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October 31, 2006

Are You Ready For Coutourism?

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Kate Horan, 38
Owner of Sorelle B­onde and importer of artisan-made Italian accessories

I made my virgin voyage to Italy with a girlfriend back in 2000. It was a three-week adventure in Sicily, and I was smitten with the culture, the terrain, the food, and the way of life. Within a few months, I found a way to return, with another girlfriend. This continued for three years. During my travels, I would always seek out unusual women's accessories made by local artisans to serve as mementos of my trips--much like the idea of a charm bracelet, but the items were belts, purses, and jewelry. Back at home, I would be approached at social events, asked by friends, and even stopped in the street about what I was wearing. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was my calling: to seek out unknown designers who create unusual and beautiful wearable art and bring it to the United States. It supports the local artisans, many of whom are still utilizing ancient techniques to create their wares. I also feel I am helping to educate and create awareness of what "made by hand" means, versus mass-manufacturing. Wearing handmade pieces offers me a special connection to the artists. I am not just sporting something I grabbed off the rack; I am wearing a piece of passion, history, art, and tradition. Plus, with my purchases, I am doing my small part to keep these art forms alive.

1. Handmade d'orsay pumps
D'orsay pumps are sexy shoes with open sides. For mine, I handpicked my fabric, style, and size. Ten days later, I was presented with custom masterpieces. Veronik, the proprietor, hails from a fashion family with ties to the textile mills in Como. Her designs are simple, classic stilettos, mules, d'orsay pumps, and boots, but she incorporates vintage fabrics, making each pair distinctive.

Via Fiora Chiara 24
20121 Milan, Italia
Tel: +39 2-86-45-4191

2. Custom leather belts
Found on a narrow street parallel to the Arno River in Florence, Enio Provaroni and his wife, Jane Dengler, have crafted the belts, handbags, luggage, and other leather products showcased in their unassuming storefront. They have 60 years of experience between them. Yet I doubt I would have found them had I not stayed in a small hotel next door and been forced into their doorway by rain.

Borgo S.S. Apostoli, 18r
50123 Florence, Italia
Tel: +39-055-239-8405

3. Haute-couture hat and necklace
I had a bespoke hat made with fabric ribbon and a necklace made to my specifications out of oxidized sterling-silver links, lace, and mother-of-pearl charms. Luc­o Antonucco­, the designer, lives and works in Florence. With more than 20 years in the fashion industry, he is considered one of the leading sources in this region for Florentine ball gowns, wedding dresses, and unique accessories.

Luc­o Antonucco­

Haute Couture
Via de' Serragli, 17
50124 Florence, Italia
Tel: +39 055 2207269
By appointment only.

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