In the handbag hall of fame, timelessness and function are just two of the qualities that cult bags have historically had in common. But the making of an iconic handbag is anyone’s guess.
However, when Leonardo Camerini first sketched his vision of the 3.3 in Verona, Italy (the birthplace of the famous Shakespearean romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet), he knew he had landed on something special. The 3.3 was the first handbag Camerini designed for his eponymous label, Leo Camerini, and was named after the very day the sketch was born—3 March. Today, the 3.3 stands as the brand’s signature masterpiece.
With its artful sheen and structured shape, the bag is easily recognisable. As the inaugural bag of the brand, the 3.3 encompasses not just the narrative of the label, but also its deep respect for the heritage of craft. Leo Camerini has remained true to the Italian heritage of handcrafted, hand-treated leather—the only way to reach the highest quality available.
The brand offers ready-to-buy collections, but it is its bespoke service that the designer aptly compares to musical harmony. “I liken each detail of a handbag to the chord of a violin. Alone, it makes a single sound. Bring them all together and you make music.” When it comes to the making of a bespoke Leo Camerini bag, the process is one of collaboration and attention to detail. “Keeping the relationship with a customer to build their dream bag is a passion of mine.”
From matte pastels to duo-toned jewel hues, Leo Camerini has mastered the colour treatment of ethically sourced crocodile leather to perfection. Replete with gold hardware engraved with the ‘LC’ monogram, each bag is the result of Camerini’s creative vision and the storied labour of artisans who boast over three decades of experience. “When a bag is made by hand, it will always be one of a kind. No two will look alike—there’s a human touch,” he says.
Impeccable craftsmanship is the lifeblood of many Italian labels, but the Verona-based brand brings a unique blend of French couture influences in its designs—courtesy of Camerini’s French and Italian heritage. “Working with French and Italian ateliers, I discovered a common denominator that brings these two cultures together,” he tells Vogue Singapore. “It’s the people’s savoir faire—the fascinating thing is that it’s been passed down for generations and centuries.”
This appreciation for heritage is palpable in Camerini’s designs. His French heritage has spurred an infectious love for the art of Parisian embroidery, which he has incorporated into his designs. When asked why he loves the technique, he quips: “How much time do you have?” The intricacies of haute couture embroidery come into focus when its canvas is a Leo Camerini handbag. “I could speak for days about embroidery—it’s such a fascinating topic,” he muses. “My crocodile leather line is purely Italian, but when it comes to embroidery, I switch my brain to Parisian mode.”
His experimental treatment of colour, on the other hand, was inspired by a half-lit window found in the background of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’, a 16th-century painting by Italian master Caravaggio. This unassuming detail prompted Camerini to apply this baroque technique of chiaroscuro to the pigment of his bags. With his heart on timelessness, elegance and heritage, Leo Camerini bags feel like heirlooms in the making. “I want to make sure that the bag will last for years and hopefully it’s something that can be passed down from a mother to a daughter, and so on.”
And it’s clear Camerini has his sights set on straddling history and modernity—he is planning to open an e-boutique come early 2021. “I want to embrace this concept of hard work and savoir faire and show that sophistication and long-time craft are available online.” A fully virtual experience that captures the romantic atmosphere of Verona, the e-boutique will allow both new and loyal customers in Singapore to shop handcrafted bags online.
The label’s connection to Singapore spans three generations—beginning with Camerini’s grandfather, who first started doing business on our shores back in the 1960s—making this foray into Asia both a natural and sentimental one. “I’ve always been fascinated by how Singapore has evolved as a city,” he shares. “To me, it’s truly projected in the future and I’m excited that Leo Camerini is here to stay.”
“The only limit when it comes to designing a handbag is imagination,” Camerini says. “And what fuels imagination is curiosity.”
Leo Camerini’s e-boutique will launch in early 2021.