Mom & Daughter Dream Up Architecture-Inspired Bags


Maria Castelli

The dynamic duo behind Maria Castelli is ready for fall with a new leather handbag collection — and the mother-daughter team is using their background in architecture to come up with unique designs.

Cecilia Zanetta, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, trained as an architect and traveled the world with just a backpack before studying the craft of handbag-making in her native city and London.

Veronica Franzese, like her mother, studied architecture, along with her passion: fashion design. Also a traveler, she traversed the globe in her educational pursuits.

Following the Bauhaus principle of “form follows function,” the team honors old-world techniques to envision and craft their pieces. Soft Italian leather and furs from around the world are the basis for their newest endeavor. Featuring clutches, backpacks and totes, the fall/winter 2017 collection was tailored for the “true urbanite,” while showcasing an architectural spin.

Prices for the handbags range from $240-$560. However, Luxe readers can receive an additional 10% off both pre-sale and regular collection items with the code LUXE through Sept. 30.

Below, both Cecilia and her daughter, Veronica, share their thoughts on the latest trends and their inspirations.

Maria Castelli

Maria Castelli

Maria Castelli

Maria Castelli

Maria Castelli

Tell us about your first job and what you learned from it.

Cecilia: Immediately after graduating from high school, I started a small handbag business. Back then, a certain type of tote was all the rage and could be made without sewing. My mother gave me about $50 to start my production. With that money, I figured out how to source the leather, make the bags and sell them. It was a thrilling experience. Unfortunately, college got in the way, and I had to put the business aside. Looking back, I now see this as the informal start to Maria Castelli.

Which architect do you look up to the most?

Veronica: Carlo Scarpa. I discovered his designs during a study abroad semester in Italy and saw more of them during trips when I lived in Milan after graduation. Scarpa didn’t pay much attention to what most architects were thinking about or doing in his day; he also didn’t try to justify himself through lots of publications. I admire his probing, patient and solitary search for an architecture that creates a new language out of materials that we know and love. His work was neither futuristic nor nostalgic, and it also doesn’t look like the other kinds of architecture that were being produced in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. It stands outside of time in the same way that he stood a bit aloof from his field.

Tell us your favorite family tradition and what makes it so special.

C: Easter egg hunts! While my two daughters were growing up, I had a lot of fun putting together elaborate Easter egg hunts with riddles, clues and lots of treats. After moving to New York City, I almost abandoned this tradition because my apartment wasn’t a big enough arena to make it an interesting hunt. But then I came up with the idea of using Central Park as the backdrop, using clues related to its hidden treasures. Now that the girls are much older and the playing field much bigger, this tradition of ours has gotten more competitive, but also more interesting.

One trend I hope never goes out of style is…

V: Bandanas and small silk scarves. This is one accessory I won’t be caught without, and, over time, I have acquired quite the extensive collection. I find that scarves truly complete a look, making it both chic and a little bit cool.

What’s your cocktail/drink of choice, and why?

C: A glass of Malbec — it’s part of my Argentinean DNA!

My ultimate dream home would not be complete without…

V: An outdoor fire pit. There are few better ways to end a day than around a crackling fire, especially when it’s just a little chilly out. I like to watch the flames dance, and I find that the fire also draws people together and triggers conversations. When the embers start to flicker and fade, that’s the perfect cue for bringing a nice evening to a close.