Rome has a knack for revealing its best treasures when you least expect it. While enjoying a walk around my neighborhood one day, I came across a store front filled with vintage radios, combat boots and reproduction field watches displayed among a variety of handmade leather accessories: watch straps, belts, wallets... On the other side of the glass was a bearded man wearing an indigo-died sweatshirt and neckerchief, sewing at his workbench. My curiosity was piqued. It wasn't long before Emilio Colonna noticed me there, and he invited me in.
Soon we were deep in conversation about vintage watches and our shared appreciation for vintage American workwear; I noticed immediately that Emilio was a man of detail. While showing me his product (workwear-inspired wallets, belts, bags and watch straps), he told me how he and his business partner, Dino, make everything by hand from start to finish. Each piece of leather is cut, each hole is punched, and each seam is sewn... all by hand. No short-cuts ; just a lot of research, patience, and precision.
Emilio's store was an impressive blend of workshop and archive. Where Emilio and Dino hadn't carved out work surfaces, you could count on finding vintage clothing and accessories piled high. If it was U.S. Military issue, it was most likely on display prominently. In spite of the store's size, a continuous stream of clients would find space to sit down for a chat while Emilio sewed and Dino punched holes. The atmosphere reminded me of an old-school barber shop, and that's what I really loved about it.
Emilio is different from most of the artisans I've met so far. He wasn't raised in a leather smith's shop, and he didn't inherit this business. Rather, he built it from the ground up, and that was only after he'd backed into it entirely by chance. Emilio had spent most of his career as a vintage watch dealer., and over the years, he developed a book of clients from around the world. What is today, his workshop was once a store where, dressed in bespoke suits and Hermes ties, he sold top-of-the-line vintage timepieces and handmade Tuscan watch straps.
As requests for strap customization grew, Emilio learned how to work a needle and thread in order to add the personal touches himself. And so, just like that, Emilio discovered a passion: he started making the watch straps by hand, and a little at a time, he began expanding his line until he put selling watches aside and dedicated himself to making vintage-inspired leather accessories.
Since we first met, we have become great friends, and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Emilio for L'Arte Nascosta at The Proper Kit. (See here and here). So follow Emilio! ....or better yet, visit him!
Instagram: CLICK HERE
Website: CLICK HERE
Address: Via Scandriglia, 12 - Roma 00199