MILAN–Nestled on the edge of the Naviglio Grande canal is designer Davide Gatto’s atelier. With luxurious leather goods corniced by Como silk foulards and antique treasures in the storefront window, there is a curious passerby peering inside at all times, even on a down day.
Despite his natural Milanese knack for decor, what Davide Gatto is really known for are his precious bags that are crafted with French hides and are dyed and crafted in Tuscany with natural pigments from materials like tree bark and wine tannins.
“Everything here is natural and hand made in Italy,” Gatto said as he opened up flaps of leather fashioned with tiny pockets for credit cards, pens and straps. “This is my signature bag. I designed it myself,” he said, demonstrating how the piece is easily transformed from a tote to a messenger bag in a flash.
Though the quality and look of his leather goods could rival that of Hermes or any Louis Vuitton for that matter, the retail price for Gatto’s purses run from EUR650 to EUR1650. The designer also makes luggage, bespoke items and smaller bags like a leather basket-weave clutch made by artisans in the hills of Fiesole, outside of Florence, run for EUR295 and higher. One-off items like shopping bags fashioned with curious sketches and appliqué like crochet woven by Gatto himself, run for less.
Gatto, said that his meticulous, scientific approach to bag making comes from his college studies. He quickly dropped chemistry and switched gears after school and began working in fashion. His first stop was Pollini, where he quickly entered the design studio and the atelier and had the chance to work for Vittorio Pollini, who taught him the “1960s old school” way of crafting a handbag.
A true atelier for bags, Gatto has private clients that know about him through word of mouth and foreign clients from Asia.
When explaining the spirit of his collection, he shows us plush velvety pieces from high-end furniture designer Baxter — a brand only a true apostle of design would know. “I wanted to position my brand like this,” he explained, in his bottega, where retro furniture pieces like a 1960s desk and satellite light fixtures render the space, as much of a design shrine as it is an accessories store.
And though Gatto has traveled all over the world — from Australia to LA, he said Milan, its fog and the boutique-studded Naviglio canal, always call him home. “Living in Milan is a state of mind. This is where I belong.”