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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Corto Moltedo Expands Line of Handbags

Moltedo expands line of handbags
By Jessica Michault
Friday, February 23, 2007

PARIS: Ask almost any woman what is the fashion world's equivalent of the Great Quest and the answer comes quickly and easily — finding the perfect handbag.

Not the It bag of the season or the logo bag that screams "I spent a month's salary." But the bag that seems to work with every outfit, has a place for all those crucial bits and pieces and yet, somehow, remains light as a feather. Some women who have spent years searching and thousands of dollars on any number of "almost perfect" bags say their search ended with the brand Corto Moltedo.

Only three years old, the line is designed by Gabrielecorto Moltedo, 29, a tall and lanky Italian with an easy smile and a head full of unruly wavy hair. But while the brand is young, the designer brings to it instant heritage and know-how. His parents are Laura and Vittorio Moltedo, who founded the Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta in 1966 (and sold it to Gucci Group in 2001) and who instilled in their son an appreciation for Italian craftsmanship.

Chatting with Moltedo at his press headquarters in Paris, it is clear how passionate he is about the line and how much he benefited from spending summers at the Bottega Veneta factory, learning the craft of creating luxury handbags from the ground up.

"I want to use the highest quality products, the best materials," Moltedo says. "My bags are personalized from A to Z, with leathers, fabrics and colors that are created especially for me."

Sales went from €5 million, or almost $6.6 million, last fall to €10 million for the new collection — a respectable increase but numbers that put Moltedo firmly in the niche or boutique category.

The bestseller has been his "Priscilla" bag. "I was going for the idea of a sporty shopper, something that was easy to use and very versatile," says the young designer. This chameleon of a bag can be transformed from a daytime tote to a shoulder bag and then be folded in half to become an evening clutch.

Corto Moltedo's "Priscilla" bag via Net-a-Porter

"It is so practical and it is the easiest bag to use," J.J. Martin, a contributing editor to Harper's Bazaar, says about the Priscilla bag. (She owns two.) "I get stopped literally every time I wear it in New York, Milan or Paris. People's eyes pop out of their head and they have to know where I got it!"

The Priscilla may be distinctive, but the value of branding has not been lost on Moltedo, who put a lot of thought into how he wanted to identify his line. "Branding is so important, I chose the star to go with my signature 'C' because I didn't want an obvious logo. I wanted a symbol," he says with conviction.

He also uses a branded cloth lining on bag interiors and created a new "Kenya" pint for his spring/summer 2007 bags that only upon close inspection reveals the name "Corto" repeated across the cloth.

The bags have little touches, like magnetic zipper tabs that make it easier to open and close the bag, multiple pockets outside and inside for easy access to key items and quality finishings.

All of this attention to detail does come at a price, with most Corto Moltedo bags costing much more than €1,000, or more than $1,300. But the lack of name recognition and the limited supply seem to be part of the attraction. "Girls with a lot of style want something distinctive, something that stands out from all the brands, and they are willing to pay for it," Martin says.

With his line carried in some of the hippest stores and worldwide on the fashion forward Web site , as well as, Corto Moltedo already has made strong inroads into the rarefied world of coveted fashion accessories. He is planning to introduce a line of men's accessories in summer 2008, with the goal of keeping the business focused on what he loves best: superior accessories that have a sense of fun but still are practical for his clientele's busy lives

Source: International Herald Tribune

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