Secluded, quiet, and surprisingly leafy green for a street in the center of Rome, Via Margutta has a reputation as being the road of artisans. In 1953 this quaint street was thrown into the world’s consciousness by the popular film Roman Holiday.
Once the world saw Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn against this dream-like location, Via Margutta’s fame flourished.
Over the years this cobbled street has provided inspiration for a world of artists and independent thinkers, including it’s most famous real-life resident Federico Fellini. It’s opposite his house where you’ll find Saddlers Union.
This luxury boutique is well known in certain circles for its leather handbags and accessories, but you won’t see a sign outside advertising its existence. In keeping with the atmosphere of Via Margutta, exclusivity is the word on everyone’s lips. The unique location was chosen to fit perfectly with the philosophy of the brand by Micaela Calabresi Marconi, an entrepreneur who re-launched Saddlers Union in 2009.
Inside, the rich, comforting smell of leather welcomes you to this prime artisanal shopping experience. The décor is simple, classic, and uncomplicated; stained black wooden floorboards and dark furnishings contrast against high cream ceilings and walls. Chocolate brown leather and light fittings; of course part of Saddlers Union’s home ware collection; funnel from the ceiling and light up a long wooden desk. Accessorized with a director’s chair and desk tidy (both leather, of course) you’re invited to imagine how these would look in your own home.
A lifelong customer and supporter of the original Saddlers Union shop in Via Condotti, Marconi tells me how the rebranding was a chance occurrence. “My family was one of the clients of Saddlers Union. It was a brand of the fifties and it was really a place to go. The world was much smaller then, but all the people that came to Rome: aristocracy from all around the world, people from Hollywood, and the elite; made an appointment at Saddlers Union.”
Growing up with these unique leather bags around her, Marconi was shocked one day to find the old store closed. She tracked down the number of one of the remaining craftsmen and immediately went to see him in the suburbs of Rome.
“He was making bags in a garage, kind of selling them but in a really relaxed and easy way. I went there a couple of times, and suddenly I said, ‘why don’t we reopen?’”
Passionate about the traditional craftsmanship of Saddlers Union, Marconi was keen to preserve the essence of the brand. Today calf leather is bought from Tuscany, and continues to be treated and worked by Roman artisans using long established techniques.
The signature bucket bag is a bestseller to this day. A pail of rich brown calf leather, expertly finished with gold rivets and a long shoulder strap, the handbag exudes classic style without being flashy. Not content with simply reviving Saddlers Union, however, Marconi was keen to ensure it remains relevant in the present day.
“I started to change the items, redesigning them but keeping the DNA. For example, the bucket bag was the iconic bag, but it was only with a shoulder strap. Now you can choose a different handle or material. Before they made bags only using calf leather and sometimes canvas but I’ve started to use crocodile, ostrich, suede, and studs. To redesign, to use different materials and colors, in a way being a little bit more fashionable.”
Browsing through the shop, amongst the classic designs you’ll see clues to the impression Marconi has made upon Saddlers Union. Her vivacious streak runs through the product selection and occasionally appears in the form of some leopard-print or a playful monogram stamped on a bag or belt.
Whilst wearing a Saddlers Union belt and bracelet, Marconi tells me she has everything in the collection at home. “But I like to wear it in a different way,” she explains. “For example, the dog collar I wore myself, with the leash. It’s fun, these things weren’t done before!” Personalized and emblazoned with the word ‘bitch’, Marconi wore this leather choker dog collar in her own photo shoots, which were later Instagrammed by Madonna.
Saddlers Union is well known as a place to find top quality craftsmanship so naturally it has its fair share of high profile clients. For Marconi however, the value and caliber of the brand speaks volumes and celebrity approval is just a bonus.
“I like to speak the same language of the people who are attracted by Saddlers. This is something not loud. This is not a brand that is screamed; it’s a niche. It’s another culture, I think. In a way it’s a snobbish way to be elegant, because you’re absolutely confident with yourself and you wear what you like.”
With a clear idea of what style means to her, Marconi is not only the driving force behind bringing back this classic brand, she’s also confident in stamping her own modern mark upon it.
Via Margutta, 11
tel: 06 3212 0237