Emilio Colonna: A Photo Diary
Rome has a knack for throwing its best treasures at you when you least expect it. Emilio Colonna is no exception.
While enjoying a walk around la città eterna on a beautiful Spring day, I came across a store front rife with vintage radios, combat boots and reproduction field watches dispersed among handmade leather accessories: watch straps, belts and wallets. On the other side of the glass, a bearded man wearing an indigo-died sweatshirt and neckerchief sewed at his workbench. My curiosity was piqued; it wasn't long before he noticed me looking on. He invited me in.
Before I knew it, we were deep in conversation about vintage watches and our shared appreciation for vintage american workwear. It became clear to me that Emilio is a man of detail. He showed me his product: workwear inspired wallets, belts, bags and watch straps. He explained how he and his business partner, Dino, make everything by hand from start to finish. Each piece of leather is cut by hand, each hole is punched by hand, and each seam is sewn... by hand. No short-cuts here. Just a whole lot of research, patience, and attention to detail.
The store is an impressive blend of workshop and archive. Where Emilio and Dino haven't carved out work surfaces, you can count on finding vintage clothing and accessories piled high. If it's U.S. Military issue, it's probably on prominent display. Despite its size, a continuous stream of clients finds space to sit down for a chat while Emilio sews and Dino punches holes. The atmosphere is reminiscent of an old-school barber shop, and that's exactly everyone loves about it.
Emilio is different from most artisans that I've met so far. He wasn't raised in a leather smith's shop, and he definitely didn't inherit this business. He built it from the ground up. Actually, he backed in to it pretty much by chance.
He spent most of his career as a vintage watch dealer. Over the years, he had developed a book of clients from all over the world. What is today his workshop was once the store where, dressed in bespoke suits and hermes ties, he sold top-of-the-line vintage timepieces and handmade Tuscan watch straps.
As his customers requested personal touches on their straps, Emilio learned his way around a needle and thread to take care of customization himself. Just like that, Emilio discovered a passion; he began making the watch straps himself and gradually expanded his product offering until he decided to put watches aside and focus entirely on his passion: making vintage-inspired leather accessories.
We have a few products in mind that we're eager to develop and share.... Stay tuned.
I have a pretty good feeling that you're going to love it.
**slideshow images from Emilio's INSTAGRAM**
Thank you, Emilio. Grazie!