Icastica Studio: combining Italian craftsmanship with unique artistic flair
Icastica Studio, founded by Italian designers Sara and Melissa, is an artisan company based in the UK that handmakes unique leather accessories, including handbags. Although Sara and Melissa describe each other as complete opposites, they both share a passion for creating exquisite and refined products. Using only the finest leathers selected from Italy, they handpaint, cut and manually use appliqué decorations to produce unique pieces of art. Creating one-of-a-kind pieces is central to Icastica's philosophy, as they believe "each individual is unique and we try to value this aspect by creating pieces that celebrate the nature of being human". Here to speak about their brand, and their inspirations behind it, are the ambitious, go-getting founders, Sara and Melissa.
Describe a typical Icastica wearer?
Our typical wearer is a woman of any age with a strong personality and a defined character and style. Someone who loves being herself no matter what the rest of the world thinks. A woman able to make her own choices, an entrepreneur, an art lover, a traveller. A person who lives their own life in the way they want and is able to find beauty in the unconventional, the unusual, the different.
Why did you decide to start Icastica together with your copartner, as opposed to starting your brand alone?
Because we believe that working with others is an opportunity to learn and grow; Icastica Studio, which is our personal journey into creativity and expression, is the foundation that allows this to happen. Based on the love, respect and admiration we have for each other, we realised that we could use our opposite personalities as a starting point to create something unique together.
Where does the name Icastica come from?
The name Icastica derives from the Greek language, translating as vivid, evocative and figurative-words that reflect the studio's own founding principles and creative process. The choice of the name was easy as this adjective perfectly expresses our style and links back to our Mediterranean origins.
You carefully select all your leathers form Italy. Why do you choose to do this?
Italy is renowned for its quality and variety of leather. The Italian tannery districts are leaders in Europe as well as in the world for importing leather and they are famous for not only being the most developed for style and technology but also for being sourced in a sustainable and ethical way. The districts are all based on small to medium family businesses and the availability of leather finishings are incredible. You can find any colour, print, lamination or texture that you have in mind, and we love the idea of being able to work with smaller companies in an ethical way.
It is also always a pleasure to spend time in our own country and besides the excitement of visiting the tanneries, we don't mind enjoying the weather and food too!
What makes your handbags unique?
Each Icastica Studio handbag is made unique by using hand-painted appliqué decorations made by the combination and development of embroidery and quilting techniques. After being singularly hand painted, every piece of the final arrangement is overlapped to create intricate layering. Each appliqué is one of a kind like every Icastica Studio product and as the whole process is done by hand, it is impossible to create two perfectly identical objects. Icastica Studio also provides a bespoke service, so that customers can create, together with us, their own tailored handbag with our designers. Uniqueness and authenticity are the principles Icastica Studio is based on as they reflect the uniqueness of each individual.
In your philosophy, you mention that you are against mass production, why?
Icastica Studio rejects mass production as we believe it banishes the beauty of difference. Each individual is unique and we try to value this aspect by creating unique pieces that celebrate the nature of being human, and therefore one-of-a-kind.
Icastica Studio produces on a limited scale because it respects the human skill of handmade crafting and allows for natural production timeframes to be followed. We ensure the quality and authenticity of each individual product, while working to minimise waste in all production techniques.
What's currently your favorite Icastica handbag?
Despite the fact that we usually like opposite things, we both agree that the Calliope Bag (seen below) is our favorite. We love the darkness as well as its royal and shocking design. It is the result of two different personalities coming together with opposite approaches. The oversized bag is also just the right size for us and can be worn for every occasion.
On average, how long does it take to produce a bag from start to finish?
It is not an easy question to answer, as we work as a team and share the tasks, but it typically takes one working day to finish a bag
Which step of this process is most difficult?
Finding the right techniques to create the idea we have in mind.
Icastica Studio dedicated its first year to purely experimentation. The hardest part was finding the way to mould the leather into the shape we wanted, that's why we ended up using so many different techniques, from painting and embroidery to creative pattern making and quilting.
And this will always be our challenge, but this also makes it exciting as it allows our creativity to explore different ways to use materials.
Where do you see Icastica Studio going in the next 5 years?
We have an archive of ideas we would love to experiment with and are very excited about the years to come. There is nothing more fulfilling for us than seeing our ideas become something tangible and therefore we have plenty of exciting things to look forward to. Our idea for the future is to widen the range of products. Already from the next collection, we will add new articles such as sofas, armchairs, pouffes and garments as well. In five years, we see the company being a point of reference for artists and makers of different disciplines, looking for collaboration and experimentation.
Where do you find inspiration from for your pieces?
We are inspired by what is beautiful and harmonic in nature.
Our own country has had a big influence on our style, as well as our own personal history and connection with the Mediterranean culture.
Italy is well known for its artistic and artisanal history and we always combine our international experiences and knowledge together with our origins. Melissa comes from a town near Florence and Sara from Rome. Not only did our cultures define our style and taste, but we also grew up in families where love for art was imperative.
We both studied art and fashion and can affirm that our inspiration comes from a mixture of places, experiences, people and our love for the arts and crafts.