Sicily is a land full of charm and mystery, an international icon of an Italy, rural and authentic, celebrated by the cinema – from Luchino Visconti to the Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – as a land of beauty, passion, and secrets. Among the rugged cliffs, historic towns and villages and gentle slopes, the colours of the Mediterranean drown the sound of time. The island has preserved its authenticity but remains on the outskirts of Europe. In a terrain scarcely fertile to develop, young people often migrate elsewhere looking for better opportunities.
Ezio Lauricella, a young entrepreneur with a background in the world of economics, on the contrary, has been able to combine the richness of the territory with a creative approach and a keen eye for corporate social responsibility. His brand of women’s handbags, CVM LAUDE, has been so successful internationally that Ezio even declined a million dollar offer for his business by an emir. The idea is not for sale and his production remains in Sicily.
The story of CL begins in the streets of Palermo, as Ezio told TT, “One day strolling through the streets of Palermo I saw an artisan in the doorway working on a bag, I stopped to watch him and as I continued to watch, we began to talk. He told me to take a good look at the bag which appeared to be new but was actually more than 10 years old. The owner, a French tourist, had come back to the workshop in Palermo just to change the buckles worn by time. Then the artisan stared into my eyes and said, “Each bag is made forever!”
And while the economics of shopping malls and the race for the lowest price threatened the survival of these workshops, Ezio understood that the talent and manual dexterity could not be lost. After 6 months of research, he went back to look for the Master leather craftsman. Today that very artisan is responsible for part of the CL bag production.
CL comes from the desire of focusing on a sustainable model, which values the skill of local artisans and tells their story of excellence to an international audience. As explained by Ezio, Sicily is the cradle of civilization, culture and art. Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Byzantines and Spaniards over the centuries have left an indelible trail. Unfortunately, recent history has seen the island sacked by politics and the Mafia, isolated by the margins of development, in a stagnation which has partly overshadowed the cultural richness.
The entrepreneurial approach of CL transcends the mere quirks of fashion, by giving voice to the desire of redeeming the territory, by giving the right value to its natural and human capital at the base of an experience of excellence.
Ezio believes in ethical fashions, and if today fashion is teeming with delocalized production and labour exploitations, CL relaunches handicrafts and local talent, a direct relationship with the workshop and the recovery of traditions at risk. At the same time, the sensitivity for nature requires CL to search for organic fibers or eco-friendly fabrics which protect nature and consumer welfare. Crafted by hand and in full compliance with Italian artisan traditions, CL bags have a mix of strictly eco-friendly materials, such as hemp, silk, recycled leather and natural colourations extracted from black tea, pomegranates and saffron.
“Our typical client is not a fashion victim but rather a cultivator of fashion. Although our costs are tenfold compared to a normal medium-high brand, we made a conscious decision and we are happy to have chosen this path. Our customers perceive first-hand, the quality of what they are buying. Our added value comes from the characteristics inherent in the product itself, and not from the halo of million dollar advertising campaigns,” said Ezio.
But if CL maintains a strong bond with Sicily, Ezio has a passion for discovering the customs and traditions of distant lands, for the idea of combining influences from different and faraway cultures. Hence the theme of the first collection, a creative leap which unites Sicily with Eastern traditions; leather bags, strictly handmade, are adorned with coloured trimmings of vintage Japanese silk kimonos.
Where does this unusual marriage of Trinacria and the Rising Sun come from? Ezio has traced his source of inspiration to the recent studies carried out by Professors Hiromu Taguchi, Toshinori Yoshikawa and their assistant Tomoko Ozawa from the University of Nagasaki. In their book, “Sicily: Ancestral Japan” they put forward an extraordinary scientific hypothesis: Sicilian populations, because of a devastating series of eruptions by Mount Etna, associated with disastrous earthquakes, would have started about 5000 years ago, a long pilgrimage to the East in search of reconciliation with their two main deities, the god of the Rising Sun and the Vulcan god.
And on the other side of this fascinating theory, the cultural ties between Sicily and Japan are numerous, from the symbols to the foods. “The Sun is an important element of the imagination for both populations and both flags portray the Sun with its rays beaming from it. Both civilisations were developed around a snow-capped volcano; Catania, the first major Sicilian settlement at the foot of Etna is “the city of the sword” in Japanese katana. The two countries live with a great passion to honour their celebrated flowering trees: the Sicilian Almond Blossom festival corresponds with the celebration of the Japanese cherry blossoms. Both populations have at the centre of their diet, bluefish. Japanese sushi and sashimi are nothing more than the extreme aestheticism of Sicilian banquets of shellfish, octopus and small, raw fish. Rich is the tradition for both of eating tasty morsels, rice balls, rice. Japanese tempura is nothing more than usual vegetables in a Sicilian batter. Also worth mentioning, is how strong, for both countries, their sense of honour,” explained Ezio to TT.
Real or imaginary, the link between the two populations is the source of inspiration for a series of unique pieces, made with fine Italian materials and decorated with Japanese fabrics from the 1960s. Under the auspices of an “ethical brand”, everything happens in the respect for local traditions, the environment and human resources which the territory offers.
From the exotic commingling of a Japanese detour, the next CL collection will tell of Sicilian traditions at risk of being lost forever. “We would like to design bags using as ornaments, the lace and embroideries of elderly Sicilian women. This would also allow us to teach young people, the manual dexterity of a product made by hand and of great value, especially of cultural value,” anticipated Ezio.
CL creations are currently available in a number of multi-brands in Japan, the US and Russia. Soon they will see an Italian debut in a well-known boutique in Milan. Discerned clients may contact CL via their FB page for information about ordering unique pieces, tailor-made to meet their desires.