July 17, 2013 by Ville Raivio
‘I was born in the February of 1945 in Adria, a small town near to Rovigo in Veneto, in the Northeast of Italy. Since I was young, I have lived in different places as my father, who was a police inspector, moved around for work. I have been working with leather and creating bags and accessories for more than fourty years. I created Il Bisonte with my own hands. My father received an education from a different time; he wanted me to have a traditional education in a technical institute. But my nature, always inclined towards experimentation, had the upper hand and I threw myself into the real world, receiving my education from the school of life.
My parents wanted me to have a different kind of education. They wanted me to follow life’s stages in a way that was considered ‘normal’ at the time: school, a job, marriage…we are talking about a time, many years ago, in the Italian suburbs. In the first years after the Second World War, life was definitely very different from how it is now. Luckily, I didn’t listen to them. In the end, they were also happy about how I chose to live my life.
[My knowledge comes from] practice and experience. In trying, you make mistakes and so you learn. There’s no escape. In addition, I was lucky enough to take my first steps into this world surrounded by friends, some of whom then stayed with me. In 1969, a friend suggested that I design some bags for his father’s factory but my sketches were considered to be too ‘primitive’ compared with the standards of the time and were not accepted. This rejection made me realise that if I had designed these bags then I could also make them. This is how my adventure began.
I don’t have any children but I have a beautiful wife, who I have been married to for over 40 years. When I met her, a long period of experimentation and research began, culminating with the birth of Il Bisonte in a basement in the historical centre of Florence. That was in 1966. In the years preceding the birth of my company, I travelled a lot and on a ferry, heading to Sardinia, I got to know my wife, Nadia. Together with her and other friends, of different nationalities, above all French, German and English; I started to create the first leather objects. At weekends, we amused ourselves by creating little objects to give to friends as presents. This explains my ‘hippie’ side.
Bon Voyage travel bag
I believe that my love for the bison is clear and obvious — fantastic animals, sturdy and strong, which were the sustenance for the people of North America. In these fourty years, I have collected over 1200 objects which depict these splendid animals. Since I was small, I have loved drawing — a lot, and when I left school I signed up to distance learning course with a French design school. But this is not the only passion that I have; I have not missed one edition of La Settimana Enigmistica and the comics of Tex Willer. I have a ceramics collection, I love fishing and playing Carom billiards.
Il Bisonte was born in a basement in the historical centre of Florence, which I cleaned myself after the flood of the 4th of November 1966 left it full of mud. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but I tried and I succeeded. One of the secrets of this success has definitely been that of constantly changing but at the same time not changing at all. I have people with whom I collaborate, who have been with me from the start, talented and knowledgeable people. I love quality and people who respect each other. All this has contributed into making Il Bisonte the strong, long-lasting brand that it is.
Sullivan bag and Mission briefcase
For me, the definition of ‘living’ is ‘experimenting’, learning things that we don’t know how to do. And this is how my bags and accessories came to exist. I barely knew anything about working with leather; I didn’t have the technical skill nor the theoretical knowledge, so I devoted myself to simply practicing. The exact reason I started was because it was something I didn’t know how to do and also because creating something with your own hands has, in itself, a magic without compare. I like life and discovering new things and friends. Curiosity and asking a new question everyday nourishes my imagination and provides me with new stimuli that inspire me to create.
My creations are like a second skin. Cowhide, a particular feature of the brand, is versatile in that it has an impalpable softness and yet is suitable for all kinds of situations. Our pieces, before being aesthetically pleasing, need to be practical and functional. And above all, we want that they stay with you throughout your whole life and not just by chance. Our customers from years ago still send us their bags to be repaired, bags that have been owned and worn for 30 years. It is not me who should tell people why they should buy my creations. I believe it is a question of love, love at first sight. As with everything in life. Therefore I say: look at them, touch them and wear them and then decide which is better for you, that which makes you feel good in yourself or not.
Travel bag Maremmana
I only wear that which makes me feel good and my age, I don’t follow trends. Not by choice but by instinct. Clothes for human beings are like animals’ fur, I identify with what I wear and believe that everyone should be more in tune with their own emotions and that we should learn to listen to ourselves more. I prefer [makers] who are artisans and concerned with quality, I don’t like industrial production, I find it impersonal. And I don’t like those who don’t have soul. [As for style definitions,] I don’t like to define, label things. I believe that each one of us has to feel good in their own skin, whichever way that may be. And that will be your style.’
Pictures: © Alessandro Moggi