Eagle-eyed street style enthusiasts spotted a new group of bags on the scene last fashion season. Editors and bloggers like
Miroslava Duma, Giovanna Battaglia, and Natalie Joos were snapped at the shows toting colorful geometric patchwork purses that looked almost like little works of art. The label? Not Céline or Prada or Proenza Schouler, but Paula Cademartori: a 31-year-old Brazilian-born, Milan-based designer who crafts carryalls with a whimsy the fashion world hasn’t
As one might expect from a former Versace accessories designer, Cademartori’s creations, which are stocked by Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi, are not suitable for wallflowers. Most sport a mix of high-end leathers (calf, patent, suede, python), and are intricately, zanily color-blocked. “I work with different patterns and materials to create a motif and texture,” Cademartori says. “It’s about putting things together that make no sense at all but are very good together.” Each is finished off with Cademartori’s distinctive metal-and-enamel logo buckle, which resembles a Pi symbol topped by a pair of brackets. “The aim of the brand is very feminine; it’s sensual; it’s ecstatic, geometric lines,” she says. “My handbags are bags to collect.”
Cademartori, with her playful fashion sense and model-esque smile, could easily be mistaken for one of her famous collectors. She credits her exuberant sensibility to her bi-cultural life: she was raised in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she studied jewelry design, and moved to Italy in 2005 to earn a master’s degree in accessory design. Because her great-grandfather was Italian, she has a dual passport. “I think they’re very similar places,” she says. “Both are rich in color and life.” Since relocating, Cademartori has become an outspoken advocate of her adopted country’s artisan tradition. “Italians were born with design—the buildings, the art,” she says. “Craftsmanship is passed from father to daughter to son.”
The designer intends to take full advantage of these resources by expanding into new categories. Most recently, she debuted small leather goods—wallets, pouches, and keychains—to complement her bags, as well as hard-shell minaudières (
Jane Fonda carried one to the Grammys). At her recent fall/winter Milan Fashion Week presentation, she branched out beyond camera bait with a new range of more minimal carryalls, called Radical. She describes that collection as “more plain, very day, but made super-well”; the bags will feature subtler details, like contrast gussets and hand-knotted fringe.
And there’s another, even bigger surprise in store at the fall show: Cademartori’s first foray into shoes. The collection includes five styles of heels and one biker boot; all, she promises, will be as playful as her bags. “Women who wear them,” she says, “will feel super-sexy, super-cool, super-glamorous, super-wow.”
Cademartori appears to hold a limitless belief in the power of accessories. “I think women buy shoes to seduce men and buy handbags to be noticed by other women,” she says. “It’s interesting, as a designer, to be able to project that.”