Savette bags: ‘We don’t want to give up the idea of having beautiful possessions’
New York designer with a track record for creating stealth ‘it’ bags launches own label – no surprise these handbag designs are selling out
You would think launching a handbag line in the year when we could go nowhere would be a hard sell. But new brand Savette, masterminded by Amy Zurek – previously of The Row, and the designer behind Khaite’s signature luggage collection – is proving to be quite literally a sell-out success story.
Working in the bag industry for many years, New York-based Zurek believed there was still something missing: luxury, sophistication and a high level of craftsmanship, but at a realistic price point (which, for Savette, is pitched between big household-name luxury brands and premium contemporary).
The designer’s own idea of luxury was informed by her mother, who toted classic traditional bags from Hermès, Gucci, and Goyard. These days, leafing through specialist leather periodicals from the 1970s in the library of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York further fuels her appetite for timeless, considered pieces – heirlooms in the making that Zurek hopes mothers will pass along to their daughters.
For Savette, Zurek (who studied fine art and art history at the University of Pennsylvania, and then gained a degree in fashion design from Parsons School of Design) distilled her references into three styles: the ‘Tondo 22’ (an elevated everyday bag that takes its name from the Italian Renaissance term for a circular work of art); the ‘Symmetry Pochette’ (younger, refined, more ladylike); and the ‘Symmetry 19’ (a neat, boxy petite 24-hour bag).
Each bag is made in Santa Croce, Florence, where small-scale master leather smiths share generations of experience between tanneries. The custom signature hardware – inspired by Zurek’s grandmother’s modernist jewellery collection, which included George Jensen and Elsa Peretti silver) – is also made in Italy. ‘When you’re making something that doesn’t exist, you really have to problem-solve,’ says Zurek, who sat with the artisans for hours to perfect the magnetic metal closure.
Elegant design aside, Zurek rigorously wear-tests each sample before it goes into production. ‘I’m construction orientated. One of the hardest things about bags is that they are hard to imagine in space, so I make mock-ups to understand how a bag will feel, how the scale will be,’ says the self-labelled ‘left-brain’ designer. The factory then sends her a sample to review – the equivalent of a muslin toile: a bag but not in real leather. Zurek’s knack for good-looking practicality is behind the multifunctional straps that mean the bags can be worn several ways: cross-body, carried as a top handler, or tucked under the arm.
The core colours and leathers in Collection 1 – soft yet enduring black, chestnut and ivory calf leather – are being expanded to include bone- and mink-coloured calfskin and suede for the next iteration, Collection 1.1, to launch in August. Then follows red wine calf and dark navy textured goat leather for Collection 1.2, in November.
With the project in the making since 2019, the pandemic allowed Zurek to quietly pause prior to launch and really ruminate on what women desire today. ‘Purchasing has become quieter, more intentional,’ she says. ‘We don’t want to give up the idea of having beautiful possessions.’ §