Sage Femme: Handmade Bags from Italy

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When Michael Ventre, a leather manufacturer from America, and Corina Stefirta, a designer from Moldova, realized their international background in leather goods could essentially create the perfect dream team, they created Sage Femme, an Italian leather handbag brand for confident, tasteful women everywhere. The result was a match made in heaven.

 

Having moved to Milan in 2007 and working in sales at Tod’s flagship store in Via della Spiga, Stefirta’s design path was described as “unconventional.” After working day after day with international clientele and completely immersing herself in Italian leather design, she soon began to dream up a new line of products. She saw simple, clean designs, no embellishments needed, with premium leather in a range of different colors. Thus, Sage Femme was born, in what can only be described by her as “a labor of love.”

“Sage Femme is a line of bags for the woman of wisdom who is on a constant quest for beauty through simplicity,” Stefirta tells us of her brand. “Our creations express a passion to eliminate the superfluous in favor of sublime shapes, mesmerizing colors, and perfect detailing, accompanied, of course, by the intense scent of Tuscan leather.”

Color Lineup

Actually, the name “Sage Femme” has a double meaning in French. Literally, the words translate to “wise woman,” but it is also the French term for “midwife,” which is “a traditional female occupation that embodies trust, empowerment, and service to community,” Stefirta explains. “The concept of service is an important element of our project as we commit a portion of our profit to midwife-led projects in the developing world.”

While many other brands add embellishments and unnecessary stitching to their products, Sage Femme strives to focus on the materials, shape, and detailing instead. There are no distractions, so to speak, in these products, but this also makes the smallest imperfections unforgiving. “The cut of the leather must be perfectly clean, the stitching, reinforcements, and edging, flawless,” Stefirta says. “In short, it requires total, uncompromising, and even obsessive dedication to quality on our part.”

For this reason, Sage Femme’s design process is very hands-on. In fact, local, expert artisans design each bag—and now, phone cases—at the factory in Italy. “By designing right in the workshop, we don’t have to worry about developing around volume-oriented seasonal collections,” she says. “Rather, we can design and produce based on inspiration, see immediate results, and fine tune to our heart’s content.”

This past January, Sage Femme also debuted at the White Show in Milan, a premiere international event that prides itself on spotlighting emerging international designers. Unsurprisingly, the brand garnered a lot of attention and was one of the favorites of the show. The Sage Femme cross-body bag, in particular, attracted a great deal of interest from many of Italy’s top accessories boutiques, including the Anna Ravazzoli Accessories store in Corso Genova, Milan. Since the bag comes in a beautiful array of colors, including stone, light grey, and cerulean blue, and features an ultra feminine, beautiful design, we can see why.

Because the Sage Femme brand prides itself in creating products that exude both maturity and confidence, Stefirta says they will never resort to overt embellishments in order to make a statement. “The end result, we believe, speaks for itself,” she says. “To paraphrase Coco Chanel: If a woman carries an overly embellished bag, you notice the bag, and if she carries a tasteful bag, you notice the woman.”

Now, Stefirta explains how the bags are made.

1cuttingStep 1: Cutting

“The patterns of leather are hand-cut on a rubberized surface using thick cardboard patterns as guides.”

2paterns-first-stage

 

Step 2: Patterns first stage

“Once all the patterns of the bag have been cut, they are ready to go into production. We then split all the leather to a consistent thickness, reinforce the leather, and couple it with the calf suede lining.”

3compleated-patt

 

Step 3: Completed patterns

“With all the leather reinforced and coupled, we cut the patterns to the final size and begin the edging process.”

5construction 6grey-magenta

 

Step 4: Construction in progress

“With all the patterns ready, we begin to construct the bag. Each piece of the bag is precisely glued, modeled, and hammered into place on a smooth marble surface. As the pieces are modeled together, the bag begins to come to life and take shape.”

7topstitch-sewing 8topstitch-sewing

 

Step 5: Top stitch sewing

“As the pieces are glued together, they are machine-stitched with premium Gütermann German thread. Precision is key here. We make exactly three stitches per centimeter to give a touch of cleanliness and sobriety.”

9hand-stitching

 

Step 6: Hand stitching

“All machine stitching is terminated at the end with the so-called ‘travetto’—a reinforcement that is looped around numerous times by hand with a curved needle to ensure that the stitching doesn’t weaken as the gussets are opened and closed over time.”

10hand_painting2 12burnishing

 

Step 7: Hand painting/burnishing

“As the bag reaches its final stages, it undergoes a series of edging steps. First, we apply the edge painting by hand, let it dry, and then burnish the edges with a special rotating brush composed of felt and leather strips, which smoothes and rounds out the edges.”

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BY MEGAN PORTORREAL

Sage Femme: Handmade Bags from Italy – Photographs courtesy of Sage Femme