Barcelona has long been a source of inspiration for artists and artisans alike. Now the city’s leading handbag brands are producing their own unique works of art, as Lucinda Turner discovers
‘Growing up in Barcelona, I had the privilege of witnessing art and architecture around me every day,’ says Montse Freixes, founder and designer of Barcelona-based handbag brand Nita Suri. ‘I fell in love with the works of Gaudí that decorate my city. It is what inspired me to marry art and architecture into my designs,’ she says. Nita Suri is part of a new wave of creative handbag brands in the Catalonian capital that have begun to look beyond purely practical necessities to create pieces that focus on shape, structure and a unique aesthetic.
That’s not to say that the pieces, however, aren’t still beautifully useable. ‘I believe a woman should never have to compromise between fashion and functionality,’ says Freixes. ‘In addition to using the highest quality leather, Nita Suri models are extremely lightweight for easy carrying, weighing only 400 grammes, and include a wide opening and light lining, which eliminate the hassle of trying to locate your belongings.’
The brand’s designs are characterised by their striking silhouettes, most notably the Lia triangle bag and the sphere-shaped Pilo style, both of which are interpretations of the famous towers of the Sagrada Família basilica. ‘I am committed to manufacturing each piece as an architect would, with extreme precision and imagination,’ Freixes explains. In Barcelona, it seems that architecture and handbag design are the perfect combination.
Founded in 2012 by Melissa Losada and Marcela Velez, Barcelona-based label M2Malletier offers structural bags directly inspired by world-renowned Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill – who is behind some of the most iconic buildings in the city, including the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya national theatre, the W Barcelona hotel and Barcelona’s airport. M2Malletier includes a signature metal bar across the top of each model, making its pieces instantly recognisable with minimal branding – a popular trend among many of Barcelona’s most chic creators.
Alongside the structured shapes, the brand’s bags can also be identified by its innovative use of fabrics. From supple calf leather in refined colours to the spring/summer 2019 additions of denim, snakeskin and metallic leather, M2Malletier’s designs replicate the vivid colour and diversity of the city where they are conceptualised.
Although the brand has fans and stockists across the world, it is through the culture and influence of this exciting Spanish city that the label continues to find inspiration.
And it’s not just inspiring designs that can be found in Barcelona. Many brands are now opting to complete their entire production process here, from sketch to finished item. Bags are inspired by the city’s grand and imposing buildings, and there is also a growing awareness around sustainability, ensuring that all aspects of production stay close to home.
‘For us, sustainability means proximity,’ says Ana Gallego, owner and designer of SurSac. ‘Our entire collection is produced in Barcelona by local artisans.’ With its boxy, stylish designs, clearly reminiscent of the geometric shapes found in the city, SurSac is a brand truly committed to honouring Spain’s long relationship with leather work. ‘It was always clear to me that Barcelona would be an important pillar of the brand,’ Gallego explains, ‘not only on an emotional level, but also because I wanted all the production to be local, involving people from the city in my project.’
SurSac, Nita Suri and M2Malletier adhere to the ideal of positive luxury with their standout designs. The mantra of ‘buy less, buy better’ is at the heart of each of these brands. The bold sculptural shapes of their bags offer timeless alternatives to passing trends – these are bags to be loved and worn time and time again, year after year.
‘We don’t work with seasons,’ says Gallego. ‘We believe in pieces that can transform and evolve, avoiding throwing them away every six months.’ And Freixes agrees: ‘Sustainability and longevity should be of utmost importance and priority in the luxury market.’
For an object to surpass the fashions of the day and stand the test of time, it needs to be truly unique – and Barcelona’s latest handbag brands epitomise originality, much like the city itself.