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Il Bisonte was founded only steps from Florence’s Duomo and Ponte Vecchio just over fifty years ago. Run as an artisan workshop for leather accessories by Wanny Di Filippo, it focused on hand-crafted products from local materials and know-how. That many of its early styles are still in rotation today is a testament to a strong identity and appreciation for the beauty that comes from years of use and care.
Still today under the leadership of CEO Luigi Ceccon, the brand’s flagship store, showroom, and offices stand in Florence’s historic district in the Palazzo Corsini, not far from the original workshop. Staying close to where it all began includes investing in a production chain within a 30-kilometer radius as well as carrying on the talents of local master craftspeople with deep knowledge of working in leather, metal, and fabric. It’s also an endless source of inspiration. The Spring/Summer 2022 collection was born from the Tuscan landscape—its natural vegetation and gardens, the slant of Florentine streets, and the architecture of its villas. “Quercia” (Oak) is the name of one of the more important lines of this collection.
Whitewall spoke with Ceccon about how Il Bisonte is proof of a naturally sustainable approach that comes from making well-designed pieces, and a commitment to the legacy of the “Made in Tuscany” label.
WW: When sustainability is discussed today, we often think of new techniques, new technology, et cetera. But Il Bisonte’s artisanal approach and commitment to time-honored crafts like vegetable tanning play a key role in sustainability. Can you tell us more about this? Why is keeping and passing down the knowledge of master craftspeople also key for sustainability?
LC: Il Bisonte is sustainable by tradition, not because it’s trendy. We’ve been focusing on sustainability since founding the company and proudly steer clear of the rhetoric—something that's very popular nowadays—of green washing. Our production philosophy has always stayed faithful to the idea of authentic and alternative environmental, social, and consumer sustainability. It all starts with the choice of raw materials: We’ve always chosen iconic cowhide leather which is vegetable-tanned using a processing technique that has been practiced in Tuscany for thousands of years. It uses tannin, which is a 100 percent natural powder obtained from tree bark, as the main element. This allows us to greatly limit the environmental impact of our production. The choice to preserve and value the memory of ancient processing techniques goes in the same direction, too. For us, sustainability also means preserving the identity of a territory and its traditions, and committing steadfast support for an authentically artisanal supply chain made up of artisan businesses that have always been the most vital part of our area’s economy.
WW: Il Bisonte prides itself on creating products that not only last in time, but gain character and beauty over time. What role do you think beauty plays in sustainability?
LC: For us at Il Bisonte, sustainability is also a choice of beauty. The tannin, used in vegetable tanning cowhide leather, not only has a low environmental impact, but also makes the leather soft and lustrous, and gives it a delicate woody scent. Thanks to the alchemy that occurs when sunlight mixes with daily use, our bags and small leather accessories change together with the wearer; over time a magnificent golden patina emerges, rendering our products more beautiful and real. Keeping a product’s desirability intact over the years is our antidote to the harm caused by a disposable culture.
WW: How does this slow life cycle of products generate an authentic but alternative circular economy?
LC: We’ve always only used leather from animals raised for food purposes, which would come at a cost to the environment to properly dispose of if not reused. Our production chain minimizes waste and promotes its recycling. The new collections also feature the new bio-tanned cowhide leather, which can be recycled and composted. Investing in the circular economy is a central theme of our past, present, and future. And it’s from this circularity that our brand takes its name: the buffalo, in fact, is a strong, free, and resilient animal that has been the basis of an extraordinary balance between mankind and nature for centuries.
WW: How does it impact the design choices of future collections?
LC: It has enormous relevance: The essential and timeless style of our products is the concrete translation of our vocation for sustainability. We cut out everything useless, we don’t follow any fleeting seasonal trends, and we offer only products of the highest quality, which are destined to last a lifetime while keeping their beauty and uniqueness intact. We did it with the founder, Wanny Di Filippo, and we continue to do so under my guidance, as I genuinely believe in sustainability to power business development and as a continuous opportunity for innovation.
WW: Can you tell us about the “remise en forme” offer in select stores for customers? As well as customization?
LC: This service is also a specific choice for sustainability. To guarantee that our products enjoy a very long life cycle, we provide our customers with leather care products (which can also be purchased online at ilbisonte.com), as well as remise en forme services, available in some select stores. In our Florence headquarters we have a department entirely dedicated to restoring bags and accessories.