Your next investment piece: Cuoiofficine’s Florentine leather art

Carol Ramoran
Bags get an artistic upgrade with this leather brand from Florence

MARBLING. The art of paper marbling is transferred onto paper. Photo courtesy of Cuoiofficine

FLORENCE, ITALY – A quick stroll along the narrow, winding streets of Florence is enough to give anyone a stroke of inspiration. The birthplace of the Renaissance and the stomping ground of some of the world’s greatest and creative minds. It is also home to some of the best art – both the ones you can put on display in galleries and ones that you can adorn your body with.

In this city where history and tradition are part of everyday life, the concept of making artisanal wares are still very much alive. It is in this city where we find two brothers who are working even harder to preserve their small yet thriving industry. Their focus is set on traditional art and one of Tuscan region’s most prized and renowned products – leather.

Timothy and Tommaso Sabatini come from different backgrounds. One spent years working for Italy’s biggest fashion houses and the other focused on their family’s restaurant business.

Tired of trends coming and going as soon as you can say “fashion week” and being in a big company that made him feel like part of a rat race, Timothy left and got Tommaso to join him in creating something of their own, something that can be a tribute to Florence but is also sustainable, of high quality, and can give people a sense of true individuality. Thus, they came up with Cuoiofficine, a leather brand that incorporates Italy’s leather tradition of 17th century paper marbling.

ART ON LEATHER. One of the shop’s craftsmen with his tools of the trade. Photo from Cuoiofficine

It’s enough to say that each bag carries a unique piece of Florentine art. 

“When you buy a bag or a wallet from a big fashion house, you pay for quality and the luxury of it. But is it one of a kind? You will always have people who have the exact same piece as yours,” Timothy said.

“A bag from our small workshop is guaranteed to be one of a kind every time as it is impossible duplicate the designs exactly.”

Art on leather

Handcrafted in a small workshop right behind their store, each piece is made ethically with artisans putting each bag together through careful stitching with 3 and a half stitches per centimetre. 

Adding brass metal parts and border colour obtained through more than five steps, they complete the products with patterns from the famed carta marmorizzata (marbled paper). The techniques were brought form the Middle East in the 15th century and were made ever so popular in Europe when Renaissance Italy took a liking to the designs and started producing their own. 

The brothers crafted a new way to transfer the marbling design onto leather, in a way that can be described as getting it “tattooed.” Done by hand, no design done on their leather is ever the same.

Keeping small industries alive

What makes a bag special? For the Sabatini brothers, it is not just the way it is made and how fashionable it is but also how it is helping their industry.

“Lots of things sold in Florence are not made one hundred percent in Italy anymore,” Timothy said.  “Leather goods stores often get them manufactured in China and are later on assembled here to be able to use the ‘Made in Italy’ brand.”

“This is why we wanted to create something that is 100% made here in Florence. We want to keep our traditions alive.”

THE CLASSIC WORK BAG. Finding your perfect, go-to bag for work that's both functional and chic is always a challenge, but this piece makes it seem effortless. Photo by Carol Ramoran

Timothy’s passion for Italian leather and Tommaso’s love for food and its presentation were the perfect combination for Cuoiofficine. And through their business, their bond as a family just keeps their relationship stronger. 

“We built a strong relationship through time. We’ve always had a wonderful relationship and this project united us even more,” Timothy added, quashing the age old belief that working with family is the worst business decision one can do.

Investing in high-quality leather

With people becoming more mindful about what they buy due to the rising popularity of Minimalism and keeping only things that “spark joy,” people are more inclined to spend more on things that would truly last them. 

“This sort of mentality will keep businesses like ours alive,” Timothy said. “Investing on leather of high quality gives you something that you can use not just now but in years to come. You can even pass it on to the next generation as long as you take care of it well.”

TWINNING. Sister bags that come in different styles of leather. Photo by Carol Ramoran

The brothers take time to examine each piece of leather before bringing it to their workshop. Checking for quality and texture. Tanning is also done exclusively with natural ingredients of vegetable origins that do not contain heavy metal substances prohibited by law.

“While such quality will cost you a bit more than your usual bag from a fast-fashion store, it is something that will last longer. Making such products is also of less impact to the planet, provides jobs with fair wages to artisans, and it’s keeping our traditions and industry alive.” – Rappler.com