Artist, Designer And Sculptor Gabo Guzzo Discusses Creating One-Of-A-Kind Handbags

Lindsay Judge   |   14-06-2024

After gaining a successful career in the art world, Italian Interdisciplinary artist Gabo Guzzo decided to embark on a project that would blur the lines of art, fashion and craftsmanship.

Guzzos artworks are inspired by the natural world, and his success lies in the extensive research and depth to his creations. Working with scientists, geologists and even botanists, his projects have always come from a science and research-first perspective. So when he decided to venture into the world of design, creating one-of-a-kind handbags, it was in part, a departure from his usual work, but in many ways a cross over between two worlds. 

Guzzo set about designing exceptional one-of-a-kind handbags for the most discerning customers. Each piece is made entirely by hand, with each bag taking weeks or even months to create. Guzzo believes that this project is a way of bringing art closer to our everyday lives and his one-of-a-kind creations talk to customers who genuinely value what they buy and have opted for wiser shopping, also as a way to protect our planets natural resources. This idea of mindful design makes for a much more sustainable approach, while long-lead times may at first seem frustrating for clients, the quality of the products means that Guzzos bags will last a lifetime, being passed down through generations. We find out more.

Tell us about the universe of Gabo Guzzo today.  

Its an interdisciplinary project, something I started as a passion project, coming from my background in art. After an artist residency that I had with a scientist, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, there was an invitation for artists to go outside of the art gallery and bring their message closer to the people. It was a project related to the Anthropocene, climate change and how we should be more responsible towards the planet. This was the moment I decided to integrate design into my art practice and designing handbags was something that came quite naturally to me because of my background growing up in Italy, where I was always in touch with the design community.

I went to Florence and did research into artisanship. I discovered that even there, there is a problem with sustainability, and skilled artisans are becoming harder to find. After selecting the people I wanted to work with, we started with the first three bag designs, and it went from there. What started as an artistic project, is now becoming something else.

How do you translate your skills as an artist into handbag design?

The research is always based on my interests in the natural world and human nature. I work collaboratively with people in other industries for all of my works – art, sculpture, and handbag and jewellery design. Firstly I research deep into their fields, looking to find inspiration for my creations. There is always a link to nature and timelessness, as well as the idea that we should consume in a more responsible way.

I want to promote the idea of considering a more sustainable way of purchasing at a slower, more responsible pace. 

How do you try to sustain rare craftsmanship and support artisans through your designs? 

When I decided to embark on this project of designing handbags, I wanted them to be unique pieces with this jewellery element that was, in a way, a nod to sculptures. I went to Florence and talked to a few artisans, and I discovered the complexity and challenges involved in producing these designs. I came from a completely different perspective as an artist without training as a designer, and I think this is why the design feels quite different from what we usually see. But at the same time, due to the complexity of the designs, it was quite challenging, to find the right hands and minds to bring these designs to life. 

I was lucky enough to encounter an artisan who has a very long experience with manufacturing handmade pieces embellished with jewellery, and we started to work together, which was a great help. This collaboration was the first step in ensuring the highest craftsmanship for my creations. Im obsessed with details and quality, also in terms of supplies, so for our tanneries, for example, we work with workshops in France and Italy, I usually go myself to spend time with them to define the colour of the leathers – in fact, the colours in the collection are custom shades that I mix with the artisans in the tanneries. That was another step that allowed me to control the quality of what we were producing. We also use precious metals that are crafted in Italy.

There is a lot of research in terms of materials and getting the right collaborators and there is a need for a meaningful relationship with partners, suppliers, as well as with my collectors. My collectors are always interested in knowing the story behind the bags, which is gratifying. When we finish each piece, the artisan who makes it will sign it alongside my signature as a mark of authenticity, commitment and pride. For each piece, there is always a significant investment of time and creativity.

Tell us about the bespoke approach to your creations and why it is so important for you to offer this. 

The bags are designed as one-of-a-kind pieces, but occasionally, we have customers or collectors who seek something more personal or have specific requests. This might involve the colour palette, gemstones, or aligning the design with their style. Sometimes, they desire a design that resonates with them due to a symbolic or meaningful connection to certain gemstones. Or maybe its a special occasion such as a wedding, and they want us to create something more personal. In these cases, we offer bespoke commissions, which can range from customising a design thats already in existence to creating a piece using specific materials and colours. We can also design completely from scratch when they want something thats truly of the utmost exclusivity. These are extra-ordinary collectors items that can be cherished and passed on through generations.

What are the timelines for making a piece?

Time is our challenge, because of course, making these pieces requires dedication, especially when you start from a conversation, and then you have to source the materials with all the specifics they require. Depending on the request, of course, it can range from six to eight months. When designing bespoke pieces, the process typically takes longer, but time constraints are generally not a major concern for these clients. They are driven by the desire to achieve a unique and exceptional end result.

Tell us about the materials you work with.

Materials are part of the exploration of each design project, so we experiment with things such as printing in 3D – but most often, we work with calfskin, lambskin, exotic skins and of course metal – aluminium, brass and precious metals. Traceability and sustainability are key elements, and before starting to work with a supplier, we want to ensure the supply chain is very transparent and that we know where they source the materials. This is a fundamental aspect of the project.

Your brand is very unique – what is your vision?

It started as an artistic interdisciplinary project, and I still see it as a niche project, akin to couture. In this way, you have space for investment in time, creativity, and beauty, which is how I like to work. This is my goal, and within this goal, there is much potential to map this vision of interdisciplinary art and bring art, design, jewellery and science seamlessly together to promote meaningful human progress. 


Can you share a little about the Middle East and your clients there, and why do you think your designs particularly resonate with women there?

Generally, my customers become collectors, and in the Middle East, I do have collectors who follow my work. The Middle East, its a very generous region in terms of the clients interest and passion for art, craftsmanship and uniqueness, and its a joy to work with collectors here. There is a specific interest in commissioning pieces that are exceptionally unique and creative, and I think that makes my design relatable to women in the Region. 

What else is in the pipeline for the region?

I hope to come to the Middle East with an interdisciplinary exhibition of art and design together, bringing my handbags, sculptures and other artworks, as we did previously in New York. 

Whats the biggest lesson youve learnt since embarking on this project?

Coming from the art world, you have a different feeling or approach to time, while when I approached this field of fashion design, I became aware of how time runs fast in a way, in terms of collections, seasons, and creativity gets discarded too fast. This has been a challenge and something new for me, but it also presents an opportunity to communicate that we should appreciate time and enjoy creativity and design for longer. Working with many seasons and collections and a wide range of products is not enriching in a way; almost the opposite. I had to consider this a lot, and I decided to keep my project as it is; seasonless.

Whats the biggest challenge you face with your brand today?

Time is the main challenge. As well as this willingness to try to make a change in peoples awareness to change the way they purchase and consume and reconsider the importance of quality and time in their lives and their shopping habits. This is where I think art can be of value because what Im trying to do is bring more art into the lives of my collectors. I think with inspiration that comes from art, we can add more ideas, quality and value to our work and the customers experience. 

What are you currently working on?

I am constantly engaged in developing new designs, as well as creating sculptures that explore my primary interest: human beings and their relationship with nature and biodiversity. 

What message would you send to our readers?

Luxury is the privilege of being oneself. It embodies freedom and possibility, and I believe we should use this freedom to advocate for a better world—for ourselves and for future generations.