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Exclusive interview: Wanny Di Filippo, founder of Il Bisonte


Il Bisonte’s buffalo logo is as distinctive as the label’s beautifully crafted, original leather goods. Founder Wanny Di Filippo tells Global Blue the story behind this Italian brand’s success

Feature
Sally McIlhone,

If you come to Italy to shop, you’ll certainly be looking to invest in something sourced and designed in the country; to purchase a true piece of luxury that bears the Made In Italy merchandise mark. And there’s no better brand to seek out on your trip than Il Bisonte. Not only does the company produce stunning leather bags, purses and smaller items in the heart of Tuscany, it also has a great story behind it and a charismatic figurehead in the form of founder Wanny Di Filippo. Il Bisonte’s handbags are trend-inspired yet original, making them a must for those looking to invest in a product that they won’t see on the arm of every other style fan in their home city.

Hands on
‘I've always loved to make things with my hands,’ says Wanny Di Filippo. ‘When I was 20 I got together with a group of young people from all over Europe. They taught me how to make small objects and that’s where I got the idea of working leather.’ It was in Florence that Di Filippo took the skills he had learned and turned them into a business. ‘I happened to land in Florence for a series of personal reasons, then I got involved in this adventure, starting to make the first bags by hand in 1969 in a small shop in the heart of Florence, just a short walk from where our main shop stands today.’

Joining forces
Di Filippo joined forces with another young Florentine, Luciano Masini, to develop the business. ‘When I began, I didn’t have the faintest idea what would happen to me or my ideas,’ he recalls. ‘I started in a small basement on Via del Parione – which still exists today, the first historic Il Bisonte shop – together with a boy who was even younger than me, Luciano, who still works with the company. I can only say I’m happy I made one of my dreams come true.’

Part of keeping the Il Bisonte dream alive is maintaining positive collaborative relationships, something the brand has honed to a fine art. ‘We have been working for 45 years with the same suppliers, both for leather and fittings, and they are nearly all Tuscan. Mutual respect has always kept us together professionally,’ Di Filippo explains. ‘It takes hard work to create solid and lasting things, whether a handmade bag or a link between people. This is our secret.’

Strong identity
In striving to create mutually beneficial relationships, Il Bisonte has stayed true to the people and principles it has worked with for 45 years. The same can be said of its aesthetic, which has endured throughout its history. ‘This is why people like Il Bisonte; despite everything, it has never changed,’ explains Di Filippo. ‘Underlying every creation, there is faithfulness to the lines and historical materials identifying the brand.’

The buffalo motif has also prevailed throughout Il Bisonte’s history. ‘I have always been fascinated by buffaloes, huge beasts which are at the same time fragile, defenceless, genuine. I fell in love with them, and started making a collection of various items depicting buffaloes,’ says Di Filippo. The logo has become a mark of quality for the brand, a stamp that those in the know can instantly recognise as distinguishing an Il Bisonte product.

Made in Italy
Though the brand’s home is Florence, it also has significant connections to Rome, with two stores in the city. ‘Everybody loves Rome and I love it too,’ says Di Filippo. ‘Rome is youthful, it’s big and it’s full of life.’ Whether you visit Il Bisonte’s Rome or Florence stores, you can be sure of finding a stunning selection of bags from the autumn/winter 2016/17 collection, from traditional styles to unusual shapes in cognac-coloured leather; from vast black tote bags for shopping to mini bucket styles for romantic dinners; and from document holders for office presentations to buckled satchels for city exploration and weekend bags that combine leather and tweed. ‘Next to our traditional cowhide, we have placed different, special materials like the striped fabric used for deckchairs,’ says Di Filippo. ‘We like to investigate and experiment, and to add to our material par excellence: vegetable-tanned cowhide, which identifies us around the world.’

When it comes to plans for the future, Il Bisonte will be sticking with its winning formula. ‘We want to go on being what we are, with the same sincerity with which we have been working the last 45 years,’ says the label’s founder. ‘Our product quality will continue to be the core of our business for the next 45 years. I guarantee that.’ And a guarantee from Wanny Di Filippo is one you can trust.

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