PARIS — Direct-to-consumer in its purest form is Object Particolare, a new Milan-based women’s bag brand launched by Siloe, an Italian leather-goods factory that produces for an array of luxury players.
Sold only on its web site, the brand was cofounded by Petra Langerova and Siloe chief executive officer Eric Joselzon, and is backed by the Fancon family, who own the factory.
“Eric has a background in luxury and finance, and I have experience working for global brands, I think we’re doing something very different by Italian standards. There are a lot of family-owned businesses here, so it can be very difficult to update or innovate,” said Langerova, who got to know the factory while working as head of design at Everlane. Developing that brand’s shoe and bag lines led to her spending a lot of time on the ground at Siloe, which is located in the hills of Vicenza in northern Italy. “I really want to learn about the process and how to technically make things,” she said.
Coming on board to head Object Particolare meant moving to Milan from New York, where she had been based for 25 years. Langerova, who was born and raised in Slovakia and also held design positions at brands including Gap International, J. Crew and Tommy Hilfiger, studied architecture before transferring to Parsons The New School for Design to study fashion, which shows in the sculptural, architectural lines of the Object Particolare collection.
The designer sees bags not just as an accessory, but “a daily companion that solves a problem.” Her aim in an overcrowded marketplace was to introduce a contemporary, modern product that serves today’s needs and is affordable, by cutting out distribution, except for a sprinkling of retail partners that will be introduced as the brand grows, and producers.
“The fact that it is a factory-owned brand has its advantages, we’re close to market and can control volumes and sampling. There are all these advantages for me creatively,” she said, adding that making good product takes time. “We really make bags in a very traditional way. The bag is on the table and made by one person at a time, as opposed to an assembly line. I could technically have the person sign the bag, I know who worked on each bag from the beginning to the end, so it’s a slower process.”
On sale since November, and based on curved overlapping circles of smooth leather with magnetic closures in the center, the Vitti Collection houses a lightweight but sturdy minimalist tote in medium and large sizes that come with removable round leather clutches, and a bucket bag-style mini version with an integrated drawstring nappa leather top. Prices range from 395 euros to 690 euros.
Previewed in Paris at an event on Tuesday night was a limited-edition handbag meant to illustrate the Object Particolare concept but with a higher price tag: 950 euros. Limited to 140 pieces, it took around a year to develop and will launch in March. A technical feat, the molded bag is entirely asymmetric and features a stitch-free flap designed with a factory that makes car parts. “So this idea of marrying the digital world with traditional leather-making techniques,” said the designer, who in an age of fast fashion and marketing noise is more interested in taking a “less is more” timeless take on the category.
Helping develop the products is technician and Siloe founder Gianni Piras, who despite his experience is sometimes thrown by Langerova’s ideas.
Of her new experience, a “leap of faith” that brought her closer to the product, she said: “I find the structure in the factory quite difficult, but we have a relatively young and international management. Otherwise, it’s quite hierarchical and oftentimes hard to lift off the ground or the local market. Even with our factory and investors, they think of a brand as being: make a bag and put it on a shelf.”
Langerova, who hopes to introduce gender-neutral or unisex styles, develops prototypes in paper and card, painstakingly teasing out new lines and constructions. New shapes, she said, will be added in a measured way “when I know that I have an equally good product in hand that can compete with the existing ones that took me a year to develop and test and perfect.”
“Everything I learned about clothes-making at Parsons was very hands-on. I understood that only when I mastered patterns would I be able to alter design. Otherwise, everything is a sketch and the rest is left to the technicians. I like to cross directly to the technical part to see if something new will be born,” she said. “It’s kind of like Japanese designers, they’re the only ones that manipulate patterns and create something new.”