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Get to Know... Maria and Veronica of Maria Castelli

04 . 12 . 2019

Maria and Veronica are the mother-daughter duo behind leather handbag company Maria Castelli. Together, they meticulously craft each bag in a small NYC workshop using top grain leathers and high-quality skins from the best tanneries in the world.

One of a Kind: Please tell us about your beautiful handbags.

Maria: Our handbags are thoughtfully designed and carefully made so that they last for years. We are committed to creating handbags with integrity, so that their owners can form a personal relationship. Our design approach is grounded in our training as architects and draws on the philosophy that function, form, materials, and construction are integrated. Although our designs are characterized by a simple aesthetic, they are not minimalistic. Rather, they are conceived to support the needs of women living full lives while going beyond fashion trends. With each of our styles, we aim to fulfill different needs a woman may have – an elegant but "unstuffy" work bag, a polished backpack that holds a laptop, a chic tote that can double as a gym bag – and every single design detail within that bag, including the form, materials, and construction, is designed to support that given function. We are not only the designers, we are also the makers. We spend long days at our workshop, making and modifying prototypes, certain that this hands-on, iterative process will carry us to the depth of our creative flow.

Veronica: Knowing how to work with leather (cutting, skiving, sewing) and having an intimate familiarity with the materials we use gives us the freedom to be truly creative. Working on a bag from the initial kernel of an idea all the way through production, we are able to achieve a final product that is fully consistent with the overall design concept, down to the very last stitch. We believe in striving for excellence, and the dedication and patience we put into making each and every handbag reflects that principle. Things are only as good as the materials used to make them. For that reason, we hand-pick everything – each piece of leather, suede, cord, and hardware – we use to make our products. All of our handbags and accessories are made of 100% genuine, top grain leather from Italy and France. To add texture or color, we often incorporate luxurious skins, like cavallino from Spain or shearling from Turkey. We also take great pride in our craftsmanship. All of our products are crafted one by one in a small New York City workshop. We carefully assemble each bag to showcase the natural features of each skin. We also incorporate hand-finished details, as they add to the richness of our bags. Once an item has been completed, we meticulously examine it to ensure that our uncompromising dedication to quality has been met. Echoing the old adage, you are what you consume. We offer an alternative to most products on the market today, giving women the opportunity to own handbags that are well designed and well made so that they last a lifetime. This provides the foundation for the owner to develop a personal relationship with her bag. Our hope is that, after years of use, her Maria Castelli bag will be such a fundamental part of her life, she won’t want to stop wearing it.

As consumers, we live in a world in which novelty at bargain prices has taken reign. Factories around the world work night and day to churn out hastily designed products that are poorly made using cheap materials. These products last a few seasons at best, only to end up heaped into a landfill. We then buy a new round of substandard goods and the cycle starts again. In addition to damaging the environment and wasting resources, tragically we no longer have the opportunity to really grow to cherish the objects we own. At Maria Castelli, we believe in doing things differently.

One of a Kind Show: What are you bringing to the One of a Kind Spring Show?

Maria: We are bringing our spring collection of handbags and, for the first time, silk scarves. Our spring handbags are carefully crafted from a sumptuous French pebbled leather in five bright spring colors. Using the same color palette, our silk twill scarves feature three original designs composed of bold, organic shapes.

One of a Kind Show: How did you as mother/daughter start working together?

Maria : We have been creative teammates since Veronica’s childhood—together giving life to puppets, pillows, and jewelry. When I was younger than Veronica is now, I had my own handbag business in Buenos Aires. In 2012, Veronica and I were both living in NYC and we joined forces once again to create a handbag company, which emerged out of a desire to work together doing something creative. While we've always had a close relationship, creating this company together has really allowed our relationship to flourish in different and deeper ways. Ultimately we just have so much fun when we're working on a project together! We both get so much pleasure out of creating exceptionally well-made things.

One of a Kind Show: What or who inspires you/your work?

Veronica: Our work is inspired by travel, architecture, and other artists and designers we admire. It is also very much inspired by the materials we use and the needs of our customers.

One of a Kind Show: Have you ever made anything that you couldn't part with?

Maria and Veronica: Yes! Every season we each pick at least one handbag from the collection to keep for ourselves. There is nothing like getting to wear the objects that we have designed and made; we love them, of course, but also because it gives us a chance to experience the design and craftsmanship first-hand to be able to continue making improvements for the next season.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Chicago?

Veronica: Visiting the city's magnificent architecture.

Meet Maria and Veronica, this talented mother-daughter team at the Spring show!