A Breath of Fresh (Island) Air

Refined and traditional, yet eclectic, sensual and contemporary; our bags are easy to live with.  Like good art or wine, they are timeless. For this new collection — the Solivera — we wanted to capture the tones and textures of nature, especially the stones, minerals and ground cover in all of its glorious variations and subtleties.

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The inspiration came from a need for sturdy, functional everyday bags, with that special touch of BiniChic. We wanted each bag to be a precious object — with its raw details part of the timeless design.

Our newest collection uses a bovine leather which is soft and supple to the touch, yet so thick and beautiful it doesn’t need lining or stiffeners. The body of the bag is pure hide, which we print on both sides instead of lining. This leather is ready for a busy life: it can be washed and buffed, resists stains, and develops a beautiful patina over time.

We loved working on the photos for this collection with the established photographer from Menorca, Jordi Escandell.

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In fact, it is the same leather used to make the trendy Menorcan sandals — avarcas. Our designs are rooted in craftsmanship for today’s world: made in the Mediterranean by artisans.

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The bags are simple in design and natural in materials. Most stitching and seams are on the outside, revealing the raw edges and impeccable craftsmanship.

The bags are accented with unique hand carved pieces of bone (off white) and horn (black) accessories.  Susan worked with artisans to make them years ago, and just discovered them in her archives in Menorca.  We are excited to offer this limited edition.

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The palette is neutral — fresh from the Mediterranean — colors which can layer together or work on their own. Ebony, Natural Tan, Stone, Marble (shade of off white) and Indigo. They work in any season, any climate.

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The prints are textures from nature and classic geometric patterns. Because they are printed by hand here on the Island, each piece is unique, with its own look and personality. We find beauty in the small imperfections.

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Metallic inks combine with matte leather to produce the layered look and feel of  minerals, stones, wood, earth. They are like precious primitive icons.  They embody that combination of opposites we find in nature. The natural, the raw, the antique meets the refined and designed, contrasting rustic and rich materials.

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Each bag is hand buffed after finishing, with natural wax, to nourish and protect the leather. Our bracelets, cardholders and change purses are easy pieces that complete any look (and make great gifts!)

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As you can imagine, hides are not regular pieces like a piece of cloth might be, so we had to find a creative and useful way to make use of the scraps we collected after cutting out the main collection bags.

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We have been making these pieces with the already-printed “scraps”, making each one a unique combination of prints and hide colors.

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However, in the tradeshows we participated in this past summer, they have become so popular that we now have to buy the hides especially to make these items!

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A few items in the collection are made with lambskin. The Cora bag is very versatile and can be worn both as a clutch and as a large pouch by just switching the placement of the clasps. Following photos by the wonderful Patrushka.

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These bags will soon be available on our online store, so check back soon! We also have special prices for our store newsletter suscribers, so make sure to sign up and stay up to date with our news and discounts. Enjoy your BiniChic bag!

Photo Credits: Jordi Escandell – www.jordiescandell.com
Photos of Cora bags: Patrushka – www.patrushka.es

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Moroccan Rugs: The Vernacular Becomes Art

Our Southern Mediterranean neighbor Morocco is comprised of a unique blend of Arab, African, and European influences. The coastal country is known for its breathtaking dunes, exotic animals, and most recently in the eyes of interior design world, their one-of-a-kind woven rugs. Born out of an expressive, creative culture, the Moroccan rug captures the essence of color, texture and abstract art.

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This vintage Moroccan Boucharouette rug features a stunning assortment of abstract geometric figures. Source
 

Rural productions of rugs from Morocco are notable for their abstract, primitively modern designs. Generations of Berber weavers have created these ceremonial and functional rugs using a double knot technique and 100% wool. Utilizing geometric motifs and bold, natural colors such as saffron, henna, indigo and madder root amongst others, each design was created as a means of personal expression and communication.

The patterns are traditional and ancient, and vary depending on the region and tribe that crafted them. Since they are vernacular, their use and thickness also varies. Heavy pile is useful for the snow capped Atlas Mountains, or they can be lightweight to suit the hot climate of the Sahara desert.

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This mid 20th Century vintage Moroccan rug incorporates an elaborate variety of ancient symbols. Source
 

Moroccan rugs’ lively textures and one-off patterns complimented the sleek designs of the Bauhaus and Mid-Century Modern designers, giving rise to their popularity in the West. Original Moroccan designs are featured prominently in the iconic designs of LeCorbusier as well as in those of the Frank Lloyd Wright and the Eames duo. The synthesis of rural, ancient rug designs beneath Le Corbusier’s contemporary chrome and leather furniture made for a surprisingly pleasing and well-matched combination.

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This vintage mid 20th Century rug displays the abstract iconography and distinctive minimalist tendencies that made it so popular amongst designers such as LeCorbusier, Eames among others. Source
 

The Beni Ourain tribe live in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and produce the black and white rugs popularized LeCorbusier during the mid 20th Century. They are easily recognizable because they are typically colored with neutral hues, such as off-white and shades of brown and black, have a shaggy pile and abstract geometric patterns.

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Beni Ourain rug in a house by LeCorbusier. Source
 

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Colorful Moroccan rug in Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright. Source
 
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The Moroccan rug featured in the Eames’ Pacific Palisades home studio provided a warm interior
to a structure made mostly of glass and steel. Source
 

Part of their appeal to the modernists was the primitivism and imperfection of each carpet, and how they fit wonderfully with modernist décor. This unique weaving process has proved its staying power in the modern marketplace. In recent years, interest in the bright patterns and the luxury of these plush floor coverings has become a staple in modern interior design. Whether you prefer the vibrancy of the Boucherouite style — the one-of-a-kind recycled fabric rugs — or the elegant simplicity of the Beni Ourain, a Moroccan rug might be the perfect way to revive your living room.

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Sources: 1 // 2 & 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8

Credit: Text by Keely Murphy

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Mad about Mod

This year’s fall trend report headlines read MOD. From Rothko to Go-Go we’ve compiled our favorite vintage snapshots and current runway looks reminiscent of our very own “Color Block” Justine Scallop bag.

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The recent revival of late 1960s textiles, graphic design, and vibrant color palettes can be seen in ready-to-wear shows by Valentino, Marni, and Louis Vuitton.

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Bringing together Pantone Color of the Year selects Radiant Orchid, 2014, and Tangerine Tango, 2012 creates our most vibrant bag in stock, reminiscent of the Swingin’ Sixties daring combination. We’ve also spotted the hottest colors and Mod influence on some great designs and vintage inspiration shots:

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Our own version of this psychedelic combination is overlaid with our signature art deco-inspired Scallop print in gold metallic, resulting in a unique piece that suits the trend, livens up any outfit, and avoids looking like a 1960s flight attendant.

Images: 1. Rothko, Untitled 12 (1968) 2. Peggy Moffitt modeling Rudi Gernreich design, photo by William Claxton (1966) 3. Valentino Fall 2014  4. Marni Resort 2015 5. Hiroko Matsumoto, photographed by Jack Ward, Vogue (April 1, 1966) 6. Jean Shrimpton, Vogue (1965) 7. Vintage 1960s curtain pattern 8. 1960s boot fashion 9. Feather texture, author unknown 10. Guinevere Van Seenus for Vogue Italia (March 2012) 11. Surya Brentwood Rug 12. Brush Strokes, author unknown 13. Bell Table by Sebastian Herkner 14. Manolo Blahnik flat pumps

 

Credits: Text by Keely Murphy. Image Collages by BiniChic

 
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S’Olivera Chronicles: The Calm Before the Storm

A few years ago, Susan commissioned Regan Bice to give S’Olivera a contemporary relevance while retaining its original soul and spirit. The solution was to adapt the interior so that the very essence of emptiness revealed its purity. To take it back to a blank canvas of pure white walls, so that their art, along with the architectural features and a few well-chosen objects became the main focus. These are the chronicles of this process. We hope you’ll come along with us for the ride!

binichic_solivera_calm1We want to share some photos we took of our house, S’Olivera, right before we start the renovation. We don’t have a lot to say about it—its more of a visual  experience.

binichic_solivera_calm3In looking through the photos of our Living Room, I notice lots of windows and openings to break up the interior space.

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The doors and windows come in several styles, all of which were restored and repurposed for this setting, over 30 years ago.  This room will become an independent Studio/apartment with its own entrance.  We hope to reincorporate some of these doors and windows in the new construction.

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binichic_solivera_calm7At the top of those steps is the kitchen—where the magic often happened. That is why we want to keep it as the center of the home, a place for our family and friends to gather over a good meal.

Marble counters, trimmed in very old hand painted tiles, tile floors and some basics— fire and water — were all that was needed to convert groceries and garden produce into food and sustenance over the years.

binichic_solivera_calm2A big table was in the middle of the room, and that’s the opening of the cistern next to the door. We made that corner pantry and all of the cabinets in the kitchen from repurposed pieces of wood.

binichic_solivera_calm8binichic_solivera_calm9Our bathroom was a sturdy collection of restored and rebuilt sinks, mirrors, tubs and tiles. The view of Menorca’s highest mountain— Monte Toro — from the tub was spectacular.

binichic_solivera_calm10The hallway is like the dorsal spine of the house—-bringing light and movement throughout.

It has an unusually high ceiling with 3 skylights, so we used a collection of tall, elegant doors to define bedrooms, storage and work spaces.  This will be a dramatic shift when we eliminate all of these walls and doors to return this space to its original hay barn open loft plan.

binichic_solivera_calm11binichic_solivera_calm12Another opportunity to observe how the widows poke bright holes in the massive, solid walls comes in the bedroom.  First we have some of my personal favorites—the original,  primitive arches, (from the humble sheep stable origins) which we took great pains to preserve with clear glass and a framed window.  The 4 ft thick walls enclose the view in mythic proportions.

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binichic_solivera_calm14This picture shows how doors of many sizes and styles work together on one wall.

binichic_solivera_calm1The closets were hollowed out of the space between rooms.  They give a rectilinear, geometric slant to the otherwise organic shapes.

This gives you an idea of S’Olivera from the inside. Next we will take a tour of the outside and see how the garden looked before and after.

All photos in this post by Susan Unger — except for three, which were taken by Núria Gavin.

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Understated Luxury Created to Keep

It is always exhilarating when you hit on something that reflects who you are — a phrase that rings true to your philosophy. That’s exactly how Susan and I felt when we came up with our tagline: Understated Luxury Created to Keep. This is really what BiniChic is all about! Refined and traditional, yet eclectic, natural and contemporary, it is easy to live with. Like good art or wine, it’s timeless.

UNDERSTATED LUXURYCREATED TO KEEP

We came up with this tagline while creating our latest venture, BiniChic Home.  A lifestyle inspired by the Mediterranean island chic with a fresh, modern take on the Bohemian vintage world of Fortuny of Venice, Tuscan frescos etc.

Subtle colors, layered prints and textures that have been curated and collected. Designs that are rooted in craftsmanship for today’s world: made locally by young designers and artisans, a brand with a story.

Here’s a little taste of what we are feeling for BiniChic Home:

THE MEDITERRANEANISLAND WAY OF LIFEWITH A FRESHUNEXPECTED TWISTON THE BOHEMIANVINTAGE WORLDOF FORTUNY OF VENICEAND TUSCAN FRESCOES

Staye tuned to see what our BiniChic Home is like, but we know you will love it and feel right at home!

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BiniChic Bags: Around the World

We are happy to be back with an exciting New Year ahead of us! Here are some photos of BiniChic fans around the world, as well as some inspirational photos I took of our bags in the Tuscan location of Villa Vivarelli. We hope you enjoy them! If you’d like to see the collection in person, this next week you can catch us at the Fraiche @ Circuit show in New York from the 6th-8th of January, Pier 94. 12th ave @ 55th Street – Booth #3022.

This past winter holiday, we were lucky to spend some wonderful days with our family and friends in Barcelona (Spain) and in Arezzo (Tuscany). I had a great time photographing my good friend from Barcelona — the talented actress and singer, Queralt – posing with some of the BiniChic bags to show their versatility in some of our favourite BiniChic locations in Tuscany: Villa Vivarelli and Villa Il Cicaleto.

The beautiful bright leaves compliment beautifully with the red fern printed on the Eleonor Red. Inspiration and final product come together!

I love how the Eleonor in gray tones looks in this room with hand-stenciled walls in periwinkle tones of Japanese inspiration.

The warm winter sunset gave the black suede Florence clutch printed in Snow the perfect glow.

I thought the Sylvia bag in the Glade print looked interesting combined with the stencils featuring roses, flowers and other colorful Victorian motifs in Villa Vivarelli. The caramel and gold tones of the bag coordinated wonderfully with the wood and marble night table, and the aqua zipper contrasted nicely with the wall designs.

All the above photos and the two right below were taken by Ona Villier of BiniChic.

To show how versatile the Sylvia style is, the beautiful Robyn Bliley sent us some photos of herself in Los Angeles while taking a walk to her favorite cafe. This style has a detachable chain as well as an incorporated handle, making it wearable as a purse or as a clutch. The photos of Robyn were taken by Chad Wilson.

We also got some great photos of our fans in Dallas, Barcelona, Turin, Arezzo and Buenos Aires! Thank you Tania, Alessandra, Annie, Isa, Giorgia and all those who sent us their wonderful photos.

If you have a photo of yourself wearing a BiniChic bag or clutch, please send it to us — we love to see how you wear them. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming chance to win a BiniChic bag!  Become a fan of our Facebook page to learn more.

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Learning from Nature

“Green exercise improves psychological health.” — Richard Louv

Nature is our best muse. It is also our wisest teacher. This point of view echoes deep within BiniChic’s roots, permeating our designs and lifestyle. Today we’d like to place the spotlight on our dear friend and kindred spirit, Carol Puck Erickson, whose passion for creating a synergy between nature, art and people is a great source of inspiration.

A planter of beautiful arid plants from one of Puck’s projects with Arcadia Studio.

BiniChic’s Susan  (“Fung” to some) — actually, Fung comes from the decidedly unflattering nickname, “Fungus”, given by the same 5th grade classmates who gave Carol the nickname “Puck”–  was recently out in California, where she got to spend some quality time with her dearest, oldest friend, Puck. They’ve gone on many magical adventures together — both real and imagined — since they were both 9 years old.

Their love of nature and the outdoors kicked in while they were still very young. They were both Girl Scouts, and went on many camping trips and outdoor treks.

Above, Fung and Puck as teenagers doing the Scout salute. On the right, the Camp Hill Girl Scouts kicking up a leg before going out canoeing. (Susan is the second from the left, and Puck the sixth from the left)

Born in Pennsylvania, Puck has been a resident of the small town of Los Olivos (in California’s Santa Ynez Valley) for the past four decades, where she has become a solid member of the tight-knit community.

An extremely talented landscape architect, Puck doesn’t just “plant” plants, but creates visually rich and chromatically interesting landscapes, while also incorporating many native plants into each of her projects. Initially trained at RISD in visual arts, you can see  that artist’s eye overseeing her designs. She has been a founding partner in Arcadia Studio since 2001, and her extensive portfolio includes a long list of beautiful residences, hospitals, public buildings, and ranches in the Santa Ynez Valley as well as many residences and arid gardens in Arizona.

View of the Santa Ynez Valley Botanical Garden.

Always thinking of ways to create and give back, the pair organized a fun event during Susan’s trip. Through the sale of BiniChic bags and t-shirts they were able to raise funds and awareness for Puck’s latest community project: The Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden.

Some of the BiniChic bags that were on sale at the benefit pop-up sale.

The SYV Botanic Garden is a wonderful resource for community interaction and horticultural information; designed, built and made possible by the efforts of the Santa Ynez Valley community. Puck is a founding member of this project, which will encourage community collaboration, new ways of thinking about environmental education and appreciation of the natural world.

They have a particular focus on plants native to the Santa Ynez River watershed, teaching school-aged children about their history and their value in the environment.

A young gardener feeling the California Poppies, and a view of the Botanical Garden.

Susan sat down with Puck for an interview to find out more about how this project was made possible and the philosophy behind it:

Susan: What inspired you to start the Botanical Garden?

Puck: First of all, I [singular] did not start the Botanic Garden.  As with many experiences in life, the Garden began because a number of people in the community saw an opportunity and collaborated to develop a vision for a local garden based on common ground.

S: When was it founded?

P: We planted our first trees almost five years ago with about 2 yrs. of organizational work before groundbreaking.

S: How was it received by the local community then, and how is it being received now?

P: As with many new ideas or projects, there was a certain amount of skepticism.  Although we could see a Garden flourishing on the site, filled with children, the elderly, teens, etc.; when we first began what the community actually saw was a severely degraded site that would barely support weed growth.  No wonder they were puzzled, worried or just plain cynical!


Manzanita plants thrive at the Garden.

S: We understand that the purpose is to give locals an opportunity to enjoy native plants and learn more about the history of the Santa Ynez Valley through native plants and their uses. Can you explain some of the programs that make this happen?

P: Now, this week actually, we hosted a series of outdoor classes for five schools within the Santa Ynez Valley, collaborating with teachers from our local Chumash tribe. This program enriches the required California history curriculum for all fourth graders. You can go to our Facebook page to review the activities.

Clapper sticks, soft water turtle rattles and jewelry made out of native Rose Hips are all used to educate the school children about the traditional Chumash culture.

Next week we have students from one of the local prep schools coming to the Garden to measure our trees’ growth and clear our willow ‘maze.’  And the following week we have Cub Scouts coming to the Garden to plant new plants around our children’s amphitheater, currently under construction.

And every day, people walk their dogs, explore with their kids, or just catch their breath in a very busy world.  I think we are now really part of the community fabric.

Children are taught about the environment where Tule grows, how it’s picked and thatched to construct an ‘Ap, the traditional Chumash dwelling. “A family of four would spend their nights in this tule. The Chumash never wasted any material. The left over reeds were used to weave floor mats, baskets and canoes to mention a few.” (from the SYVBG facebook page)

S: Why do you feel its important for people–especially children– to experience nature in their everyday lives?

P: We often forget we are animals with a natural deep seeded affinity to the natural world.  For children, as they explore the Garden ALL of their senses are activated and they may not be aware of it, but they are constantly synthesizing information as they look, touch, smell, balance.  Any every day is different.  They begin to grasp the concept of subtlety and nuance.  It is magical.

Puck leading a group of small children that learned to identify the wildflowers in the Garden, and later seeded the young meadow with wildflower seeds.

S: Tell us how you, as a Landscape Architect, create with plants and nature, and why this gives you so much satisfaction.

P: As you know, as a child, I absolutely loved being outside.  And I was fortunate to be raised around gardeners and campers.  My work is a wonderful combination of science and art.  And although I often feel like a painter or sculptor I am not alone in my work.  The forces of natures, the rhythms of the seasons all remind me that I am just a small piece of the puzzle.

S: BiniChic’s design philosophy is very much built on the principles of Wabi-Sabi–that Japanese philosophy where the impermanent, unfinished and imperfect are considered positive qualities which reflect a Zen approach to living, or reality. Does this philosophy play any part in your work?

P: Absolutely.  I think in order to succeed as a landscape architect you must embrace those principles.  Nature is never ‘perfect’ – or as in our culture we view the concept of ‘perfect’ it is impermanent it is unfinished.  To me, that is where the joy is found.  I think the Garden is a reflection of those principles.


A Blue Bird perched on one of the Garden’s trees. Below, one of the three Nest Boxes installed for the Blue Birds. “It is important to install the box so the opening is in shade. A perch is missing to keep larger birds and other critters from disrupting the Bluebirds.” (from the SYVBG facebook page)

S: What is your vision for this garden in the future?

P: As the Garden grows and evolves, new microclimates will reveal themselves allowing us to explore further dimensions of this environment.  The community will be part of that journey, building shared memories – a fundamental component of healthy communities.  New leaders and visions will emerge and I will relish every moment I can cheer them on.

Puck peeking out of the ‘Ap at the SYVBG.

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And we here at BiniChic cheer on Puck, to keep creating and sharing her gift for bringing nature into our lives.

photo credits: All photos are from the SYVBG’s Facebook except for the first one, which is by Arcadia Studio. The one of the BiniChic bags and the last one in the post of Puck are taken by Fung.

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BiniChic Bags: Prints with a Story

As some of you may know, earlier this year we launched our line of BiniChic Bags. We created the collection as a way to extend the BiniChic lifestyle into wearable goods — or in this case, exquisite bags — inspired by our homes in Barcelona and the Mediterranean island of Menorca, Spain.


In our first collection — “Of Lights and Colors” — we wanted to recreate the soft palette of tones and organic shapes from the Menorcan countryside to create a range of wearable and timeless day bags.

Barcelona’s fabled architecture, Modernist curves and Ironwork influenced the richly colored and original evening clutches. We chose simple, vintage-inspired shapes for our bags to serve as canvases for the silkscreened prints, our signature mark.

The Scallop print seen above and below these lines draws its inspiration from Art-Deco as well as Japanese art. We love the way it reminds us of fish scales — or waves — and still has a very simple and linear silhouette. It is actually a print we found in the Susan Unger archive, and we loved it so much we decided to make it one of our signature prints.

We want the BiniChic woman to feel that she is wearing a unique bag that compliments her fabulous and busy lifestyle, creating the perfect accessory that will complete her look.

Our bags are made with the finest leathers we could find. Italian bovine hides were used for the smooth, soft and wearable day bags. Spanish goat suede for those rich, vibrant jewel tones in our night clutches and handbags. New Zealand lambskin adds an interesting, distressed texture that looks great combined with the smooth leather and the suede. Oh, and gold painted leather, just because every girl needs a little bit of glam in her life!


Each one of our bags is individually hand screened in an artisan workshop, much in the same way we printed the leathers for the collection of flats we collaborated on with Pretty Ballerinas. It is the same hand printing system used to create all the home and fashion textiles designed and produced by the Susan Unger Studio.

As Susan often says: “Metallics are the new neutrals.” Chains, buttons, rings, pulls, phones and many other personal accessories in our lives feature metallic details without them being considered for special occasions. That is why we used various tones of metallic inks all carefully combined with each leather to create a range of subtle to statement purses.

The elegant lifestyle photos throughout this post and on our website were taken by our talented friend Patrushka. Patrushka was born and raised on Menorca, and her photography reflects her inspiration from the islands’ rich nature and bohemian culture.

With a keen eye, her lens captures the subtle light and details of her subject, giving her images a distinctive look. Patrushka brought out the textures and richness of the BiniChic Bags, while also capturing the beautiful building in Barcelona in which they were shot.

After the leathers are printed, they are sewn by expert craftsmen. We take great pride in the high quality of our product, and make sure that only experienced artisans create our BiniChic bags. Each piece is made with great care and attention to detail.

We feel fortunate to have worked with a wonderful team of creative people that helped create our brand image. Our dear friends Pau, Cristina and Héctor of Aire CSG shot and edited the video of Making-Of a BiniChic Bag, a wonderful way to discover the care and effort put into creating each one of our bags:

We found the vintage oak leaf that hangs next to our BiniChic tag while shopping at the Marché aux Puces in Paris. We fell in love with it and decided to have it cast and add it as a charm to each BiniChic bag.

The BiniChic bags are conceived and produced to last a lifetime. The natural leathers will acquire a patina with use and time, which will give each bag its own character.

If you’d like to acquire your own BiniChic Bag, please visit our online store. If you’re in New York from the 19th to the 23rd of September, please come by  Teich in the West Village (22 8th Ave — at 12th Street). We’d love to meet you at the cocktail party we’ll be hosting on the 19th from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.

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Pretty Printed

It is always exciting for designers like us to be involved in collaborative projects with other brands. We recently had the pleasure to work alongside renown Menorcan shoe company Pretty Ballerinas in the creation of a hand silk-screened edition of ballerinas.

The project came about when I met with Ursula Mascaró — the vivacious creative director of the Mascaró Group — and commercial director David Bell, and showed them some samples of printed leather with our original designs.

Ursula was immediately excited about the idea of a collaboration between our brands; it was a sort of throwback to the time when her mother bought my mother’s couture clothes, of which she had very fond memories.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, BiniChic’s Susan Unger had her own workshop on the island, and it was there that her collections were hand dyed and silk-screened in prints and colors inspired by the Mediterranean.

Founded in 1918 by Ursula’s grandfather, Mascaró first started out as a small manufacturer of ballerina flats. The company is still family-run and owns multiple stores around the world. Their brands have many celebrity followers and avid fans who are keen to own their latest designs.

Ursula especially liked Glade, a design inspired by the Menorcan flora. The print gives the impression of looking up from under a tree and seeing its leaves against the sky.

Ursula called her design team to the meeting and the colors were chosen — some which we were to print on white leather and others on camel-colored suede.

In addition to black, the colors were these rich jewel-tones we immediately fell in love with.

The next step was to make the screens and start testing out the inks on the leathers. Each shoe had its own screen, and we engineered the drawing to be able to make each pair a mirror image of the Glade print.

The process by which we printed the shoes is completely manual. We have our workshop in the nearby town of Alaior, where talented craftsmen individually silkscreen the print unto each piece of leather already pre-cut roughly into the shape of a ballerina.

Silk screening is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to apply ink onto another material. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh through which the ink can be transferred onto a surface. A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing ink into the mesh openings for transfer during the squeegee stroke.

Silk screening renders a sharp and elegant image onto the leather, still leaving room for the unavoidable and characteristic imperfections of hand-made designs.

We were very excited to see the final product, which premiered for this Spring 2013 season. If you’d like to buy them, you can do so on the Pretty Ballerinas website. They currently have them in white leather with blue, pink and black ink.

My personal favorites are on the camel-colored suede, which will hopefully be available soon. Check back for updates!

It was truly a pleasure to work with the creative, friendly and efficient team at Mascaró. We are very happy with the results — and look forward to other successful collaborations in the future! Maybe even with Mascaró!

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Gravity and Grace

On a recent trip to New York, my friend Alana introduced me to the amazing work of renown artist El Anatsui. Expressive and elegant, the mix of colors and textures of his opulent wall hangings capture the imagination of the spectator. From afar, they remind us of fish scales glimmering in the sun, of Gustav Klimt’s ornate paintings or Seurat’s pointilism — up close, mundane objects permanently transform our expectations about what art is and where it comes from.

El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944, when it was still the British colony of the Gold Coast. After studying at a local art school — where the curriculum was mostly Western — he felt the need to learn more about local traditions and began studying African ideographs, later becoming part of a movement that promoted a sort of open-minded traditionalism.

El Anatsui has spent most of his adult life working in Nigeria, emerging from the vibrant post-independence art movements of 1960s and 70s West Africa. His sculptures / wall hangings are vibrant and experimental in their mix of media, form and tradition.

It all began one day ten years ago, when El Anatsui drove by a bag of rubbish in the countryside. Although not an unusual sight in southern Nigeria, that particular bag of rubbish looked promising, and so he took it to his studio where it lay waiting for his inspiration.

In the meantime, he kept developing other kinds of art work in wood and clay, always experimenting with materials that are meaningful in the context of the local culture and which explore the relationship between the part and the parcel.

Inside the bag were numerous discarded aluminum screw-tops from bottles of whiskey, rum and gin.

Eventually, the artist began experimenting with the materials he had found that quiet sunny afternoon — cutting and folding their pliable metal into flat swatches, and then stitching these together with copper wire. The result, as it grew, began to resemble fabric, a coarse, jangly metal cloth.

The intricate, narrow-banded compositions of Anatsui’s first cloths were recognizable variations of kente cloth, the emblematic fabric of Ghana. It was not only about a reinterpretation of a rich tradition using “poor” materials such as liquor bottle caps, but also what using those particular materials suggested: a connection “to global consumerism and, more obliquely, to slavery’s economics, of which liquor was a key part.”(“El Anatsui” Worth, A. The New York Times, 2009)

Anatsui elegantly combines history and craft — creating a category of art on its own — where minimalist Post-Modern and Pop intersect with tradition and the re-purposing of materials.

Anatsui has his studio in a small warehouse near Nsukka, which has been transformed into a virtual factory. He no longer collects the discarded bottle caps and condensed milk tin cans, but instead buys them in bulk from local distilleries. He has a team of over a dozen assistants, most of them young men in their early 20s, working six days a week cutting and folding the aluminum pieces, which they then join into blocks.

When the blocks are ready, Anatsui has his assistants lay out the pieces on the cement floor and begins to compose a new sculpture. He has them arrange the pieces until he is happy with the results, at which point they are wired together and the final piece is folded up like a blanket.

The pieces are malleable, each one having the ability to take on a different form with each installation. The provisional, shifting shape of El Anatsui’s work is one of the sources of its originality. Although he does not drape the hangings himself he prefers horizontal ripples to vertical ones, but leaves the final installation to each individual gallery and museum.

In 2007, his pieces appeared at the Venice Biennale, where he immediately captured the attention and awe of the public, as well as of many of the world’s renown art collectors and Art Museums.

When I first saw El Anatsui’s work, it reminded me of the grand and laborious 15th Century Devonshire hunting tapestries made in France for the Countess of Shrewsbury. The enormous wall hangings, made with woven wool, engulf the spectator in various kinds of hunting scenes.

A parallelism could be made between the Medieval tapestries and El Anatsui’s grand pieces, as they both portray mundane aspects of their own cultures through indigenous crafts, elevating it to an awe-inspiring level.

El Anatsui’s work inspires admiration to those who see it. It might be the simple and unassuming raw materials — which can be found in your local trash bin — and which belie the sheer grandness of the cloths (they measure over 20 feet wide and high in many cases).

It is surely also the elegant and refined chromatic combinations and graphic designs that give each sculpture its own personality, as if each piece defined a different mood in the artist (or the spectator’s) life.

It is clear that we are before an artist who has taken inspiration and resources from the past and from around him, and who will surely continue to amaze us with the gravity and grace of his pieces.

As a final piece, I wanted to share with you a video / trailer of a documentary made about El Anatsui by Susan Vogel, “Fold Crumple Crush“:

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