By Dominique Emmen
Milan, Italy –The Brera district in Milan is a small village brimming with cobblestone alleys, boutiques, art galleries, design studios and artisanal shops. One of the hidden gems Brera holds is Giòsa Milano, otherwise known as La Bottega del Coccodrillo (The Crocodile Shop). Specializing in everything made of genuine crocodile leather, the owner Giorgio Santamaria has created a unique destination – a boutique and craftsman’s atelier, all under one roof.
Giorgio’s knowledge of exotic leathers has been passed down from his father since the 1950’s. Starting as a small leather goods workshop, the business soon flourished as a manufacturer of reptile skins, operating as a supplier to luxury brands worldwide. Through the years, Giorgio acquired a vast amount of know-how about exotic leathers and their unique traits. In 2004, he decided to open his own boutique in order to sell bespoke items that reflect the versatility and expertise of the artisans he collaborates with.
“My choice to start my own business is mainly because most big brands do not truly recognise the work of craftspeople. It is of course easier to be supported by an international business, but it also limits the space for creativity,” Giorgio said.
Giorgio’s eye for detail does not only return into the collection but also in the way he runs his business. Considering his experience with many different types of exotic hides, he specifically chose to work solely with crocodile.
“When I was a young boy, I used to look at luxury brands such as Hermès, Gucci and Chanel. Soon I found a gap in the market. None of the brands could be recognized by the use of crocodile leather. Hermès, for instance, is known for the Kelly and Birkin bag, but they do the bags in many different skins. Nowadays, Giòsa is recognized by doing everything in genuine crocodile leather” Giorgio said.
And when Giorgio says everything, he truly means everything. Besides the broad collection of bags and small leather goods, Giòsa sells sneakers, jackets and any other special-made items requested by their international clientele. Since some of these one-of-a-kind items can only be made by using specialized techniques, they work with a consortium of artisans in Milan to offer the best end product for their clientele. For instance, together with a nearby tailor they crafted a winter jacket for Arnold Schwarzenegger that incorporates crocodile patches embedded into the fabrics.
The quality and therefore the price depend on the origin of the crocodile. There are many different species with each their unique traits. However, only some are good enough to be made into high-quality luxury goods. For instance, Giòsa does not use caiman from South-America that produces one of the lesser quality skins. One of the most adopted skins comes from the North-American alligator, which has a very distinct type of scales. The most expensive crocodile leather originates from Australia.
Giòsa mostly buys the crocodile skins at the tanneries of Hermès, since they offer the highest quality and control the large part of the distribution. When they receive the skins they are available in a variety of colours and finishes from mat to shiny. Giorgio is in charge of the cut that determines the final look of the product. This is the most challenging part because scales are like fingerprints – unique like Giòsa Milano.
WHERE? Milano 20121,Via Ciovasso, 6
PRICE? On demand, depending on the leather and type of product.