Nov 17, 2011 12:00AM

Oyster #95: Sara Battaglia

"I don't pretend to be a model; I do it in a very funny way. It's ironic."

Emptying the detritus from the depths of a beloved handbag is a fairly predictable affair - old bus tickets, tissues blotted with lipstick and the fossilised remains of last month's lunch (OK, maybe that's just us). Thank goodness Sara Battaglia makes handbags that counter such everyday banality with their wonderfully unpredictable design. In Oyster issue #95, Lillian McKnight caught up with her to discuss fringing, 'It bags' and her latest inspiration:

Lillian McKnight: First and foremost: why bags?
Sara Battaglia: Because I love bags, and shoes, and accessories. I think they are very important for a look. If you have a very simple look, but wear the right bag, it can be perfect.

You come from a very artistic family. Did you ever want to pursue a career that wasn't creative?
I started to design things when I was very, very young - a kid. So, for me, it's normal to design something and to create. It's my life. My family is creative; I grew up around painting and sculpture.

What's your earliest creative memory?
When I was very young, about six, I went to school and created some bijoux. Then I sold them to my teacher. I was very creative when I was a kid.

You were always into fashion?
Yeah! My mother has all my designs from when I was young!

Your big sister Giovanna has made a name for herself as a fashion editor and style icon, and you've entered the same industry. Did you always look up to her?
Of course. She helped me when I started my label because she is famous. When I decided to start my line, I designed the first bag - the one with the fringe - and she said, "Oh my God! It's beautiful! I'll wear it during the shows and let you know what the people say!" So, of course my sister was important for my beginning, but she's just my sister. We don't work together.

You're very independent now?
Yeah, totally.

Your bags are incredibly distinctive - the leather fringe has become a trademark for you.
I put the fringe on all the bags I design. I don't know why I do it, but it has become like my sign, now.

Why did you first put fringing on your bags?
Because when I walk and I wear my bags, I love that the fringe moves with me. I think it's sexy for a woman. You have to do very clean and simple bags to be commercial, but for me a fringe is perfect because there is a movement.

Your bags don't stick to trends; they're very unique.
Unique? Really? Thank you! I try to do something different because my eyes are very tired of seeing the copy-and-paste of other bags, so I like to do something special.

Then how do you feel about the idea of an 'It Bag' ? the kind you see every model and fashion editor carrying around for a season?
I think with something like the Fendi Peek-a-Boo, it's the perfect bag for everything. It is similar to the Birkin by Hermes - a new way to do something classic, so it's different and it's very high quality. These kinds of bags aren't copy-and-paste. But now people are just thinking of safe ways; nobody pretends to do something really different, because it's not very safe to do.

I've read that your bags can take up to 77 hours to construct.
The first one took many, many hours, because all the fringing is numbered, and they are made one-by-one. That's why they're so expensive! I don't want them to be expensive but they are all totally handmade in Italy.

Is there anything about your designs or your creative process that you think is typically Italian?
Maybe yes? Or no? What is 'typical Italian'? Actually, maybe not, because Italian, it's very classy. I'm not very classy [laughs].

Really?
Classy like - 'normal'!

Your lookbooks and campaigns aren't 'normal' at all! It's cool that you chose to model your designs yourself; it's so personal.
I am a very little, small designer and I am not famous, so I need to do something to be noticed. I don't pretend to be a model; I do it in a very funny way. It's ironic.

Your Fall Winter 2011 collection is very different to the previous one; it's very opulent.
Yeah, very opulent. It's inspired by an Italian Queen, Regina Teodolinda. I love the Medieval era. For winter it was perfect to do. I saw all the movies, read all the books about it, and I love this period of history because I love the details - chains, velvet. It's not that easy to wear, though.

Do you see your label growing beyond accessories?
In the future? Of course! I hope, one day, to have a complete collection.

So, accessories, clothes, everything?
Sunglasses, keyrings, bijoux, yeah!

Which of your bags are you carrying at the moment?
My first one. I can put everything inside! Actually, I can carry it for the rest of my life, I think.

What's the most unexpected thing we'd find in there?
Unexpected? I don't know! Lipstick, maybe? Not really unexpected.

Words: Lillian McKnight

Illustration: Magda Antoniuk

www.sarabattaglia.com