You’ll covet their artisanal accessories and sumptuous shoulder bags
The story of Il Bisonte starts like so many do in Italy—with a family, a man, a wanderlust and a creator. Wanny Di Filippo founded his leather accessories business only after a series of personal trials: dropping out of technical school, dabbling as a young man in pursuits like an electrician’s apprenticeship, art studies, selling used car parts, and for a time, enlisting as a mounted Carabinieri (Italian national law enforcement officer). After marrying and practicing leather craft with his wife, Di Filippo established Il Bisonte in Florence in 1970.
The Il Bisonte (“the bison” in Italian) name comes from Di Filippo’s personal totem and spirit animal, for its qualities of strength and calm, bravery and resistance, qualities which he cultivated in himself throughout his early years of going against the grain, experimenting, and in turn, being patient with himself. It’s a fitting analogy for a brand that hasn’t swayed from its founding principles, even in the face of growth and a changing world.
The first Il Bisonte store opened in 1973 in Palazzo Corsini and was followed for years with commercial and creative success for the brand. The seventies and eighties saw some of Il Bisonte’s most iconic designs and an expansion of its range of products and materials. In addition to vegetable-tanned cowhide from the storied tanneries of Santa Croce sull’Arno, Di Filippo explored his creativity with mediums like lamb fur, wood, metal, horsehair and carpets, as well as striped canvas fabric.
Today, the brand is best known for its naturally-tanned, full-grain cowhide leather handbags and accessories for women, men, and living. Unlike other Italian brands that are more visible on the global stage, Il Bisonte has remained a relatively quiet, family-run business for many years, only recently expanding its international presence into key markets. Nevertheless, it’s a source of pride and distinction that the brand has a low-footprint 30 km production radius for its creative, production, and raw materials, all centered around the small village of Pontassieve in Tuscany.
It’s no coincidence that the region highly-regarded for its food, wine, and art has also been known for its handcrafting skills throughout the centuries. Many other brands also use this area’s leather workshops and tanneries to create their handbags with precise stitching, inked edges, and binding edges, crafted for longevity and durability.
Il Bisonte only uses natural dyes derived from vegetables and plants, so its handbags are primarily earth-toned and neutral, staying true to the artisanal nature of the brand’s roots. And, they’re perfect for the fall season, when the changing leaves and sunset skies are often similar shades of orange, yellow, and brown.
Our favorite Il Bisonte pieces are simple and sweet—the epitome of Italian style that is timeless and elegant. We especially like the metallic leather treatment, which is achieved by applying a colored vegetable film and ages like any other natural hide would, without the typical peeling or cracking that can occur with chemically-treated colored or coated leather. This metallic bronze leather clutch is a unique shape and is big enough to carry more than the typical clutch.
The Il Bisonte jacquard canvas logo shoulder bag is another unique choice: durable, all-weather, and sporting the brand’s eye-catching bison + star logo.
Explore the entire Il Bisonte collection on italist, and look forward to more profiles on these sorts of special Italian brands in the coming weeks.
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