For Carla Braccialini, a handbag is not merely an accessory. It's a metaphor for the individual.
"In your handbag, there's all your life,'' observed Braccialini, the Florentine founder and chief designer of the 54-year-old handbag brand bearing her name.
Braccialini's whimsical and colorful patchwork designs, often inspired by fairy tales, florals and butterfly motifs, quietly arrived in New York's SoHo a month ago. The family-run business, headed by Braccialini and her sons, Riccardo, Massimo and Lorenzo, will mark its U.S. debut with a private party tonight at MarieBelle.
The 350-square-foot Braccialini shop, situated at 436 West Broadway at Prince Street, has the steel rose logo in the center of the store, black marble floors, lots of mirrors and a tall window displaying a flourish of styles from imaginative artful pieces, such as the $1,300 Farfalla bag in lambskin napa with a vinyl pearl finish and Swarovski crystals, to classic styles such as the Phuket, priced at $470, in lacquered microfiber and "hot pressed" with a taxi design.
Within the tight SoHo space, offerings also include perforated lambskin bags with butterfly patterns, priced at $940; limited edition leather patchwork Cinderella- or Pinocchio-themed bags for $399, as well as heavily detailed leather bags priced at $1,200, and animal key chains priced at $65 to $85. Among the bestsellers is the Puss 'n Boots-themed Cartoline cotton canvas bag embellished with embroidery and appliqué, priced at $331.
Typically, Braccialini works in leather, velvet, brocade, beads, crystals and silk. She refers to the collection as a "hybrid of materials, meanings and aesthetics."
The company has grown through store openings, with 26 operating in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and license agreements with Vivienne Westwood, Warner Bros. Inc.'s Looney Tunes and Mariella Burani. In 2000, the Mariella Burani Fashion Group became the major shareholder, furthering growth initiatives, one of which will be national advertising in the U.S. beginning in the fall.
Without the benefit of any marketing, the SoHo shop has been off to a good start, surpassing its first-month sales objective and generating more than $45,000, according to Emilia Pedulla, who has become the exclusive franchisee for Braccialini in the U.S. and already owns and manages three Braccialini stores in Italy, with a fourth in the works.She has a cautious U.S. growth plan. "I am looking at other areas, which, like SoHo, are vibrant [and] provide iconic design offerings, and where you have affluent local and international clientele who enjoy life from different points of view, not only fashion." Specifically, she is seeking to open Braccialini shops in Miami, Los Angeles and Washington within three years.
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