Emilio Colonna: A Photo Diary

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.


Slideshow images from Emilio's Instagram // @vintage_leatherwatchstrap

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


Address: Via Scandriglia, 12 - Roma 00199


Big News

The Proper Kit. It's a pop-up shop that happens every year in NYC. A one-day trunk show and state-side Mecca for menswear connoisseurs. It's the fruit of a collaboration between Style Forum and A&H Magazine to host some of the most renowned brands and retailers in the industry, from Carmina Shoemaker, to Beckett and RobbThe Bespoke Dudes Eyewear to No Man Walks Alone.  This year, L'Arte Nascosta is proud to join ranks with some of the best to debut two artisans for their first trunk show in New York.  

Here's what you need to know:


P a o l o  P e n k o

Goldsmith - Florence

Paolo is a classically trained Florentine goldsmith that has dedicated his career to researching and perfecting Renaissance methods of jewelry-making.  Inspired by the art and history of the city that surrounds him, Paolo's handmade creations are rich in timeless symbolism and can be customized to best suit the customer's personal philosophy and values.


Read more about Paolo HERE, and HERE

You can view his website HERE


E m i l i o  C o l o n n a 

Leathersmith - Rome

Inspired by rugged American-made workwear, Emilio Colonna applies his skills as a leathersmith to produce a collection of watchstraps, wallets, belts and other leather accessories that evoke a similar spirit. His philosophy is simple: it's worth it to work with only the best raw materials. This is how Emilio ensures that each one of his products will last a lifetime . . . and get better with age. 


You can view his website HERE.


I created this blog to share stories about Italy's great artisanal talents.  It's the cornerstone of a larger dream, which is to explore the "artisanal experience" with you, the reader.  I'm excited to another step along this path, and it is a pleasure to do so with The Proper Kit. 


Come join us on

Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 10.30 - 19.00

at 28 west 36 street, b/w 5th & 6th ave

to RSVP: https://theproperkit.splashthat.com/