It all began with mystical crystals. A few gifts for friends here and there of customized necklaces, rings, and charms. And then it slowly developed into creatively designed artisanal leather bags that captivated the runways. Introducing Iacobella, by designer and philanthropist Iacobella Gaetani.
As a self-taught creative,Gaetani has always enjoyed the tactile techniques of stitching and sewing. An avid climber, she became fascinated by the healing powers of semi-precious stones and crystals as a young girl. Add to the mix her exploratory spirit, her passion for native cultures, an international upbringing in Brazil, the Caribbean, UK and Italy (we should also mention she is a descendent of Italy’s ultimate explorer Baron Raimondo Franchetti), Gaetani was clearly destined to live the life of an artist.
Crafting artisanal creations
Gaetani’s designs showcase the supreme ingenuity of Florentine artisans who bring to life her innovatively chic and playfully modern concepts. Each artisanal bag is handmade with either calf leather or suede utilizing ancient leather craftsmanship. Each design is centred around an individually selected crystal or mineral gemstone that doubles as a clasp.
Initially, Gaetani didn’t set out to form a business. But after exploring and researching artisan factories in Pontassieve near Florence, she slowly created her own brand. “This area includes incredible gems, places where you can find macrame, leather, there is so much culture in the handmade production of all sorts,” notes Gaetani. “You can find amazing materials throughout this area. I keep on discovering more and more local places where I can produce different materials and find different techniques.”
The crystals are a result of extensive trips to Brazil, where she visits family including her brother. The area is known for having a wealth of crystals and after making charms and jewellery, Gaetani soon realized that her source was leading her to create something more than thoughtful gifts for friends.
“These secret fruits of the earth hold specific frequencies that help with mental, physical, and spiritual blockages,” notes Gaetani, who artistically collaborates with a Brazil-based talented leather artisan with sending him drawings and sketches of things she envisioned.
Now based in Rome, Canadian-born Gaetani never thought she would end up back in Italy with a company in fashion. In her late 20’s she moved to Italy to do documentaries with filmmakers and then spent years abroad volunteering, including time in India, Peru and Ethiopia. Today, she owns the factory near Florence that produces her bags and collaborates with Missoni. Gaetani herself gives magical names alluding to a mythical place or a specific symbolism for each product.
Sustainability of materials is of utmost importance. The Iacobella collection of wallets and bags come in various colours using vegetable-dyed skins and the quartz, sandstone, amethyst, fluorite, and corundum stones are sourced from small family-owned mines where labour conditions and wages meet extremely high standards. Her Neti Neti collection uses 100% upcycled leather, a result of her finding an amazing stock of old, valuable leathers that were thrown away by bigger fashion houses.
“I’ve never thrown away a leather bag in my life, maybe I’ve given it to friends, but I have never put a leather bag in the bin,” says Gaetani. “A bag is something you want to keep. It’s not a fashion accessory, it’s something you actually need. I wanted to make something that could be your go-to bag. Even if you have one bag, that’s the one.”
Italian history is full of stories of ingenious reuse and recycling, and a favourite is the traditional market or string bag, originally made from fisherman’s netting. Gaetani reinterpreted the market bag as Nirmala, a handwoven handwoven vegetable-tanned leather bucket bag.
The ISSIMO x Iacobella ‘Nirmala’ bag, pictured here in blue and yellow variations, inspired by the quintessential Italian market bag made from fisherman’s netting.
ISSIMO x Iacobella
Iacobella and ISSIMO’s sensibilities align in ethos, style and an effortless transversality. In a custom collaboration, ISSIMO x Iacobella infuses the Nirmala with the iconic Pellicano Hotel colours – ivory white and yellow and blue, bronze and rich brown.
The creative process with ISSIMO was something Gaetani truly enjoyed. “Marie Louise is a ‘bomb’ of ideas. I have always admired her. She has always been a reference point as a career woman. I find her very inspiring; she always moves forward with great ideas and executes them in a very creative and structured way,” notes Gaetani. “ISSIMO is the perfect example of her projections, especially in this particular time….it was such a negative horrible time for everyone and the launch of ISSIMO was like a flower blooming out of this darkness.”
Gaetani is emphatic that ISSIMO is indicative of the quality of life in Italy. “The quality of food, the countryside, the cities are all historically beautiful. It’s about quality and I love this about Italy. It’s more than just products. I’m talking about the quality of lifestyle. For me, Italy is the appreciation of small things, the quality of small things. Italian people. . . .young people already have a culture of good food, appreciate a glass of wine, they have an innate aesthetic. This is something I love. Italy is still to be discovered.”