Studio Visit: Paula Cademartori

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My new article for COOL HUNTING.

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Constantly surrounded by architectural and natural beauty alike, Italians sometimes need someone from abroad to remind them of their exceptional surroundings. This may happen when friends and family visit or when some talented creative mind falls in love with local processes. The latter is the case of Paula Cademartori, a Brazilian fashion designer who can be counted among the ambassadors of the “Made in Italy” movement.

Cademartori studied design at Istituto Marangoni and business at Bocconi University, after which she moved to the Marche region (east of Florence on the Adriatic) to work at Orciani for one year. Here she learned what it really means to produce leather goods, the secrets of tanning, cutting, assembling and realizing unique crafts from start to finish. Then she moved back to Milan for two very intense years designing accessories at Versace.

Nevertheless, her dream was to create her own brand, and her first signature bag collection was launched in 2011. In just four years, she established herself as an icon among fashion devotees and buyers alike. We recently met with Cademartori to delve into her creative process and check out an exclusive preview of her new 300-square-meter studio and headquarters in the heart of Milan, where she works with a staff of 17 people. Like in her designs, the space is filled with sophisticated colors, upscale atmospheric touches and shots of pure energy.

“The beauty of Italy,” Cademartori explains of her decision to start the company outside her native Brazil, “is that you can design and then accompany all phases of the project. In a very small territory you have so many people so capable and full of experience that you can learn, discuss, and you always get to do something better than you have imagined. For me, coming from a different culture and a different story (even thou I’ve lived in Italy for the past 10 years) this possibility of direct exchange with all the craftsmen and technicians is always an enrichment.”

Cademartori was raised in Brazil and trained to be an industrial and jewelry designer. For this reason her methodology is far from traditional fashion design. She always starts with the realization of a very complete project (almost final), which then undergoes small changes in the factory. “Each one of my bags originates from my studio, where I have four designers. When I start with an idea, I need to plan it; to understand the user, which volumes and proportions she needs. When I get to the factory, ideas are already very clear, but then there can be a process of evolution. Some details are decided in production, such as the position of the seams in relationship to the inlay, or the use of the materials most suitable for a specific purpose.”

Her pursuit of beauty is punctuated with determination. “If you do not have a real purpose, it’s not enough that the object is beautiful. The aesthetic side matters, but the functionality and the market category are all factors that must be thought of first. My project is global and wants to reach out to all cultures of the world. For this reason, my range is now much larger, designed for women of all backgrounds and origins.”

Cademartori’s bags are extremely spacious yet structured so that everything can be easily organized and accessed quickly, without forcing users to rummage around. Colorful on the outside, they follow defined structural lines, so that one can make the most of space without overstuffing. For this reason they always keep the shape (the study of the structure is critical for the designer) and never lose the beauty of their unique proportions. Also the smallest of clutches have separate areas for smartphones and the bigger styles can hold tablets and other daily essentials. “Each bag is very easy to use,” she adds, “Petite Faye, one of our best-sellers, is full of pockets and is not very deep, so you can reach everything quickly. I love totes, but then you can not find anything inside.”

Since the first collection, Cademartori wanted all the small metal parts to be custom designed, including the recognizable buckle. “That is my logo as well. I put it on all my products and it tells who I am. When I launched my line I aimed at something fresh and new, but I also wanted it to look important. I did not want a simple logo, but a heraldic symbol, as if it were a family crest,” she says. “I started with Greek pi and worked on it, redesigned it so to get to the one we see today. My name you will see very little, since I don’t need to sign my products on the outside, but on the inside. My bags have to be iconic for their design, not because of the name that goes with it.”

Each Cademartori bag can be seen as a sort of base, a frame, a blank canvas upon which to give birth to an infinite variety of colors, materials and inspirations. Her enthusiasm rises when she talks creativity: “The funniest part of the design is when we say, ‘OK, let’s dress the babes!’ At this stage we think less to the design of forms and we freely work on the decoration, the choice of colors and combinations. And I can be a little obsessive with these things.”

In January, Cademartori will present a new line of small leather goods, with some products for men too. “I would like to create a philosophy, a real lifestyle. We started from the bags, but there is a world to be built,” she adds. Expect more surprises to follow, always colorful, always energetic and elegant. And of course—always from excellent Italian factories.

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