In October 2014 the journal “Business of Fashion” published an article about the raising handbag designer and eponymous label Paula Cademartori. The article featured an interview with the Brazilian designer and followed her four-year-long career, since she started collaborating at Versace ateliers until she created her own business and decided to base her company in Italy despite the increase in costs of production.
The case is worth some attention: interesting design, high quality materials and artisanal production result in a successful business that generated $2,8 million only in 2014—just four years after the foundation of the label. Many design students would dream of such a success in such a short period of time. Her story is a reminder that one should be stubborn and brave, and that risks can generate revenue if the product is up to the specific design and quality standards of luxury consumers demand.
Yet the annals of this designer fairytale show that some of the characters in this story were not under her command. Kate Abnett explains how the appearance of the handbags in fashion week street-style really affected the way the label evolved immediately afterwards. Miroslava Duma or Anna Dello Russo were the first ones to wear her handbags to fashion week, and they are also two of the most sought and snapped individuals during the massive urban catwalk of fashion week street-style. Shortly after the bags were first featured on worldwide press due to fashion week street-style, nearly every other fashion celebrity was seen and portrayed with one of her designs, including Chiara Ferrangi, Candela Novembre, Leandra Medine, Natalie Joos or Andy Torres, just to name a few. The power of this indirect advertising campaign is measurable in the figures: the raise of the company has been extraordinary since then.
However, the importance of the fact that those celebrities picked one of her bags for their looks during fashion week is actually questionable. A Paula Cademartori bag was probably one of the recurrent elements during certain fashion weeks around the world, but those recurrent garments are a multitude. Actually, they are a different group of items during every fashion week—which means they are ever-changing. The scale of the visual impact of seeing her bags on the streets during fashion week is comparable to the scale of the impact of seeing five celebrities wearing the same Stella McCartney shoe or Céline blouse during the same period of time. And it has the same consequences, too. If a company is lucky to sell a product that is going to be eventually seen during fashion week, it will be seen and advertised. After fashion week, there are two possible reactions from potential consumers. Those seeking for the latest trend will be looking for a newer trend, not that accessible and surely not seen on the streets, even if worn only by celebrities. Those who only contemplate imagery may or may not purchase that specific item depending on their acquisition level.
The volatileness of high fashion trends can even get to be compelling. It seems quite evident that the seek for the latest, which derives in a constant, multiple and ever-changing quest for numerous items, has overlapped the seek for the best quality, which derives in less pieces not so trend-oriented. Moschino’s Barbie collection is an example of how absurd it is to name seasons according to years any more. The collection displayed on the runway was seen on the streets the day after the catwalk show, worn by street-style celebrities. Some weeks later, it appeared in magazine covers and it was sent to selected fashion retailers. By the time the collection gets to the stores on the season when it’s supposed to be sold, potential costumers are already tired of seeing it. And a pink short-sleeved biker jacket may not be the most timeless piece to seek and keep in one’s wardrobe, neither a piece one would easily decide on investing in.
Paula Cademartori has the mission of keeping up with her label and surviving the fast-fashion wheel while being inside of it. She has already made some notable steps in that direction introducing backpacks in her collections, right in the middle of the period of backpack hype. On the other hand, she still relies on high quality and artisanal production, which can become problematic when the demand changes at such a growing speed. She has been able to introduce a vast variety of models in her collections, all distinctive and still personal, and has the responsibility of doing so while innovating and keeping her quality standards.
But there is an advantage in the handbag industry, and she seems quite aware of it: “Men look to women’s feet to see what shoes they wear. So women, for me, buy shoes to seduce the men, but they buy bags to show other women how powerful they are.” Maybe quality standards are not so important when it comes to other garments, but handbags still remain among the pieces that one would invest in. A bag can become timeless no matter how eccentric it is, as long as the quality is up to luxury standards. Cademartori has many different cards, then, that she can play with. If she keeps playing them this way, it will be reasonable to keep the Business of Fashion article under the “Intelligence” section.