By  on November 22, 2004

MILAN — If you have it, flaunt it.

Spring’s stronger-than-ever fad for lush and plush accessories proves that deep-pocketed consumers seeking individuality aren’t letting a difficult economy get in their way. Crafted in a zoo of exotic skins, the most popular being crocodile, spring’s bags and shoes are treated in every possible way to accentuate their exotic flourishes, tactile gratification and uniqueness.

For spring, Bottega Veneta created a woven Cabat bag made of 25 crocodile skins, previously treated with a matte texture and peach hand, while Gucci offered crocodile and ostrich shoulder bags with a metal eyelet. Python aficionados, meanwhile, can indulge with Dolce & Gabbana’s sorbet-colored python pieces, from small belt bags and hats to stackable bangles, while Borbonese’s signature bird’s-eye bags and sandals are jazzed up with crocodile trim, beadings and crystals. Valextra’s bags are made with ostrich legs handcrafted with erstwhile techniques and Prada offered three-tone crocodile bags and sandals. Shirò went as far as lining crocodile bags with python, while A. Testoni is banking on sharkskin loafers.

“It never ceases to surprise me that, especially in tough times, consumers seek quirky and trendy pieces, even those meant for the runway only,” said Alessandro Dell’Acqua, the creative director at Borbonese. “It proves that people want to step out of anonymity with special pieces.”

Massimo Suppancig, chief executive officer at Valextra, agreed: “Even in tough times, sophisticated people with money seek the most expensive pieces for personal gratification. Exotic skins offer just that through their special tactile characteristics.”

With the likes of H&M and Zara able to quickly interpret high-fashion trends, designers are feeling pressed to look beyond crocodile bags of yore in rigid shapes and shiny patinas. They have created handbags, often retailing for thousands of dollars, that are more difficult to reproduce at lower price points by tapping into a variety of hides — crocodile, python and ostrich on the traditional side and sharkskin, whale, salmon, stingray and chicken legs in the innovative category.

For their part, tanners went overboard for spring with special effects — crocodile with suede, laminated or stonewashed effects, hand-painted python, glazed or antiqued lizard skins matching the color of the clothes and metallic accents throughout.

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