La Vacchetta Grassa – part of “Hand Made”, The Artisan Series

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I mentioned last week that one of the things that I found shocking and special about Italy was the Artisan culture that exists here.  In Canada, no one ever talks about “artisans”.  In Italy there are hundreds of thousands of artisans, they make the country run and the goods that they produce have made the words “Made in Italy”   the most highly coveted consumer affirmation.

 

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Today I would like to introduce you to Omar Baraldi, the man behind one of Modena’s most beautiful boutiques, La Vacchetta Grassa.

 

 Legacy

 

We often here the word Bottega used to describe where an Italian Artisan works, but what does this word mean.  A Bottega is not only where a master artist or Artisan has their workshop it is where they TEACH, where they impart their skill to apprentices and collaborators.  One of the mis-conceptions of Italian artisans is that they are working in solitude, and this is absolutely not the case.

 

 

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In order to create a legacy for their craft they have to train apprentices to ensure that the skill is not lost.  The strength of Italy’s artisans is that they have passed down their trades for generations.   Omar is a modern entrepreneur, who has built his successful business from the ground up, he realizes he can’t do it all, and in order to sell in an international market he expanded, modernized and now works with highly skilled professionals both for the creation of new products and the commercialization of his lines.

 

A Historic Building

 

Walking under the porticos of Modena’s Corso Canalchiaro, you quickly note that it is one of the best shopping areas in the city.  Aside from its beauty, it is home to Modena’s oldest building and the most luxe boutiques now line the street that was once a canal (read about its history here).  It is here that you come across the awning of La Vacchetta Grassa, a large store front that still displays where Omar originally had his workshop, right at the ground level.

 

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When you enter you are greeted with the unmistakable smell of leather.  Great care was taken to preserve this incredible historic building, the restoration of the frescoed ceilings, original wood supports and blown glass and iron windows.

 

This is the untold story that you don’t often get a change to see when you are strolling through Modena’s city centre, inside every historic building there are architectural treasures.

 

 

 

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Nothing in this space is for decoration, all of the tools, drawers and carefully laid out materials serve a purpose.  This is authenticity at its best.

 

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A Tour of the Bottega & Store

 

La Vacchetta Grassa, which literally translates to “The Fat Calf”, referring to the supple yet tough leather that is used to realize most of the brand’s creations, specializes in leather goods including bags, belts, wallets, key chains, leather covered home accessories and bracelets.

 

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If you follow Reasons to Dress you know that my husband is also a leather artisan, and I can assure you with a trained eye that these products are of excellent value.  Omar made a conscious decision in the 80s to open his bottega to the public and sell his goods directly.  By cutting out the middle man prices are kept very reasonable and each piece is handmade by Omar and his team in the upstairs workshop.

 

If you get a chance to visit don’t forget to ask Omar for a tour upstairs to where the production happens, it is an incredible site.  Nothing beats the antique traditions and tools that have been placed along side modern machinery.  This is the evolution of the Italian Handmade good.

 

I asked Omar a few questions about how he got started and about his design philosophy.  He answered with incredible passion for his craft and a light in his eyes.  This is what he said:

 

Our values changed in the 70’s, they changed and so did our traditions.  For the first time we wanted furniture that was disposable instead of pieces that would last forever.

 

At the same time there was a cultural rebellion, students right out of school wanted to take up the old “mestiere” (crafts).  Botteghe opened everywhere from ceramics, textiles and glass to tailors and leather artisans.  I went around Italy and became self taught in my craft, we were united and created community.

 

The 80s were a disaster, the old-style Bottega gave way to industrialization.  Design was changing as well.  At the time I was working with bags and noticed the shift in design and in thought.  Before, all bags had a purpose and were constructed from the inside out to last and be useful.  All of a sudden materials that were previously used for utility became fashionable and bags were now unstructured and soft.  They were purely aesthetic.

 

Bringing a common workplace material like “vacchetta” leather into fashion was a significant change, it represented how the past was newly emerging into the present.  It became a symbol, and interpretation of tradition.

 

Modena is rich with traditions and my own education has come from living here.  I have always researched a “style” and realize now that my brand is the material itself, honest and immediate.

Each time you buy my product you buy a piece of tradition.

 

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Visiting & Info

 

La Vacchetta Grassa

http://www.lavacchettagrassamodena.it/

Corso Canalchiaro 42/44, Modena, italy

+39 059 211167

 

Opening hours:

9 am – 1 pm open

1 pm – 3:30 closed for lunch

3:30 pm – 7:30 pm open each day but Thursday afternoons, when all stores in Modena are closed.

 

 


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  • Katie @ Loverly She

    this is fascinating! I can practically smell the leather 🙂 love the architectural details in the space too!

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  • I loved reading this post! And that ending quote! Buying a piece of tradition. Nice.

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  • Marta! thank you for the Liebster Award! it may take me a few weeks, but I will formally write a post and thank you! So very kind. And thank you for reading this post, it meant a lot to me to collaborate with a real person behind Italy’s long artisan tradition. I already know this will be my favorite series!

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  • What beautiful made products! I was expecting extremely high prices when seeing the pictures and reading the story, but he was very very smart in selling directly so the prices are fair. Absolutely the kind of place I’d love to visit and spend some time in.

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    • EXACTLY. you hit the nail on the head. People don’t often go into these stores because they think that they will be too expensive, but when you buy directly from artisans the prices are very modest. The choice may even be 30 euros at H&M for something industrialized and plastic, or 30 from an artisan, hand made and real leather! Thank you for this observation!

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  • The Crowded Planet

    hey Angie! I loooove the idea of this new series and Vacchetta Grassa products look amazing. I must check it out next time I’m in Modena, when we’ll have our walk around Manifattura Tabacchi. I know the 80’s were a real tough time for artisans, but it’s great to hear he managed to keep the business going. Looking forward to some new artisan posts! Lots of love to you and Zeno!

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    • This means so much to me coming from you. his products really are amazing…and genuine, which I think is what’s missing today from most retail. I will happily tour Modena with you!

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  • I definitely have an appreciation for handmade products and artisans who stay true to tradition. The quality is just unmatched by products made by machines. Plus, there’s so much love and passion that goes into the process and no two items will ever be 100% identical.

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    • Yes this is so true. There is the “love” factor that goes into these artisan made products. I think I would even take it one step further…it isn’t just that they are made by hand, they are made with care and with emotion. This is not slave labour this is a labour of love.

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  • Totally. It is by far one of the most unique ones i have ever seen!

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  • A really interesting post, thanks for sharing! I also love the gorgeous lighting in all the photos 🙂

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  • so cool! I loved reading his words, this really is a special place. That last bag is amazing!

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    • I really wanted to share his exact thoughts without over elaborating too much, so thank you for this comment!

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  • Gorgeous post darling, I want it all! Thanks for linking up to #fashionfriday

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  • Oh me oh my! I want that bag, I don’t care that its 580 euro!!!

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  • I think people like you that support local businesses are the reason that the city centres survive. I f we all only went to chain stores every town and city would look the exact same…and that’s so boring!

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  • Angela Simmons

    Wow what a beautiful place I would love to got there and visit. Thanks for sharing this with the world. what an awesome opportunity to be able to go their and experience this. Love the inventory they have their as well. Thanks for the opportunity to play the bag is lovely

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  • Heather Kinser

    I’m so glad that the internet has allowed for the revival of classic arts by allowing the artists to their handmade goods all over the world.

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  • Kelly O’Malley

    What a wonderful post. I am totally intrigued by the idea of this. I love supporting, and looking at the art, that is produced by people’s hands. I love the idea of the Bottega. Teaching people on the traditions and the workmanship, so the art is not lost. Just love it.

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  • Hunter

    Leather is forever

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  • lisalo

    Cool buildings! Be proud of the handcrafted works. They are awesome!

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  • Francesca

    Great article! I am completely in love with this borsa in vera pelle di pitone. 🙂

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  • Jess Maryy

    Such an awesome shop! That bag looks gorgeous, guess I’d wear it everyday if it was mine <3

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  • Leah

    I spent a semester abroad in Italy and this post brought back a ton of memories! I remember buying a pair of beautiful leather gloves from a little shop much like this one! Over 12 years later and I still have those beautiful gloves!

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  • Betsy

    Love leather bags,the smell is earthy,enjoyed reading post.

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  • Barbara A Langley

    This is new to me and such a achievement, well done. His work looks excellent. I am very impressed also with the use of space and the architectural design.

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  • Cathy R.

    Wonderful artisan culture and history in Italy! Beautifully described and makes me want to visit.

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  • Bellina Jacobs

    This was almost like a romantic novel, offering bits of history and culture of the areas and their artisans. It soooo makes me want to go and visit these places. As for the leather products, which are designed to honor the artisans, “Bravissimo”!! [sic?]

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  • Terri

    I love, Love, LOVE the bags!!! They are so beautiful! I have never heard of this company before, Thank you for sharing them with us.

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  • Never heard of this brand before. Thanks for introducing me! Super cool!

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  • Santhia Keiller

    Now this would be a reason to dress!

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  • Susan Jakovina-Liberatore

    I totally remember visiting Rome and getting leather belts custom made for my husband — it is just a regular way to buy there! Amazing. Croatia is very similiar – anything that is very good quality is handmade. Love that.

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  • christy caldwell

    The shop is absolutely gorgeous. The pieces look beautiful and well crafted. I’d not heard of them before but thanks for this introduction. Lovely stuff and story.

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  • Joe Jo

    Amazing, learned so much form this post, what talented artisans and a beautiful shop.

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  • Melissa Alvarado

    What a fabulous giveaway! Everyone knows Italian leathers and craftsmanship is the absolute best! Fascinating reading about how they are made, thanks so much 🙂

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  • Deborah Caudill

    This was a great article and I learned so much about what goes into all the designs. I would love to visit there and see all the gorgeous architectural designs, all the patterns and other fabrics and leathers used to handcraft a bag, shoes or something else. I had not heard of the designer of the rucksack that is being given away in this giveaway, but I will certainly keep a lookout for more designs and spread the word to my friends and colleagues. I love al the little functional leather boxes shown with the article.

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  • Dianne

    Now I want to go there 🙁 And buy two bags, one for my brother and one for me. They are beautiful. And I know artisans but didnt know about this brand or store. Thanks for the great information!!!

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  • Stacy Carnahan

    This is just amazing how much detail is put into their workmanship. Absolutely beautiful pieces and all handmade. That is so hard to find these days. Love reading about your adventure and be able to see how Omar captures and keeps with traditions of generations past with a skilled eye to create such wonderful pieces! Thanks for the share!

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  • Kate

    How lovely! It is nice to know there are still places out there that put time and quality into their craftsmanship!

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  • Jay Jay See

    This is my first time of hearing it. Amazing…!!!. Nowadays, we hardly find a masterpiece of leather home made.

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  • AnnaZed

    I have never heard of this brand. It seems very exclusive. I adore their painted ceiling, it makes me want to visit them.

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  • Liberty S. Fontanilla

    It’s the first time I heard of this- La Vacchetta Grass. Anyway I think they are very creative and the output are quality.

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  • daer0n

    Wow that is beautiful work. I would love to get my hands on several of their items, their work looks like it’s amazing quality, and the shop itself looks amazing.

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  • Alison Gibb

    I love old traditions and items being made by a artisan and not produced in a factory! Omar’s bags are beautiful!

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  • Jennifer Heintz

    Wow, what fine craftsmanship!.. I loved looking at the pictures of the shop, what a beautiful ceiling. And as to the 70’s disposable attitude, be gone. I enjoyed this post, thank you.

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  • Debbie Snell

    This was so interesting. I loved seeing the shop where the beautiful leather products are made and the amazing work and love that has gone into making things. I hadnt heard of the brand before.

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