On a spring day earlier this year, actress and blogger Courtney Halverson took a train through the Tuscan hills to visit Sapaf 54, one of our artisan partners based in Scandicci, a small municipality in the outskirts of Florence. Below, she shares about her experience.
As a creative and as a blogger, many new products come across my path -- bags, shoes, clothing. I had given some thought to the level of experience and craftsmanship that goes into each of these things, but nothing like how I look at them now.
After a long but beautiful walk from the train station, I arrived at an unassuming factory building. Yet inside, as I was soon to discover, Sapaf54 held a world of difference.
I was met by master artisan Andrea and his son, Leonardo, who run the business today, having taken over from Andrea’s parents who first opened the shop back in 1954. Sapaf, which in Italian stands for “The Artisanal Society of Artistic Leather Manufacturing,” is renowned for its handbags and leatherwork. I immediately understood why as I was led through the company’s archives; it was akin to strolling through a museum.
Handwritten ledgers, hand-stamping tools, the company’s first orders... I marveled at their best-selling bag of all time: a square, white handbag meticulously painted with a gold chain. Next, I walked the factory floor, meeting women who were hand-painting leather edges, hand-sewing handles and straps. I watched on as careful prototypes were created from packets full of specific measurements based on each design.
So much is still done by hand, and every bag receives the same level of handiwork. This blew my mind: that even though Sapaf designs bags for huge companies -- and charges a lot for them -- MILANER bags are made in the same way, with the same level of craftsmanship, just without any additional markup.
Being inside the workshop felt busy, but peaceful. Such is the paradox that shapes so many creative pursuits. Everyone had a good relationship with each other, working seamlessly in and out of stations, like dance to produce these gorgeous bags.
A parting thought: The amount of care and consideration that goes into what we wear and how we express ourselves is such an inspiring process. I could wax poetic about the entire visit, from the walk through the factory’s lush surroundings to the kindness displayed by every member of Sapaf’s team. It’s a level of attention that truly has to be experienced to be believed, even if that experience is simply holding one of Sapaf’s bags in your hands.