How Can We Use Less Plastic?

The movie Bag It inspired us to take a look at all the plastic that surround our lives and ask, “How can we reduce the amount of plastic we use?”

In our personal lives, we can start by remembering to bring the reusable bags to the stores – we are often guilty of forgetting to put the bags back in the car after doing the groceries. We can also start bringing our own bags for trips to Target and other non-grocery type stores. Daniele and I usually bring our left-overs for lunch, but we are known to occasionally eat those single-serving frozen meals … and they always come packaged in plastic, sometimes even double-packaged in plastic inside a paper carton. We’ll definitely try to cut down on those.

But what about our business? Do we use plastic irresponsibly?

Asking ourselves this question led to an interesting discovery. We were packaging our products in plastic sleeves, not because it was necessary, but because we thought it made the product look nicer. So for that initial wow factor of opening a product that is covered in shiny new plastic, we were creating unnecessary waste. Besides, our products are artisanal and intrinsically beautiful … they don’t need any help looking good. Out with the plastic sleeves.

We also realized that we use bubble wrap and bubble mailers (those envelopes lined with bubble-wrap material) quite extensively – out of convenience, not out of true necessity. Out with the bubbles. In with 100% recycled kraft paper and 20% recycled newsprints. These changes won’t come without a little bit of cost (more time to prepare the shipments, higher packaging costs) but we are convinced that in the end it will be a sound business decision. And, thinking about our 2.5-yr-old daughter’s future, a moral one too.

These are just the beginning of what we hope will be a path towards more responsible living, and a less plastic business. If anyone out there has any other ideas on how we might be able to use less plastic (and less stuff in general), we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Marcopoloni to Donate Proceeds to Japan Relief Efforts

“starting 5pm PDT on April 19, and through midnight PDT on May 8, Marcopoloni will donate 5% of net proceeds from our online sales to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund through GlobalGiving.org.”

GlobalGiving
Any natural disaster that destroys lives and livelihoods is horrific, but the recent earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan hit me really close to home. I was born in Tokyo, and my relatives are all there, living in and around Tokyo. I also have close friends there as well. When the disaster struck, it took us a couple of long worrisome days before we were able to ascertain the whereabouts of our loved ones.

Like many people, I felt like hopping on the next plane to Japan – to hand out supplies, to be a shoulder to cry on, to do anything I can to help. But reality is that the best way to help is by donating to support the folks who are already on the ground doing these things, professionally. So we donated what we could.

But still, I was left with that feeling of wanting to do more.  I felt guilty eating three hot meals a day and sleeping under my down comforter when the people in the shelters were so thankful for the small ration of rice balls and using curtains as make-shift blankets.

Baby Girl Rescued from Tsunami Rubble

This photo made me cry. A baby girl miraculously rescued from the rubble three days after the tsunami.

That is why starting 5pm PDT on April 19, and through midnight PDT on May 8, Marcopoloni will donate 5% of net proceeds from our online sales to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund through GlobalGiving.org. We are limited in what we can do, but as the Japanese people say, “even dust can amass to become a mountain.” Thank you for helping us help a people in need, and for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

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Searched for Bags in my Hometown and Found Maxima

Last time I went to Italy to spend some time with my mom she suggested that we do some artisan hunting in our hometown of Milan. I thought that was a great idea because one of the reasons why I devoted my life to promoting the products of highly skilled artisans is that I am always pained when I see an artisan close up shop. In the small street where I grew up there used to be a Bonera outlet where we would buy our leather goods and luggage and I got to know the artisan that worked in the back–until it closed just a few years ago. Bonera is still around, of course, but that little island of authenticity is gone.

Ready to do our part to buck this trend, we made a plan. To come up with a list of places to visit, we made sure to ask all of our friends for suggestions and did ample research. Armed with a beefy enough list of artisans to visit, one early morning we set out on our walking tour of Milan, unsure of what it would yield.

Most places we visited were very interesting, but the right combination of handmade quality, design, prices, and ability to carry out International transactions, quickly made it look like finding someone with whom to do business was going to be a challenge. I was starting to think that finding the right fit would be very hard and that I might not have anything to show for my working marathon. Then, luckily, I came upon Maxima. Once I entered the wholesale outlet, I met Tina who was very nice and showed me all the latest models and described the craftsmanship and inspiration behind their products.

I normally take my time before placing orders and would never buy handbags without my wife’s input. But I really liked what I saw and like the story behind Maxima bags so much that I decided to take a plunge. I bought six handbags, stuffed my suitcase and got on my plane back to San Francisco the next day. We have just finished posting them to our web site and am very curious to hear what you think. Let me know!

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No Sales Tax

If you live in California you will welcome the news that starting last Friday the marcopoloni.com shopping cart no longer displays the message: “All orders shipping to California
will be charged the appropriate sales tax.” That’s because we no longer charge sales tax to California customers!

If you go through our shopping cart when placing an order, even if the ship-to address is in California, you will no longer see the row for California Sales Tax and the related charge. Of course, we continue to pay sales tax as sales tax is included in the price where applicable.

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The perfect wallet for your back pocket!

QUATTRINI - Men

My husband loses everything. He’s also very difficult in taste, very traditional and conservative, and after he lost his wallet again I took the opportunity to get him to try something different.

We started out by thinking about what he needs to carry in his wallet: a bunch of credit/business cards, some cash and his ID. He also needs a wallet to be thin since it has the strange habit of collecting useless receipts – tons of them –  and if he had a wallet that is bulky to begin with I could only imagine how it would end up!

At first, he was looking at the LIRA – Men’s Italian Leather Wallet with Privacy ID Flap, which he really liked because of its clear view window for the ID.

Then I showed him another wallet from Dionigi, the QUATTRINI – Men’s Nylon and Leather Wallet. I pointed out how it is slightly smaller than the LIRA, is slim to begin with, and has a good number of card slots. This wallet really has everything my husband needs, plus it’s a little more modern and younger looking which I like!

He was up for trying it … I couldn’t believe it! I actually let the excitement carry me away a little since I then tried to convince him to get it in blue. I should have known that such a suggestion would not going anywhere! Too bad because I really think the blue one is cute, especially for the sporty, always-in-jeans type of guy.

Well, my husband usually never likes clothes or accessories that are designed in a way that is different from how you would commonly expect them to be. He had always owned a traditional-style black leather wallet before. This new design was already a huge step forward for him!

He has been using it for a few months now and he is happy with it. We recently found out the best feature of all: no more tracking down lost wallets at the movie theatre or restaurants, not to mention digging through our couch and in our cars —  because the textured nylon makes this wallet less likely to slip out from my husband’s back pocket. It’s like the wallet is slip-proof!!!

Of course I’m not saying that the QUATTRINI (or its brother SPICCIOLI – Nylon and Leather Wallet with Coin Pocket) is a loss-proof wallet or that it won’t ever slip out – especially if you are dealing with a man like my husband! – but I would definitely recommend it to all you men who carry your wallet in the back pocket of your pants!

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April Fool’s Day is Pesce d’Aprile in Italy!

Pesce d'Aprile!

It looks like almost all countries in the Western World somehow celebrate on the first day of April of every year. Everyone seems to do it in a different way though, and if some countries celebrate the day with practical jokes and general foolishness only until noon, in Italy – like in the US – it goes on all day long!

The traditional April Fool’s trick (pesce d’Aprile) takes place in the schools. There is no clearly defined victim and literally everybody from students to teachers and staff employees can end up this day with one or more paper drawings of a fish taped somewhere on them, usually on his/her back!

Everybody makes up the weirdest excuses to hug or pat you on the back that day. It becomes a real game to make a fool of the poor…fish!

But this whole thing goes beyond school scenes. Adults have their own dose of silliness on April Fool’s Day and even authorities, such as politicians and media, are often involved!

They usually make a shocking statement or publish odd news that are often so well thought-out that it is really hard to judge if they’re real or not. And you usually have to wait until April 2nd to find out, when the media rank the best jokes!

I still remember the joke pulled off by a local government agency that had recently been hit by a huge scandal in which female police officers posed for a sexy calendar in their uniforms (which sold out before the initiative could be aborted, by the way). It was a well-known fact that this agency was no going well financially, so they published the news that, due to the success of the police calendar, they were going to raise money by making a similar calendar!

Now, I know that here this might not sound as shocking, but if you think about a small town in Italy in which everybody knows almost everybody else and 99% of the population is Catholic….well, you get the picture! The reaction was quite funny…

My favorite April Fool’s Day, though, was the one from 4 years ago, when all my friends managed to make a real fool of me!

I was moving to the US soon and among all the things I had to do before leaving, this birthday party came up. A new addition to our group, someone’s new girlfriend, was turning 28? I don’t really remember her age…

As you can imagine, I couldn’t have cared less considering the timing and the fact that I barely knew her! But since she was in the circle and I could not ignore the whole thing, my friends got me all busy and worried like usual about finding a birthday gift for her and other arrangements!
When I got to the party location, I obviously ran in, hugged her and wished her “Happy Birthday” right? What was I supposed to do?

Well, at that moment, the entire place started laughing and the birthday girl started yelling at me (because in Italy you can wish “Happy Birthday” to somebody only on the actual day or on the following few days or it is said to bring bad luck to the person) … then I noticed this huge poster on the back wall of the room that said “Bye, bye, Eliana. Come back soon!” It was my farewell party!

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Campomaggi Teodorano on the Label

Campomaggi Teodorano label

Campomaggi badge

I had found this out on the first day I held a Campomaggi bag, because they told me when I visited the Campomaggi offices in San Carlo di Cesena – yet, not everybody seems to know why the label on Campomaggi bags says: “Campomaggi Teodorano”.

Marco Campomaggi was born on 2/25/61 in Teodorano (in the province of Forlì, now Forlì-Cesena). For all those people who thought Mr. Campomaggi’s name was Teodorano, now you know.

Having solved the mystery, now I want to speculate as to why he created the label the way he did. I probably better ask Marco next time I talk to him, but this is what I think. The Campomaggi brand was started as a way to go back to his passion–what got him started designing bags when he was in high school.

By putting his birthplace and birthdate on the bags, I believe that Marco is telling us that these bags are his expression of what his soul inspires, something that was not born when he started making bags, but on the day and in the place where he was born.

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Locanda Acquavita in Venice: a Sleepless Hotel

I recently went to Murano and stayed in Venice on the cheap. I booked at Locanda Acquavita because it is quiet and close to the vaporetto stop that takes you to Murano (by the way, watch out because there are two stops at Fondamente Nuove, one before the Murano Loop and one after, so make sure to read the direction you are taking–i.e. 42 or 41, I forget, direzione Murano!). Unfortunately I got 3 and a half hours of sleep before an important meeting so I think that something has to be said for an otherwise fine B&B that is run on cruise control except between 8am and 12pm. Here is my review:

I’m not a light sleeper, I’m even deaf in one ear–something that makes falling asleep much easier in noisy situations–but with a phone locked in a closet outside your room ringing literally all evening, all night, and all morning long, I have to warn you that you might be in for a very miserable and frustrating time.
Also, the bathroom is tiny, there is no shower although there is a shower head. And the mirror on the ceiling made me say: “chicabowuang”.
Without the phone ringing, and with full disclosure about the bathroom this would have been an acceptable stay. I got 3 1/2 hours of sleep, so I am none too pleased.

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Campomaggi US Service Center?

During recent conversation with Antonella, Marcopoloni is exploring the opportunity to expand its highly rated service operations to owners of Campomaggi bags in the United States who did not purchase their bags from Marcopoloni.

The problem is that it is not possible to ship leather goods to Italy due to government restrictions. Of course, legislation is on the books to allow the return of defective products, but the reality is that, as I have painfully experienced just last year, duties and VAT get charged even on returned bags, and, of course, they get charged again when the repaired bag returns to the United States. If customs in Italy needs additional documentation, you can expect the process to become lengthy and burdensome.

The possibility of a Campomaggi Service Center in the US is still under discussion. Please stay tuned for further posts on this subject. In the meantime, if you need to have a Campomaggi bag serviced in the US and you did not purchase it from Marcopoloni, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you and provide a quote for any services.

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Women’s Day (Festa della Donna): Girls Night Out or just Flowers?

Mimosa Flower

Across Italy and many other countries, March 8th is known as Women’s Day (or “Festa della Donna”).

Some say it celebrates historical achievements such as women’s right to vote, some say it’s in memory of a tragic fire which killed all of the women who worked in a textile company in New York, and still others say it was originated in Russia, and so on.

What is for sure is that in Italy it has become a symbolic event, where men celebrate the women in their lives in a way somewhat akin to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

As for how women feel about celebrating their being women, I believe they can be divided into 2 camps: the ones that like to do something special with other women that day, and the ones that lock themselves in the house because they think it’s the worst day of the year to go out … after all, there are only women out!

Personally I’ve always been part of the second group. I think we are special every day and we don’t need somebody to tell us on March 8th that we are, do we?

I do like receiving flowers though. I should say that I liked receiving flowers … since after I moved to the States, the fact that Women’s Day is not celebrated here turned out to be quite a convenient excuse for my husband to forget to buy me some!

Anyway, I don’t know of a woman out there that wouldn’t smile if somebody showed up at her door with a bouquet of flowers. And if you are a man, you should know that the traditional gift given on Women’s Day in Italy is the yellow mimosa. Italian men usually buy a mimosa bouquet on their way home from work and present it to their wife, mother, sister, daughter, etc. The nicer ones bring some to their female co-workers as well. But the sweetest thing I remember about Women’s Day goes back to my school days.

In fact, starting from elementary school, boys buy flowers for the girls in their class. Isn’t that sweet? I think it is, even though the other side of the story is a sad one for some of the girls, as the whole thing usually becomes a competition to see who received more flowers at the end of the day …

But the Italian tradition now goes beyond flowers. Many women will do a girls’ night out. Restaurants have special menus for them. No matter where you go on Women’s Day in Italy, there will be plenty of women out to celebrate in “women-only” dinners and parties!

Now, I know today is already March 7th, but you still have time to celebrate womanhood on Women’s Day this year. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that you are special all year around!

“There is no great man without a great woman on his side”, my mom used to tell me when I was little. I think she’s right, and the story of King George VI, celebrated on the big screen by Oscar winning actor Colin Firth in the movie, King’s Speech, confirms it all!

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