with his wife. It is an artisan firm with specialized craftsmen trained by the owner himself. It began with women’s bags and, little by little, has included articles for men, travel goods, overnight bags, totes, satchels and small accessories. All this also thanks to the presence of sons who have fitten perfectly into the firm, allowing the owner more time to pay precise attention to details and the preparation of the products. (http://www.delmarpelletterie.com/).

Some examples (Mazzoni, Delmar, Giostra):

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