The Italian entrepreneur has gone from humble beginnings to a label that’s now furnishing the homes and aircraft of VIPs.
In the world of luxury leather goods, Italy’s reputation for stylish fashion accessories, from handbags to high heels, is legendary. Yet when it comes to leather items to accessorise the home, there are fewer well-known brands. Italian entrepreneur Giorgio Bagnara is hoping to change that.
The 37-year-old self-taught artisan has assembled a portfolio of finely crafted pieces under the GioBagnara label that offers everything from chic leather-bound serving trays and side tables to carafes and magazine racks in hides from Italian calfskin and stingray. They have rapidly become sought-after items for those in search of a touch of luxurious leather around the house.
Based in Genoa’s old port, in a rock-lined warehouse once used to store stockfish, Bagnara has worked tirelessly – he admits to not having taken a vacation in seven years – to assemble a workshop of skilled artisans that today amounts to 40 staff and a product catalogue with more than 700 pieces.
“The aim was to find a niche where leather was not used widely,” says Bagnara, whose client list includes Barneys in New York and Loro Piana. “In interior design, leather furnishings are big items like sofas and chairs. My aim was to look beyond traditional furnishings and develop a line of home accessories that were attractive to the eye and touch in the same way people treat handbags.”
His GioBagnara brand uses quality leathers, including waterproof and scratchproof printed calfskin, crocodile and stingray sourced from top Italian tanneries. Since founding his company in 1999, Bagnara has been a whirlwind of invention and has come up with articles as diverse as folding stools, serving trolleys, stationery items and parlour games, like his elegant leather-bound backgammon set in walnut with checkers made of boxwood.
Twice a year clients can view his latest offerings at Maison&Objet in Paris. In the office Bagnara wears many hats, from designer to manager to artisan and he constantly mingles with employees to help with the assembly of pieces. “When it comes to production, we do everything under one roof, from designing new pieces to cutting the leather and hand-painting the finishes. It is the only way to ensure the product meets the standards for a luxury clientele.”
At 17, Bagnara got the bug for leather goods and picked up the know-how by learning from Genovese craftsmen who made and repaired leather suitcases and wallets. Today he has taken his knowledge of leather to a new level. In the past few years, he has unveiled gold and palladium-plated bracelets in stingray, along with Orylag fur earmuffs with a nappa leather headband and worked with Lufthansa and Qatar Airways to personalise the cabins of VIP aircraft with leather accessories, from ashtrays to chess sets.
Perhaps his greatest asset is the level of customisation as his products are available in hundreds of colours – even the colour of the stitching can be personalised – and can be embellished with logos and emblems. No surprise then that yacht owners and luxury hotels are now calling him for bespoke orders. Bagnara says: “The sky’s the limit. People love the sensation of touching leather so it is only natural they want more of it.”