Il Bisonte: High-Quality Italian Leather Goods with Minimalist Style

Il Bisonte Before and After
Il Bisonte Logo Tote
Il Bisonte bags and accessories are designed to pursue what they call “classic originality”, marrying clean lines and functionality.

Last summer, while playing my weekly co-ed recreational soccer game, I got an email. It was from a company called Il Bisonte, reaching out because they thought that our philosophy of preserving the way of the artisan would be a good match for their products. While we receive a lot of business solicitations along the lines of “trendy leather bags, very cheap price!”, it’s rare to get a thoughtful email from someone offering products that are in tune with what we are about. I showed the photos of their products to my teammates and received immediate positive feedback, so I hurried home to share the excitement with Daniele, slowly allowing myself to become cautiously optimistic about this brand.

Fast forward 9 months and here we are, proudly carrying a selection of these Florentine leather goods ranging from business card holders to tote bags. With the long-anticipated arrival of the Spring/Summer collection at the end of the month, our catalog will more than double – expanding into categories such as backpacks, weekenders, coin purses and key cases. In the meantime, we have quickly developed an admiration for Il Bisonte’s philosophy of creating high-quality, minimalist leather goods, where the amazing quality of the vegetable-tanned Tuscan vacchetta leather takes center stage. Yes, for me, it’s the leather – it’s always been about the leather. I was pretty much sold the moment I laid eyes on this before and after comparison showing just how gracefully Il Bisonte products age:

Il Bisonte Before and After
See How Beautifully Il Bisonte Leather Ages!?

I immediately invested in the large Il Bisonte logo tote (shown above) and am looking forward to watching the leather deepen in color and acquire that wonderful patina over the years. If you Google “Il Bisonte”, it’s not hard to find fans worldwide boasting about their “20-yr old handbag” or “30-yr old key case” – and I absolutely love that.

Nuances of the Forlanini

When it comes to Campomaggi crossbody bags, the long straps made for them are, well, extremely long. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the length of the strap makes the bag that much more universal. After all, not everyone is 5’3″ like I am! When I first got my Forlanini (by the way, we finally have this in stock!), I had to punch a few extra holes into the strap just to not have the bag hang below my hips. What can I say, I’m a short person with a short torso, haha. Like on a belt, having the extra holes made the end of the strap longer as well. Although it didn’t get in the way or anything, it was just something I was a tiny bit bothered by. If you are familiar with the Forlanini, there is a side pocket on the left side (if you are looking at the front of the bag), with Campomaggi’s signature fish rivets on it. Even though I use my Forlanini everyday, I never once found a use for that tiny little side pocket! However, I recently discovered that the end of my strap fits RIGHT in that little pocket. It’s almost as if Campomaggi designed the pocket so the strap end will tuck nicely into it. Having that said, I have some photos to show you what I mean.

The strap arrived with only four holes. I punched in six extra just to accommodate my height. Look at how long the strap end is!

 

The end of the strap tucks right into that little side pocket I never found a use for! Voila! The strap end no longer bothers me.

 

Handy, isn’t it? I am so glad I finally found a use for that side pocket. I’m sure it has other uses such as temporarily storing your train or bus pass but this is how I’m using the pocket! Anyway, this was just something useful I found out about the Forlanini and I thought I’d share it with you guys! Especially with all the interest surrounding the Forlanini, this will come in handy for everyone else who is around my height! If I find any other nuances of this bag, I won’t hesitate to share it with everyone. Keep an eye out for more posts!

A Closer Look at The RICCI Studded Messenger Bag

Marco Campomaggi has discontinued the RICCI long ago and we can’t get any more even if we beg kicking and screaming. Some of the color options are permanently sold out now and we only have four in Espresso (two of them darker) and two in Cognac left. Since this is such a unique product, when our stock falls to one of each I will move them in our museum (which doesn’t exist yet, but is a planned section of our web site for rare, actually one-of-a-kind, Campomaggi bags).

I like the Ricci a lot because it looks so cool. I know, I haven’t said much: most Campomaggi bags do look very cool. What appeals to me are the two columns of studs and the fact that the flap is a pocket with a zipper at its edges on the sides. I know that the bag fits my laptop like a glove but what about room for the charger? Let’s go pull all six from stock and take a look.
The 6 RICCI in stock

The photo shows the six RICCI that we currently (as of May 29, 2013) have in stock. The photo was taken by me, using my camera phone, in the lighting conditions offered by our showroom: so don’t rely on them to provide a good interpretation of the color, please. The bags on the left are Distressed Cognac, the ones in the middle are Distressed Espresso, and the ones on the right are Distressed Espresso Darker. Out of these my favorite one is the Distressed Espresso in the top shelf. I also like the Cognac ones but they are a bit too light for my taste. Next I am going to take a video of me loading up my favorite RICCI and we will be able to tell whether it is going to work.

The video suggest that the laptop fits well, the charger also fits, but if I start adding more things the bag will become bulky. I later added my Daniele with my wallet and phone inside and the bag did not bulge too much as long as the DANIELE and the charger were kept apart. That is the extent of what I am planning to carry, so the bag meets my needs. The pocket on the side of the flap is definitely intriguing. When I put my phone and my wallet in it you could not really tell that it was in use. The zipper, though, requires two hands to open at least until the bag has softened.

It’s too early to give a verdict, but for sure the RICCI in Distressed Espresso remains a contender.

A Leather Key Chain with Royal Roots

There is a new member of our key chain family. The Dragon key chain, that we have carried since the beginning of our existence, got a younger brother: the red dragon. After spending 10 years by himself and being referred to as simply the “dragon key chain”, the veteran key chain will now be called Green Dragon Keychain.

Why the sudden addition you might ask? Well, we did not plan it. Last year we were contacted by a customer in Wales who told us that the Red Dragon is the symbol of Wales. After finding that out we immediately ordered it from Gianni and began reading about the association between Wales and the red dragon. It turns out that the red dragon has been officially part of the Welsh flag only since 1959, but the ties between dragons and Wales possibly go as far back as the second century when Roman cavalry stationed in Wales (and elsewhere) used the symbol. In 1485 Henry Tudor, of Welsh descent, flew the dragon of Cadwaladr during his invasion of England from France. He defeated Richard III and became king. It was then that he added the Tudor colors, green and white, to the dragon to complete the Welsh flag.

The Red Dragon Key Chain might be on the Welsh flag some day
The Red Dragon Key Chain might be on the Welsh flag some day.

What was most interesting to find out was that there is no standard design for the dragon on the Welsh flag. So, technically, the design of Gianni’s red dragon could, some day, make it to the flag. Until then, the Red Dragon Key Chain will be happy to represent Welsh pride and occasionally light a fire in your pocket.

Vroom vroom!

Ever wanted to buy that nice Italian car you’ve been dreaming about? Well, I believe you are in luck! Last week, we received a Gianni shipment with some brand new products. Yes, including a car! We even held a Facebook contest giving away a free car key chain in the color of your choice (available in blue, red, green, white, black and yellow)! Big congratulations to Jennie for being the lucky winner!

Modeled after the Fiat 500, Gianni’s new car key chain takes you one step closer to owning a genuine Italian car. This surely is the case for me since I am a fan of the Fiat 500. If my dog could fit comfortably (and safely!) in a 500, that would be my “new car goal”. Did you know that a Fiat can make coffee for you right in your car? Well, it exists in an upgraded model, the 500L. Seems like the US is out of luck until it has been approved though, but hey, one can dream!

Speedy blue!

Campomaggi leather pouch: after 1 week

I have wanted a Campomaggi leather pouch to carry my wallet and phone for a long time and now I am test driving it. In my previous post I began discovering what it is really like to use the pouch.

Over the last few days I noticed that you have to get used to being just slightly wider when you are carrying the leather pouch on your belt. I scraped a wall with it a couple of times and inadvertently bumped it against the kitchen counter and the open microwave door. This was no big deal for me, but your situation may be different.

So what if you have to unzip your pants? If you wear the pouch on the right there is a chance that it will fall out–if you are not careful. If you wear it on the left side it will still pull a bit on the belt, making things somewhat more complicated.

Campomaggi leather pouch open.

The other thing I did was to ask the forum Male Fashion Advice (MFA) on Reddit what they thought about the pouch. The answer was a resounding “MFA doesn’t like belt appendages.” Yet there were a couple of people who seemed to secretly like it. I took the blanket statement with a grain of salt, yet it made me realize why we advocate to “take it slow”: it is often through prolonged observation that you can notice the qualities of many of our products. I do concede that walking around with an albeit tiny utility belt expands the waist line and makes it hard to look sharp.

After a week I love the Campomaggi leather pouch. The main reasons are: I love the look and feel of the leather, I love opening and closing the flap, my wallet and phone fit perfectly, I can run as much as I want and it will not bounce around wildly like a bag will, I don’t leave my wallet and phone on my desk any more, and it is nice to know where to reach for your phone and to be able to do it quickly.

On the other hand, I would be careful not to give this as a gift without doing some definitive research first. After seeing the feedback from Reddit, I think that most men would look at this and prefer not to use it. I had a specific reason to want this, it solves my problem, I think it looks good, and I expect that I will keep it. But the test drive is not over yet. Let’s see what another week’s use does to my opinion.

PETALO GRANDE Large Laser-cut Leather Handbag by Caterina Lucchi (Product Review)

PETALO GRANDE laser-cut handbag
PETALO GRANDE laser-cut handbag. By the way, I am 5'5" and the bag in no way feels too large for me.

When we write product descriptions, we try to go beyond simply listing features and convey the essence, or the “personality” of the product. Often I’ll let a product sit on my desk for days before I feel like I am familiar enough with it to write about it. If it’s a handbag, I might try carrying it on my shoulder to see how comfortable it feels, or try filling it with different items to see what kinds of uses it might be best suited for.

With the Petalo Grande Laser-cut Leather Handbag, I wanted to try something different. So I had Daniele take photos of me as I was toting it around. The result was somewhat surprising … the image I had of the bag was not the same as what I saw in the photos! Because the bag is so light – one of the big pluses of Caterina Lucchi‘s leather bags – I hadn’t realized how large the bag seems from a distance. (I also realized that my sepia-colored sweater does not really bring out the nuanced java color of this bag). The bag IS quite large. You can fit quite a bit of stuff in it. But you won’t feel like you’re toting around a bowling bag, because even though it’s real Italian leather, it’s calfskin … super soft and supple, and light-weight.

I love the Batik, two-toned look of this bag. It’s subtle enough as to not detract from the gorgeous laser-cut flower motif, but offers just enough of a contrast to remind us that the understated brown is most definitely intentional. A very nice feature (also typical of Caterina Lucchi’s handbags) is the removable leather strap. I thought this bag would be first and foremost a handbag, and secondly a shoulder/cross-body bag, but to my surprise, it looked fantastic worn crossbody style – perhaps even better than high on the shoulder. I loved this look so much that I decided to take even more photos with my 1-day old HTC Vivid and play around with some of the nifty effects that would take several steps to do in Photoshop! These two were my favorite.

Camera Effect 1
Depth of Field
Camera Effect 2
Vintage Effect

Anyway, now that we have smartphones that can take high-quality photos and videos that can be uploaded to our server with just a couple of key strokes, we hope to post more photos and videos of our products going forward. Hmm, maybe I can use this as an excuse to go shop for some new clothes!

The DA VINCI Soft Leather Briefcase by Campomaggi (Product Video)

As some of you may have noticed, we name each and every Campomaggi bag after a notable Italian. It’s a very careful and thought-provoking process … the personality, character, imagery and features of the bag must match, and be complimented by, the figure after which it is named. Our Campomaggi bags are named after famous explorers, scientists, philosophers and more. There are a few obvious names, however, that have been reserved for fear of  another bag coming around that is even more befitting of those names. “Da Vinci” was one of them.

When we laid eyes on this soft leather briefcase, however, it didn’t take long for us to be convinced that the name Da Vinci would not go wasted on it. We think it is that beautiful, versatile, clever, and mysterious.

Transformations: The Amici

Amici Business Tote by Campomaggi

Campomaggi bags often break down categories, which is part of their charm for yours truly, an inveterate metaphysician.  Poring over the Marcopoloni website as I often do on breaks from my editing jobs, I noticed the Amici. It looked like a girl’s bag; and indeed, if you google “amici,” you will be informed that the name may refer to a girly bag. But Marcopoloni, like Campomaggi, isn’t interested in confirming other people’s conventions (which is part of their charm for this metaphysician). So I decided to look harder at this bag.

It had all the makings of a great man bag. It zipped tight; it had pockets on the outside for phone and keys; it was somewhat narrow, making it sit on the hip (for older men) but could ride next the buttocks (for younger, who don’t mind bringing attention to their buttocks). Best of all, it had generous handles, so the bag could be scooped up from the car seat or the seat next to you at the bistro when your lady friend just happens by.

So, Emi had to be alerted! Manbag sighting on website, but . . . . the Amici was being presented as a lady’s bag, or so it seemed to me; it had cousins on the site that were definitely lady’s bags, even by Campomaggi’s liberal standards (their lady’s bags are indisputably womanly). But could the Amici be both! The Amici is, after all, a Campomaggi bag.

After doing research, Emi agreed it could be a manbag. A new issue arose: in Marcopoloni’s holdings there were two versions (you are warned that Campomaggi bags tend to be one-of-a-kind). One version, in black, was definitively horizontal. Another version, in distressed cognac, was almost square. The difference was genderish, or at least I persuaded myself of this (and I hope someone will challenge this). The more vertical in cognac was worth a try.

And it has been tried and tried again. First, my Amici became the model for a new blog banner; even photoshopped, it holds its own. My Amici is like Wallace Stevens’s jar in Tennessee: “The wilderness rose up to it, / And sprawled around, no longer wild.” The blogosphere is indeed the new wilderness, and I hope my new blog, under the aegis of my Amici, will create a space for itself.

Second test: I recently used the bag on a trip to Bath, UK, where we stay at The Abbey Hotel and confront the grandchildren, at this point limited to Mary Elizabeth of the “terrible twos” and her younger sibling Frederick Emmanuel D’Evelyn, whom I have nick-named Il Presidente, and his lion-like roar bids fair for his living up to that handle. The Amici, if not quite defeating Mary and Freddie’s capacity for creating wilderness wherever they venture, at least reminded me throughout that one must not take appearances as definitive, that experience is constantly challenging stereotypes, and that the most we can hope for is that, in the end as in the beginning, love conquers all.

Bags personify our condition amidst universal change, of personal wandering in an open universe: this is the romance of bags as I understand them. On this trip, the Amici is my bag, and my bag is “literary,” so it will not be amiss to remove from its back pocket a haiku written on the spot:

Full English breakfast

one terrible two, one infant,

tears, wide-eyes, big laughs

Tom and Mary
Tom with Mary ... and his Amici peeking through!