Our Clients are connoisseurs, Sophisticated men and women. They are wearing watches from ‘true watchmakers.’ They are wearing shoes from ‘true shoemakers.’ They are looking for bags from ‘true maroquiniers.’ They value quality, want authenticity, seek for rarity. They are hedonistic;”so reads a brochure by Serapian, the Milanese atelier and manufacturer of some of the finest leather goods in the world; a maison known for its uncompromising ‘Made in Italy’ commitment throughout its existence.
Richemont, the Swiss luxury group, bought the legendary Italian atelier in August 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Serapian was well known to the Richemont group as their working relationship goes all the way back to the 1970s as the atelier supplied high-end leather creations to some of Richemont’s luxury brands such as Cartier, and Dunhill.
“The Richemont group has been able to assess Serapian production quality; an extremely rare and exceptional expertise in the working of leather. The acquisition strategy will consist of developing the Maison, also to create production synergies across the group’s own portfolio, and to continue to supply to outside luxury brands,” Maxime Bohé, Serapian Creations & Marketing Director told FashionNetwork.com.
The story of Serapian began when Stefano Serapian, a young Armenian refugee fleeing the conflicts of the 1920s, arrives in Italy. After having performed some apprenticeships to learn the art of fine leathercrafts, he began designing and crafting leather goods in 1928, that he was selling in Milan and his surroundings with his bicycle. Early in the 1940s, Stefano met his future wife Gina Flori, a talented artist in her own right. Their union set in motion a long-lasting personal and creative partnership, and in 1945, immediately after the war, Stefano and Gina founded a Bespoke Leather Atelier, right in the centre of Milan, via Jommelli 35. The two worked side by side, supported by a team of skilled leather artisans, and devised innovative techniques that are regarded even today as benchmarks of style and elegance. The quality and uniqueness of Serapian craft was noticed and appreciated by sophisticated ladies and members of the high society in Milan and beyond; commissioning bespoke handbags, in all sorts of colours and materials.
In 1973, Stefano and Gina’s son, Ardavast Serapian, became the CEO of the company and continued his father’s commitment to ‘made in Italy’ and craftsmanship, which is still at the core of the brand’s strong appeal. This decade also witnessed the Serapian maison begin to participate in international exhibitions which lead to important collaborations with prestigious international partners, like Richemont, which continue to this day.
The rise in the demand for personalised products in the 1980s prompted Ardavast to further expand the maison’s bespoke services. Anything could now be made to customers’ specifications, using materials, colours and details of their choice. However, in the 1990s, when many luxury brands began to move their manufacturing to more cost-effective production centres, Serapian stood firmly by its ‘Made in Italy’ commitment. From the choice of leather to the development of models, everything was done in Italy as it always was. This had the added benefit of being able to strictly monitor every phase of production, and in the long run, it paid dividends.
Thanks to its uncompromising commitment to its core philosophy, Serapian is today an epitome of Milanese elegance. It is well established as a favourite among the members of Italian high society and beyond. It is an ambassador of Italian craftsmanship, using the noblest leathers and materials such as pythons, ostriches, crocodiles, alligators. It is among the few ateliers today to offer true handcrafted bespoke services worldwide. It can boast several distinguishing signatures and has developed exquisite materials and design icons that form the basis of their seasonal collections.
Mosaico is a unique leather weave process created in 1947 and is today an emblem of the savoir-faire of the maison and is entirely handmade by expert craftsmen in soft lamb nappa. Cachemire Leather is made from naturally tumbled calfskin which is exceptionally soft to the touch, like the finest cachemire, and hence the name. Evoluzione, unveiled in 1965, is made from prized calfskin, printed with a unique design and with a texture exclusive to the maison. It is specially treated to make it resistant to water and scratches. Stepan was unveiled in 1976 and is named after the founder. The coated resin spread cotton is a highly resilient and waterproof material. As an emblem of the maison, it has ‘S’ etched throughout its surface.
Serapian’s design icons for women include the Meliné Bag, initially commissioned by a client in the 1960s who wanted a compact bag to be carried on intercontinental flights; the Villa Bag, also created in the 60s by Stefano Serapian, whose rounded and pure lines have become a symbol of understated elegance; and the Secret Bag is a shoulder bag in soft and light Mosaico nappa leather whose weaving technique allows for a high degree of personalisation with leather inserts.
For men, there is the East/West Tote in calfskin, an elegant companion for travelling or leisure; Holdall is the perfect companion for leisure and yachting escapes; and the Mezza Luna bag is another iconic symbol of the maison noted for its unique craftsmanship since 1971.
They also have the Riserva Limited Editions. The Serapian family has acquired and preserved unique and rare leathers since the creation of its atelier in the 1940s. The maison, from time to time, selects some of these precious vintage leathers in the production of the Riserva Limited Editions. For example, a Palmellato leather from 1972 was used in the creation of a briefcase in the Riserva I Edition and a suitcase as part of the Riserva II Edition, both of which were limited to 28 pieces.
For the Fall-Winter 2019 season, a unique vintage leather preserved since 1983 served as the base for the creation of three models limited to only ten pieces: the Riserva Folio, briefcase and luggage, all in deep burgundy with black highlights. Under ʻExotic Creations’ this year, they have alligator presented as a slim briefcase in navy blue, a backpack in cognac, a billfold wallet and simple card case, both in navy blue.
Under the ʻMosaicoʼ collection, the maison has a medium backpack, a large backpack, travel bag, a briefcase, pouches in three sizes, north/south envelope, charms and wallets in cognac, navy blue, and black. Some have the trademark Mosaico pattern in black and white. The Cachemire collection features slim, double and Mezza Luna briefcases, totes, backpacks, big weekender, suit carrier, and folio clutch in black, grey, caramel, and navy blue.
“Serapian serves leather connoisseurs. We wish to keep this exclusive high-end positioning and maintain our quality with this idea of being authentic and rare,” said Bohé. On the evidence of this statement, we can expect the legacy of the brand and the maison to continue under Richemont, still hand in hand with some members of the Serapian founding family.