Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Bottega Veneta, an Italian luxury house best known for its leather goods, is challenging its status quo by launching a line of sustainable, vegan-friendly handbags. Founded in 1966, the label popularized a centuries-old Medici-era weaving technique when it began interlocking long, thin strips of leather to create its bags. (Apprentices at the Scuola dell Pelletteria Bottega Veneta, near the house’s workshop outside Venice, are still instructed in the art of intrecciato today.) A growing demand for leather alternatives, however, drove creative director Tomas Maier to seek inspiration from another ancient art: Japanese paper-making.
The result is the “Carta Giapponese,” a clutch made of tightly woven washi, a delicate paper derived from the bark of the fast-growing kozo tree (a Japanese relative of the common mulberry). Once made, the washi is cut, its edges left raw, then carefully woven. Bottega Veneta lined the finished bag with silk and topped it off with blackened brass hardware.
The “Carta Giapponese” is a clutch made of tightly woven washi derived from the bark of the fast-growing kozo tree.
“I decided to make the paper bags after speaking with customers who wanted sophisticated, handcrafted bags that are non-leather and earth-friendly,” Maier says. “We are a luxury lifestyle brand known for our handcrafted leather goods—obviously we don’t claim to be vegan. But Bottega Veneta has always worked to limit its environmental footprint, and we like to respond to the needs of our customers. This was an exciting challenge and I’m delighted with the way the collection turned out.”