Exploring Japanese Traditions

At Marcopoloni, we are always looking for handmade, traditional products from planet Earth. In the spirit of exploration and discovery our research lead us to a fascinating centuries-old Japanese tradition of Koito Pottery. What made this tradition interesting is the fact that most of the artists in this craft work in small, family-owned workshops that pour their dedication and experience into their products. Also, Koito Pottery is beautiful and very unique and seems to fit well with the uniqueness of Marcopoloni products, so, next week we are going to Japan to meet a number of potential new suppliers and get to learn about them and how they make their products.

Koito Pottery is produced in the the alpine Chobu region, in the city of Takayama. Takayama is a beautiful mountain town with a very high number of traditional Japanese homes. We will be gone for two weeks and I look forward to posting updates with pictures of the pottery and the surroundings!

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Leather Roses

Yesterday morning I got to talk to Gianni. Besides talking about his upcoming vacation on the Aeolian Islands, our next trip to Japan, and a few details about our orders, I was pleased to hear that the Leather Roses product line introduced last summer has found favor among customers worldwide.

Demand has proven to be so high that he is really having to stay very focused about efficiency in production and has had to carefully manage the work assignments of all the artisans. The production process is quite unique and requires skill and experience so nothing can be left to chance or the number of orders waiting to be fulfilled will grow out of control.

I have gifted leather rose rings to a couple of female friends and they really like them. My wife, Emi, also wears one and I really am impressed by how good it looks. Even though our sales of leather roses took off faster than expected, I think that leather roses might just be the best kept secret in the United States!

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Murano Pursues a Renaissance with Hotels

I read a good article on the New York Times about how Murano Pursues a Renaissance by building new hotels because Venice has run out of room.

And that is pretty much where the good news ended. The rest of the article documented what I saw when I went to Murano in March. The Murano glass industry is on the verge of dying. The 9/11 attacks caused demand for Murano Glass to tumble. Demand never recovered and worsened with the financial crisis. In the last decade a third of murano glass makers have closed their doors.

When I went to Murano, I was so saddened by the obvious decline that I cried and resolved to do what I can to preserve this millenary piece of Italian pride and tradition.

After meeting Maestro Imperio Rossi, his family, and the other people working at the furnace, Maestro Mario Costantini and Mauro, I realized that Murano Glass is the product of experience and commitment by people who dedicated their life to the art. I think that their survival is in the hands of their immense creativity and skill–and that gives me real hope.

At Marcopoloni, our commitment is and will be to add more and more products by Maestri Imperio Rossi and Mario Costantini. If you are looking for something that you don’t find in our catalog, please let us explore whether it can be custom ordered.

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Permalinks and File Not Found

Last week we made considerable progress with our Permalinks project. A permalink is a user friendly URL (web address) that actually means something to a human. For example, instead of pointing to the SANTARELLI briefcase (my favorite) using a link that means absolutely nothing, the new link is http://www.marcopoloni.com/SANTARELLI-rugged-leather-briefcase.htm, which is a lot more readable.

We also created a friendly 404 error page. That is the “File Not Found” page that is displayed when a user tries to load a page that does not exist either due to an old bookmark, a bad link, or typing the wrong address. The page has alerted us that some search engines are still sending traffic to pages that we thought we had retired in 2004 or 2005! The good thing for our customers is that if they run into it, they will now know what is happening and will be able to continue browsing our web site.

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Men’s Handbag

Today we added a Men’s handbag to our lineup. The UOMO Italian leather handbag for men is handcrafted by Giudi in their signature classy style. We have added this bag because of how practical and distinct it is–something that many of our customers are demanding. The UOMO joins the LUCIO by Dionigi in the handbags for men section of the Marcopoloni catalog.
New UOMO Italian Leather Handbag for Men

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You Are What You Eat, Drink, Breathe, and Wear

When someone first said to me: “You are what you eat” it made a lot of sense, but I did not know that it would become part of a belief set that affects so many of my decisions today. As I grew past my twenties, I started realizing that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted: junk food and excessive quantities of sweets and snacks is not what bodies are made of. Soon, I extended that realization to everything we ingest, breathe, and even come in contact with.

The feeling I get is that we are marketed things that are cheap for us and profitable for someone. So we end up consuming things that are cheaper and cheaper, and lower and lower in quality. This is not comforting when it comes to what defines our very essence and that is why I decided that only when you know what goes in it you really know what you get out of it. I defined the difference as the difference between “canned-made versus handmade.”

Whenever I can, I opt for handmade and enjoy the rewards for the extra effort. At home, I have become a passionate cook, with an eye for carefully selected ingredients. At work, I carefully choose the artisans from whom we buy the products we offer, and I enjoy their lasting quality and special feel.

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Win a Free Snaplink Italian Leather Key Chain

From today until Monday morning Marcopoloni’s Facebook fans can participate in a contest for a chance to win a Snaplink Keychain.

Check it out! With a small fan base, we are keeping questions for our contests very simple and do not expect more than a couple of people to respond. This means that if you do respond, your chances of winning are quite high.

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We got the look!

Laser-Cut Hobo Laser-Cut Tote

On my recent trip to Italy, I had the chance to take a look and compare the hottest spring 2011 trends with our women’s handbags collection.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that laser-cut designs were simply everywhere!! They were on leather but also on fabric bags, and they made me immediately think about the new Caterina Lucchi bags we carry.

A lot of laser work, but also flower attachments and decorations adorned bags often very simple and linear in shape. I didn’t notice any predominant color, but the summery shades of whites, greys, and light pastel colors were all there.

After a few days, walking down the streets of a very fashionable medieval town, I recognized our Laser-Cut Tote on display in one of the high end boutiques there…

It was exactly in the Seafoam Grey color that we carry at Marcopoloni.com and for a second it felt like it was a joke from my co-workers:)!

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Fusilli alla Siciliana

Fusilli alla Siciliana

I do go to Sicily and have never seen this recipe there, but whether it is authentic or not (I would like to find out what you think), I truly love it and everyone that has had it has complimented me for it. It is the lengthiest recipe in my arsenal so far. I have to allow two hours for it, but it is definitely worth it. If it shouldn’t be called Fusilli alla Siciliana, what should its name be?

Ingredients:

1 pack of Fusilli
1 About 25 pitted black olives – more ok
5 anchovies (fillets)
4 cloves of garlic
1 Red Pepper
1 Eggplant
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 kg Roma Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Parsley
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil – more ok
5 Minced Peperoncini (small red hot peppers) – less ok
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut it in small cubes (1/2 inch max). Sprinkle some coarse salt and apply a weight over it. This will rid any bitter taste. I don’t overdo this step.
  2. Char the red pepper’s peel by placing in over a flame. Otherwise bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the peel separates. Eliminate the peel. I do this at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Clean the anchovies (remove any bones).
  4. Wash the tomatoes and cut up. I always boil the tomatoes, peel them and cut up. My method requires that I purchase more than the suggested 1kg. It is also time consuming but worth it!
  5. In a large pan sauté the garlic in the olive oil. The recipe says to eliminate the garlic, but I leave it in.
  6. Add the eggplant cubes and let them cook a little while.
  7. Add the cut up tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes (medium heat).
  8. When the 15 minutes are up, add to the sauce the chopped red pepper, the capers, the anchovies, and the chopped olives. Cook for another 15 minutes.
  9. This is a good moment to boil the water for the fusilli.
  10. Before removing the sauce pan from the fire, add the minced parsley and minced pepperoncino.
  11. Mix the drained fusilli with the sauce and serve in deep pasta dishes. Eat while hot!
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How Your Feedback Helps: Two Examples

Too often, a company will post an insincere comment about how they value their customers’ feedback, etc., but in reality, when you offer your opinion or suggestion, you get an apathetic “Uh-huh, OK.” in return.

At Marcopoloni, we want to let our customers know that we really DO listen, and DO take your feedback seriously! Here are just two examples from this week of how your feedback helps:

Case  #1 – the Aching Shoulder

A few days ago, a gentleman who had purchased our Storia Leather Messenger Bag called to tell us how he absolutely loves his new bag.

“Do you sell a matching leather shoulder pad to go on the strap?” he asked. He carries a lot of things in his bag, and with a 1.5-hr commute, his shoulder can understandably get pretty sore. I had to tell the gentleman that unfortunately, Dionigi (the folks in Italy who make the bag) currently does not make any leather shoulder pads, but I thought it would be a great idea, and that we will see what we can do about it.

So I told Daniele about this exchange, and he has initiated a dialogue with Dionigi to discuss a potential new product design. Now, it’s not like we would have a new shoulder pad to offer anytime soon – these things take quite a while to plan, design, model, test, and produce – but it is an exciting project nonetheless. I hope to some day be able to call our Storia owner with some good news.

Case #2 – an Elderly-Friendly Coin Purse

This morning I took a call from a nice woman needing to return Gianni’s Tacco leather coin purse that she had purchased for her father. “The coin purse is beautiful, but it’s just not going to work for my dad,” she said, sadly. Her fear was that without a solid wall to stop the coins from spilling, her father, at 91 years old, may tilt the coin purse too far and the coins would all fall out.

This made sense to me … the coin purse she had purchased does have a soft lip that helps prevent the coins from falling out, but I can see how she would be worried for her elderly father. In fact, we had evaluated a few of the high-walled coin purses in the past, but decided against them because our Tacco coin purse was so popular, and we saw no need to offer an alternative. I immediately discussed this case with the team, and we all agreed that thanks to this kind woman who took the time to explain all of this to us, we now see a clear reason to carry the high-walled coin purse. I hope she will check back with us soon!

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