Campomaggi Spring Summer 2016

GALLO Reversible Canvas Tote Fuchsia

GALLO Reversible Canvas Tote Fuchsia

Another collection is here

The arrival of a new Campomaggi collection is one of the most exciting times at Marcopoloni and our customers also get really excited, which makes for a joyous busy time that helps us forget about tax season and think about spring–the actual season.

The seasons of fashion are similar to the seasons in California. The spring/summer season here in Campbell, CA begins with the end of the last rain, which could be just about now. This is the time when I like to plan my first dinner in the yard with friends and start thinking about going to the beach. Well, so I am finally in the mood to announce the new spring/summer 2016 collection by Campomaggi and, in a separate post, I will announce the Caterina Lucchi one.

There is a problem with this thinking though! I, just now, realize that our South-of-the-Equator customers get completely left behind by doing this… Ouch! We love you too, of course, and I will keep you in mind going forward. Luckily, Campomaggi bags are often unisex and “uniseason” and this collection has at least a couple of new bags that do not shy away from fall and winter.

The Streets of Milan

Marco turned 55 this year (as you know by doing the math on your Campomaggi bag) and opened his flagship store in Via della Spiga, 5 in Milan’s fashion district. I have said it before and gladly repeat it: this is a big deal. A man who decided to make bags the way he liked them has been able to rise to the stage along with the most famous brands in the world who make bags the way fashion trends dictacte. It will be interesting to see if the world of fashion will start moving away from the cookie-cutter styles we have been taught to consider fashionable and towards something more in tune with the fact that people are not made with a cookie-cutter.

Uniqueness Reigns

As I have always said, and just implied, Campomaggi bags exude uniqueness from every pore. This collection is no different. From reversible bags, to innovative evening styles, Marco is tickling our imagination again. As I walk around Valley Fair mall, the area mall with all the luxury brands, I get bored. I try to pick out the elements of fashion that the different brands contribute and I often either come up empty or have a few points that aren’t very bold. Instead, with Campomaggi, you get used to something bold. In fact, he is so bold that now that he is talking to a more general audience he has retracted wonderful inspirations such as aged leather. I, of course, loved things like aged leather and am waiting for the day when Marco starts a new “free of preconceived notions” brand that is brave.

True Artisanship

Despite having become a bit more mainstream, the elements of true artisanship are still very strong and evident in Marco’s new products. Besides the uniqueness that is instilled in all the products, he is still perfecting previous ideas, trying new ideas, and figuring out how to make things more usable.

I have always boasted how Campomaggi bags are a reflection of Marco’s soul. This spring they seem to reflect accomplishment and a desire to live life and to live it better, through a better bag: that’s Marco’s contribution to the world and, in my opinion, a very liberating one because he is able to mix what seems like unlimited creativity with a love for artisanship. In the Marcopoloni world, he is very admired.

Double Face

Growing up in Italy, when something was reversible my family used the French word “double-face” which in this case stood for double-sided. That is what I thought when I saw Campomaggi’s new reversible canvas bags. It’s a neat idea that makes you feel like you got two bags for the price of one and that when you spill your ice cream you can, at least temporarily, resort to the other side.

There is an interesting touch: the leather label that says “Campomaggi” can be popped out and moved to a location inside the bag, which means that, when you reverse it, it will be visible outside again.

GALLO Canvas Reversible Bag by Campomaggi

The GALLO Canvas Reversible Bag by Campomaggi.

A Little Asymmetry

I don’t think that Marco is embracing surrealism in his designs by any means. But he always tries to think past the tried and true to see if there are other, new ways to be stylish and/or functional. The Malfante Hobo, for example is not a revolutionary design. It has a couple of unique features but nothing Earth-shattering, except that the zipper is placed in a spot that makes it fairly easy to operate.

MALFANTE Hobo by Campomaggi

The MALFANTE hobo by Campomaggi has an inclined zipper that makes it easier to operate.

Summer Colors

If you are a Campomaggi veteran like me you know that to get summer colors in your bags you have to move away from the distressed, unbleached vacchetta leather that makes Campomaggi bags so delicious. Canvas is a perfect material for summer, travel, the beach, picnicking, and outdoor activities.
We now have colors that we never had before.

Most of the items in the new collection are, indeed, very summery. That didn’t use to be the case for Campomaggi. Before he started creating leather that would handle brighter colors we were pretty much limited to beautiful shades of dark brown and black.

A Summer Wallet

The Marino canvas wallet has immediately achieved status among Campomaggi wallets. It is the first canvas wallet and it probably is long overdue. Granted, the shape is the same as many Campomaggi wallets (tried and true) and the stamped logo is something that we have seen for over four years now. But, let me ask you something: would you rather take the Marino or a leather wallet to the beach?
If, like me, you answered the Marino, it means that you are ready to get out there and keep your favorite style close to you at all times, and not worry about a little water, too much sun, or a heap of sand. In a way, the Marino is the ultimate summer entry.

Finally, The Ultimate Bucket Bag

Bucket bags had been missing from the Campomaggi repertoire for many years. Then, came the ARIETI bucket bag by Campomaggi. Nowadays, you see many women carry a small bag on their hips, but until today you didn’t see a small Campomaggi bucket bag grace those figures. For those of us who had been waiting for a gorgeous, smaller bucket bag by Campomaggi with precious details… here it is.

PIAGGIA bucket by Campomaggi

The PIAGGIA Mini Bucket Bag with Evening Studs`.

The Real Finally

The new Campomaggi Spring Summer collection has arrived and it is one that satisfies. I had mentioned before a couple of uniseason bags for our friends down under. Here they are:

FIDELIS Shoulder Bag by Campomaggi

The Fidelis Small Shoulder Bag and its threaded accents.

FONTANAROSSA Mid=sized messenger bag by Campomaggi

The FONTANAROSSA mid-sized distressed leather messenger bag by Campomaggi.

If you are a fan of Campomaggi products, don’t forget to sign up for Emi’s great Campomaggi Report series. Also sign up to our general newsletter where you can find out about what else have we discovered that features awesome artisanship, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to name a few :-).

Happy spring and if you have any questions, please ask away in the comments below!

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Third Time Is The Charm

Basic Focaccia

It turned out very well. It was perhaps a little insipid, but some salty olives made it wonderful!

Well, in my case I can not settle for this. From a point of view of getting something right, this was a successful attempt. It was edible and quite enjoyable… if you did not know how it might have tasted.

There Is Always Room for Improvement

I made this focaccia because we had our friends over. Our friends are my Guinea Pigs when it comes to my food-related experiments. They will tell me the truth and the truth did come out: good but a bit insipid (though it went perfectly with the salty olives they brought) and what’s up with the lack of toppings? Even last time I had a little sprinkle of onions, which was quite enjoyable.

The truth is that I forgot, which leads me to my next point.

Practice Should Make Perfect

In the rush of getting the focaccia in the oven and not missing any of the recipe’s steps, I forgot to add any toppings (which are not mentioned in my recipe). Though it sounds unbelievable that I forgot them where I hadn’t forgotten them in my two previous attempts, I think that the reason is that I don’t have the whole procedure engraved in my brain yet. More practice is required. If you ask me to make Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, I will do it right every time because I have been making it for so long. But when it comes to focaccia I am going to have to try a few more times.

Delicious and Natural

Now that I have produced an edible version of focaccia I feel that I can recommend that you try it at home too. It is not very difficult, and the actual working time is less than making pasta by far. The ingredients are very basic (flour, water, yeast, olive oil, salt, and a bit of white wine) and natural. Maybe some day I will make a whole wheat version of it, but I am not there yet.

From A Wonderful Corner of Italy

Focaccia exists in a thousand varieties in every corner of Italy. It is one of the best street foods that I grew up with and every region has its variants (in fact, every baker worth of the name probably has a favorite variant considering that the toppings can vary a lot). I am focusing on the traditional focaccia genovese, which originated in Genova around the XVI century. This article tells you where to try it if you are ever in Genova. Some of the pictures of the bakeries are really inviting! Who’s going to Italy with me?

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My Second Shot at Focaccia

Homemade Focaccia

My second attempt at making focaccia at home.

A Little Background

I did not mention this in my previous focaccia post: I really love focaccia because the bakery in the street where I lived in Milan made excellent focaccia and I spent a few summers as a young boy in Liguria, the region where focaccia originated, and I can still taste how good that focaccia was. This is why I am so determined to have awesome focaccia again. It used to be that anywhere you went in Italy would serve decent focaccia. That is no longer the case: even in Liguria, I have walked into bakeries that did not serve good focaccia. Like with all good things, I think that it should be preserved and I am trying to teach my kids how to make it (we’ll see if I am successful in a few years.)

Determination

I don’t want to call myself an artisan, because that is such an honorific (not horrific) title that only accomplished craftsmen deserve. But artisanship requires determination as you are most likely to fail at first. As you well know, I failed miserably on my first attempt that after a couple of weeks I decided to try again. I re-read the recipe, I compared it with my notes from my first attempt and decided to learn from experience this time. The dough turned out better (I kneaded it for longer), it was properly salted, I did use a higher temperature, and, most importantly, I did pour a string of olive oil on top of the dough before it went into the oven.

New Mistakes Or Learning Lessons

Unfortunately, I fell prey of a horrific habit of mine: when I like an ingredient I use too much of it. Because salt was very lacking during my previous attempt, not only did I increase the amount of salt that went into the dough, but I got a little happy sprinkling the sale grosso (large salt) on top of the dough spread out in the pan. The result was so salty that it was inedible. After scraping some of the salt I really enjoyed it but it was still too salty because it wasn’t possible to remove enough salt. Too bad! I had the top salt measured correctly the first time… Couldn’t I do the same thing?

Another thing that wasn’t ideal was the oven temperature. I used 420 Fahrenheit this time and tested it a little too soon. The crust was hard and the dough wasn’t fully cooked when I first cut it so I had to put it back.

What Will I Do Differently Next Time

It’s pretty obvious that next time I will use less large salt and will try to go back to 395 degrees for a little longer than 20 minutes. If that works I might be celebrating and you will hear about it :-)

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My First Focaccia Attempt

My first attempt at focaccia was far from a success.

My first attempt at focaccia was far from a success.

It Begins with A Passion

I am constantly trying to expand my Italian cooking horizon. When I try something new I usually fail and this time was no different. My lifelong passion for artisanally made products manifests itself at home with my desire to master Italian cooking. In particular, I love handmade pasta. But before I can deliver delicious creations I have to learn how to make them right, something that takes time and dedication.

Likewise, our very accomplished artisans, go through a similar cycle. A lot of sweat, blood, and tears accompany the introduction of a new product. And the first run sometimes is not the best and later variants surpass it in some way. That is the inevitable value of experience, and, when you think that Imperio Rossi has dedicated more than 50 years to making Murano glass, you realize that experience and dedication mean a lot.

Failure Is Simply Part of The Learning Process

Now, my focaccia was edible, but it was light years away from tasting like the focaccia I enjoyed growing up in Italy. I realized some mistakes and there are some changes I would consider next time. My mistakes were that I didn’t sprinkle the focaccia with a drizzle of oil before putting it in the oven, that I didn’t put enough salt in the dough itself, that I baked it for too long. Next time I am going to make a smaller batch so that I have less to eat in case it doesn’t turn out well. I am also going to knead it for longer after the dough has risen, and I might use a bit higher oven temperature. With these changes alone I expect a better result next time, but whether or not that is enough to make the perfect focaccia remains to be seen.

I have seen my artisans fail in the process of creating the perfect product. Some of the early Campomaggi wallets, for example, had a little too much character built in with credit card slots that were too tight for credit cards or shapes that were pretty far from rectangular. I have seen him make leather jackets that were absolutely awesome, but totally uncomfortable. We now have great wallets by Campomaggi, and I bet that some day we will have totally awesome leather jackets as well. Failure is simply part of the learning process.

Erase The Memory of Failure

What erases the memory of failure is trying again and again and finally getting it right. I am not going to give up on focaccia. Just like with my Tortellini Mantovani, I will eventually get it right.

And when I do get it right, it is going to be so awesome! And that awesomeness is my passion.

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The New Caterina Lucchi Bag That Caught My Attention

Lately, one bag has been catching my attention as I walk into the office every day: the PIOGGIA by Caterina Lucchi. The thought that comes to mind is: “I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.”

Caterina Lucchi Bag

This new Caterina Lucchi bag really caught my attention.

An Original Style?

Granted, I’m not a user of ladies handbags. But I do live and breathe Campomaggi and Caterina Lucchi handbags on a daily basis and Emi loves to wear them every day. Perhaps other designers have explored this exact style before and I am late to the party: even if that were the case, I would not be surprised if Caterina Lucchi’s version is quite original. Besides all these possibilities, I was impressed with the design and I continue to be. The braids are one-of-a-kind and very appealing to sight and touch.

Craftsmanship

The Artisanship is very remarkable, in my opinion, because it is not so easy to produce those braids, especially using buffalo (instead of cow) leather. When I pick it up and inspect it, the bag looks really well made.

Caterina Lucchi Braid Detail

A detail of the braided pattern by Caterina Lucchi. Elaborate and unique.

The braids are the result of an intricate pattern of stitches that does not exactly look simple to accomplish, a testament to the skill of the artisans and to the creativity of the designer who came up with a doable way to accomplish it.

Fine Ingredients

Caterina Lucchi uses buffalo leather from time to time. Italy has a growing population of buffaloes that arrived during the sixth century from central Europe and is concentrated around Naples (these are the buffaloes who produce the milk for mozzarella and scamorza affumicata). Italian buffalo leather is thicker, more solid, and more durable than our beloved vacchetta leather. For this reason it is a bit more complicated to work, but it yields a long lasting product. Caterina’s buffalo leather is still soft to the touch but does feel thicker and, consequently, stiffer than her calfskin products.

A Mature, Independent Personality

Caterina Lucchi is a wonderful woman. Her personality is very strong and loving. Like Emi and I, she can be around her husband a lot and get along. She can also go her own way with her brand, which is very innovative, unique, and vibrant. I know Emi loves her products, and apparently so does my little Chiara who is seven. She spent a week at the office last week when school was closed and she said she liked the PIOGGIA… Perhaps it is a sign that we are going to bump heads when she’s a teenager, but for now she still laughs at all of my jokes.

Chiara Models The PIOGGIA

The PIOGGIA Caterina Lucchi bag modeled by my little Chiara who is 7.

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Campomaggi in Via Della Spiga Is A Big Deal

If Via della Spiga means nothing to you let me explain why it is such a big deal for me.

Yesterday, Campomaggi announced that they will open their flagship store in Via della Spiga, 5 in Milano tomorrow. Although I had heard the rumors before now it is official and it is happening for real.

Prodotto Artigianale on The Label

“Prodotto Artigianale” on the Campomaggi label means “artisanal product”. Back in the Eighties, when Marco Campomaggi was making his first bags by hand, I was witnessing the concentration of fashion, style, and luxury in Via della Spiga. That is also when I witnessed the difference between industrial pret-a-porter products and artisanal one-of-a-kind creations: a difference that I now label as the difference between canned-made and handmade. Campomaggi values a product that is handmade to the point that he has ensured the uniqueness of each item is enhanced by his patented distressing processes. If you look at the label, it wants to tell you that his unique soul, rooted in his past, has created each item… artisanally.

Milan Wasn’t Always The Capital of Fashion

Italy always created wonderful artisanal products, and Milan already had luxurious shops in Via Montenapoleone and other medieval streets next to Via della Spiga. But it wasn’t until the seventies and eighties that Italian fashion designers created world-renowned brands that made Italy the place to go for certain styles. That is when Milan became an amazing shopping destination, offering all the best brands in the Quadrilatero della Moda (Fashion’s Rectangle–referring to the area around Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga).

The Rise of The Artisanal Brand

Not all brands were huge powerhouses like Luis Vuitton and Prada. Besides a few of the historical stores, like a butcher, that have survived in the area, some alternative brands also started finding success, especially in Via della Spiga: Fabiana Filippi, Brunello Cuccinelli (which had two stores and Campomaggi is replacing one of the two) celebrate their artisanal roots as the source of their value. Campomaggi fits very well on this stage and the stage will help spread the word about how we need more style that is unique to each one of us.

This is what Marcopoloni is trying to bring to you: a unique style based on superb artisanship coupled with a personalized service so that you can get exactly what is right for you. It is easy to get started: just get to know Emi or me with a quick e-mail about what you wish to do. We’ll personally help you from there.

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Integrating with QuickBooks Online Using Node.js

With the new year here and the holiday rush behind us I have a month (before tax season arrives) to dedicate to the one project that we see as the holy grail for a small business like ours: Quickbooks Integration.

I, being the nerd that I am, always wanted to integrate accounting with our order management system. Emi, who knows that some things are better outsourced always said: “no way.” The process of moving transaction to the desktop version of QuickBooks was “automated” by exporting customer and order data to “.IIF” files and then importing them into QuickBooks. This worked fine for invoices, but sales receipts would not allow us to put our order number in the number field in QuickBooks. This meant that after the import I would have to move the order number from another field where we sent it temporarily to the number field. A real time saver! Oh, and another thing. Our special sales tax codes for our city and county? Yes, they would come through but not actually select the correct code. So we had to go through every single invoice and sales receipt and select the correct tax codes for orders in Campbell, or in Santa Clara County.

I am in charge of importing orders. When I get busy and I can’t do that for a while I have months worth of orders to import. Invariably, checking for the correctness of the imported data would put me to sleep, or close to it. Let’s face it: I really hated it, and really wished that I could develop my own accounting application… “the data is already there!”

In my previous post I talked about how I had been watching the development of QuickBooks Online and always had to pass on it because it didn’t support inventory management. But that is no longer the case and even multi-currency support is in the works.

I am a full stack JavaScript developer. I don’t code in PHP, Java, or .NET, which are the server languages that are well documented on the QuickBooks Developer page. I have to use Node.js to accomplish this. I struggled to figure out how to make calls to the API that were not documented in the example that I had. Luckily QuickBooks support sent me a link that changed that and it was smooth sailing since.

Now I’m testing my cloud application to send (at a click of a button) customers, sales receipts, and invoices to QuickBooks Online. I hope to be able to go live this week in time for processing sales tax reporting. If I don’t I will be very, VERY sorry!

I hope that this story can help some other business owner out there who is considering a solution to problems like ours. I will let you know how it goes next week!

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Comparing 3 Campomaggi Backpacks

The VOLTA Campomaggi Backpack

The VOLTA Campomaggi backpack sits high on the back.

Recently I got a request to compare Campomaggi Backpacks to figure out how they rest on your back to see which ones are most comfortable. My customer said that she is a bit short and would not be comfortable with a backpack that sits very low. Having always carried a different Campomaggi backpack on our overseas trips I definitely have some first-hand experience on the subject. In addition, many of our customers have shared their experiences with their Campomaggi backpacks. So, let’s try to spot the most comfortable ones.

There are a few different major uses for backpacks today: shopping, commuting, traveling, and hiking. Shopping is different from commuting in that, when commuting, you might need to get in and out of the bag frequently. When shopping, you might benefit from more space and you do not know how much stuff you will want to carry. The main difference between traveling and hiking is that when you are hiking you don’t get to set the backpack down a lot and if it starts to get heavy then it is definitely going to be an unavoidable pain. When you travel, instead, the backpack might end up sitting on a luggage rack inside a train car for considerable stretches.

The most common concerns about backpacks are: weight and comfort, space, and ease of access to contents. Campomaggi backpacks meet the needs for different uses and different concerns. When it comes to weight, canvas backpacks are lighter. But comfort is determined more by the type of strap than the weight of the bag, which ultimately depends on what you put in the bag. The more spacious backpacks are at greater risk of becoming heavier for this reason. Also, a spacious backpack with a single compartment can make it quite difficult to find what you are looking for.

Which Backpacks?

To keep things simple I picked three Campomaggi backpacks to compare: The ZAVATTI, queen of all backpacks; the VOLTA, darling among Marcopolonites; and the FONTANA, full of tricks up its sleeve.

First I need to define what a comfortable backpack is for a couple of different uses and body peculiarities. If you plan on using the backpack for travelling you want to pay particular attention to bag weight and strap comfort. I would definitely pick a canvas backpack that is spacious.

From the attached pictures you can see that the VOLTA is the bag that sits comfortably on the shoulders and rests high. The other backpacks sit low and there is no way to shorten the straps past their tightest setting. The VOLTA is very adjustable and you get to make the straps as short as you need them. I really like it also because the straps are very comfortable (wider at the top), it is easy to put on and take off, it has a lot of pockets outside, and the top is high grade canvas which is lighter than leather. I would rate the VOLTA as the most comfortable for hiking and traveling.

The ZAVATTI is the most stylish, still, after all these years. It is very popular for commuting to work, where it looks professional and researched: there is no other backpack quite as high quality when you take a close look. The two large pockets are ideal for storing today’s large phones and other somewhat large items like an eyeglasses case.

The FONTANA is also in the stylish category that would do well when commuting. It is a different style than the ZAVATTI and appeals to a different taste that appreciates certain design features such as the braided straps. It feels more spacious than the ZAVATTI and it would be my pick for shopping out of these three, although there are other Campomaggi backpacks that I am not going to review today that would do better in that arena.

Ultimately, my customer liked the design of the ZAVATTI only so I had to discourage her because it was going to sit too low on her. My recommendation for comfort would have been the VOLTA, which did not cut it for her. This is a good example of the advice you can get from Marcopoloni. Instead of being sold a product you will find someone whose first priority is to listen to you to try to understand your needs. When I showed her the pictures she was able to make an informed decision.

Do you have a Campomaggi backpack? Please share your experience in the comments to help other customers. I plan on reviewing the other backpacks that we currently carry next time Chiara comes to the office on a school holiday. She took the pictures for this post. Good job Chiara!

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Gianni, Our First Artisan, Is Always Creating

Gianni Drawing In Alicudi (Lipari)

There are places where the sky and the sea inspire you ideas.

I just got off the phone with Gianni. Today it was easy to get a hold of him because, having fallen during a mountain bike race, he just cracked three ribs and now he has to rest quite a bit. That’s why he put himself in charge of the phones, accounting, and is staying put for a while. Such an easy target I might call him back tomorrow!

As we were chatting, I told him that I wanted to visit his cousin for lunch because he has an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto, not too far from us. He said: “Make sure to call me at home when you are there and I will buy you lunch!” It turns out that he means to pay him next time he sees Mario. Gianni is the elder among his cousins so I am curious to do this. I don’t want to get a free lunch, but I would like to see his face when I tell him that I have his cousin Gianni on the phone.

One of the reasons for me to call him was to get the picture of him drawing new products in the Aeolian Islands. I had seen the picture on his website and it looked great: a wonderful setting with the sea and the Island of Alicudi in the background. If you are ever trying to figure out a beautiful place to visit in Italy that is off the beaten path, this is certainly a good example. We are going to use the picture in our next Calendar (and possibly every calendar thereafter) and wish to go there.

As usual, Gianni was busy creating something new. He said that demand for his products in his native island (Sicily) is growing at a healthy rate so he is designing, among other things, a Trinacria key chain–a symbol of Sicily. I can’t wait to get this because many Italian descendants in the US appreciate Sicilian symbolism and I think that it would really add to our selection.

Gianni's New Trinacria

A prototype is coming alive. We might have it next year.

Thank you for reading my post. Don’t forget to use the coupon code I disclosed in a previous post to get 10% off anything on the Marcopoloni site during the month of November. Also stay on top of new additions by signing up to our newsletter below.




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The Campomaggi Fall Winter Collection – Part 2

TOALDO Campomaggi Studded Leather Patchwork Bag

TOALDO Campomaggi Studded Leather Patchwork Bag

Fall is always super busy for us because we make sure to stock up for the Holiday season and try to have lots of new products to introduce. Add to that that we try to add the Fall/Winter collections during fall, not the beginning of summer, and you can imagine that we have a great number of products to introduce. In the past we noticed that when too many products arrive at the same time we do not have the resources and creativity to properly present each product. That has caused many worthy products to go nearly unnoticed for a while until customers started to dig them out of our catalog.

It used to be either canvas with leather accents or leather. Now you have this, and it is a great combination according to the customers who snatched these up.

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To prevent that we are now spreading out the arrival of new products by Campomaggi across multiple shipments. This week we received one such shipment and it was very exciting because the bags and accessories that we picked for this winter are really beautiful.

One new design is the distressed leather with a grid pattern of small multicolored brass studs. The TOALDO Campomaggi bag is a great example of this. Another is the VERATTI: a spacious bag with a myriad of small pockets in front and strong magnets securing the closure flaps.
Another line is represented by the FERRARI: canvas bags with large leather components such as a full front flap.

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The VERATTI features a magnet closure, in a style that is unusual for Campomaggi.

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