Before statement bags existed, iconic Venetian accessories label Roberta di Camerino was in the business of creating them. During the 1940s and 50s, a time when accessories were considered to be just, well, accessories, Roberta di Camerino challenged the prevailing trend for bags and shoes to match, or better yet blend into, an outfit. Di Camerino's founder and designer, Venetian-born Giuliana Coen, produced eye-catching handbags from vibrant, couture-like fabrics previously seen only in clothing. Famed for her complex tapestry confections featuring trademark trompe l'oeil buckles and straps (prompting endless imitations by luxury houses over the decades), Coen also used velvet spun on 18th-century Italian looms to create bags favoured by Grace Kelly, Elsa Maxwell and Liz Taylor.
Resurrecting the Italian fashion empire, denim and accessories specialists Sixty Group are picking up where the once reigning designer and owner Giuliana Coen (now in her 80s) has left off. "Roberta di Camerino affected great change in its heyday, thanks to the ingenious combination of materials, colour and complex construction of its handbags," says Giorgia Scarpa, the label's new creative director, previously of Prada and Dior. "The famous velvets, immaculate manufacturing and attention to detail made these bags timeless pieces."
Concentrating on the company's legacy, cult handbag designs from the Roberta di Camerino archives have been reworked with signature elements intact. "I maintained the trademark 'buckle' as a fundamental theme for the spring/summer 2009 collection to keep a distinctive symbol of the past, yet with a touch of modernity," explains Scarpa. "My concept of the bag is that it has to be the undisputed protagonist of the ensemble. The Roberta di Camerino bags were never intended to fit around one’s other clothes, they had their own personality." Famously plundered by countless designers over the years, (with Coen reportedly lamenting the mass misappropriation of her archive with Coco Chanel who, one can only assume, empathised), happily it’s none other than the historic Venetian house itself doing the appropriating this time around, as sought-after it bags of old are made new for spring.