Bologna, Italy – Founded in Bologna in 2014 by American designer Allison Nicole Hoeltzel, Officina del Poggio is an artisanal collection that is made in Italy with high quality craftsmanship and a minimalist aesthetic inspired by traditional utilitarian bags, equestrian gear and vintage motorcycle bags. Timeless and essential leather bags with a vintage spirit, ODP is for a true voyager. BACO’s fashion editor Valentina Accardo chatted with Hoeltzel about her next step.
How did you get started and what does the name of your brand stand for?
A.H. I have worked in Italy for the past 15 years for many different brands. I wanted to create bags based on classic shapes, items that feel timeless, like a great “new” vintage bag that has been updated for the modern consumer. I created a few samples, and then showed them to some friends. They loved them, and my friends and husband encouraged me to do more. Then literally a few months later I was selling them at a trade show in Paris and we had orders! It all happened almost too fast, and at the beginning it was a struggle because I was still working full time for other brands. But I think the timing was perfect, and sometimes things have to happen quickly to give you that push and momentum. I chose the name “Officina del Poggio” because I wanted a true Italian name. “Officina” means laboratory or workshop, a place where something is created and is often used for mechanic shops, and originally I was inspired by motorcycle and travel bags, so it seemed fitting. Then one day I noticed the name of our street (Via del Poggio – “poggio” means small hill) and liked how the letters were round, how it fit well graphically with Officina, as well as the acronym ODP. Yet it is actually a “real” name, significant of the place where we live and work.
Your bags call to mind the old vintage motorcycle bags of the last century and exhibit a sense of true master craftsmanship. Tell us more about your technique where your bags are made?
A.H. The bags are made in Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, two areas that have a long tradition of leather goods. For our soft bags, I like to keep the constructions very bare and unlined. It actually makes it more difficult because you can’t “hide” things under the lining, so each stitch and detail has to be carefully thought-out because it is visible both inside and out. The rigid bags are made by wrapping a wooden form with leather. This technique is very old and there are only a few artisans that still practice this technique. All of our bags are meant to be worn, age and tell a story.
Are these bags made with sustainable materials ?
A.H. We use mostly vegetable-tanned leather which uses an eco-friendly and age-old technique using plants and natural dyes to tan the leather. It means that not every piece of leather is perfect, as the finishing is very natural, but this adds to the character of the piece, and the bags also age beautifully.
You’re already selling around the world? What are your goals and expectations?
SS17 is a big season for us and we are already selling to some new key accounts. Our goals is to expand more into North America and hopefully Japan.
What are your iconic pieces and what is on the horizon in terms of models?
A.H. Our iconic piece has been the Motorcycle Duffle (in both the large and small size). It is a very classic shape, appealing to both men and women. It has a certain easiness about it, and I personally love wearing it very slouchy, almost like a soft tote. Our next iconic piece is definitely the Mini Safari bag. I have been wearing one of the first protos to test it out, and people literally stop me on the street to ask about it. It is like a chic binocular bag, but feminine at the same time.
Let’s talk about the new styles, materials and palette of next SS17 collection?
A.H. Since the shapes in the collection are very utilitarian, I decided to counterbalance this with very feminine colors, like blush, coral, nude, and soft metallics. We always feature the hand-painted edging in contrast colors, which really makes the pieces pop, as the combination of the colors is very unique. Our round Tamburo bags are very easy shapes, and women love that they can be worn hand-held or also cross-body.
How about your capsule collection with LadoubleJ?
A.H. I was collaborating with JJ Martin through vintage research and the launch of her clothing line, La Double J. Although I tend to be a little more of a minimalist, I adore JJ and her amazing eye for prints and colors. I was completely obsessed with all of her prints, and made her a Mini Safari bag with one of her prints inside. She loved it, and then we thought ‘hey, what if we do the prints on the inside AND the outside.’ She wanted to present them within her LDJEditions collection, and so I scrambled to get the bags ready as the factories were closing in August. We presented them in September during Milan Fashion Week and they were a huge hit. I am so grateful for that opportunity, as It helped me think outside of the box a little and now I am becoming a little bolder in my colors for next season… And I may have some prints, too!
What do you like most about work in Italy and with Italian artisans?
I always love to give a shout out of appreciation to my factories and suppliers. One of the luxuries of being here in Italy is that I am always at the factories and tanneries and even though now we are small, they have given us so much support. I am eternally grateful to them.
RETAIL PRICE: 585 to 1250euro
BESPOKE AND CUSTOMIZATION REQUEST: Info@officinadelpoggio.com