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Margaux Lombard de Huertas never planned to have a career in fashion. “I studied politics,” the designer told me during a recent visit to her studio in Rome’s leafy Monteverde Vecchio neighborhood. “I was planning to go to Brussels to work for the EU, but then I went to London and I got this job at a PR agency.” The agency was Purple PR, which counts hospitality heavy hitter Ian Schrager and up-and-coming designers like LaQuan Smith among its clients. De Huertas then moved to Berlin and worked with Kostas Murkurdis, the German designer who started his career at Helmut Lang before launching his own label. She splits her time between Berlin and Rome, where she grew up.
Though fashion may seem like a far cry from politics, for de Heurtas it was a return to the family business. She launched the sustainable handbag line Zoé de Huertas with her French mother Joséphine, who moved to Rome when she was 18 and owned three well-known boutiques in Rome for thirty years. “She had a lot of success because she brought the French style, which at the time was something really unknown for Romans,” de Huertas said, noting that her mother’s stores were the first to carry international designers like Paul Smith and Diane Von Furstenberg.
The mother-daughter duo designs the bags together, starting with a shape. Joséphine sketches it out and follows the production while Margaux focuses on the marketing and communication strategy. “The idea behind the bags is to have timeless pieces, so we’re not really following the fashion calendar. It doesn’t make any sense anymore,” Margaux said. “We’re just adding one or two pieces per season when we feel like it’s right.”
They launched in March, a week before Italy went into lockdown, with six models in a range of colors, like black, brown, navy, burgundy, and military green, all with adjustable straps. There are cross-body bags, large totes, and a classic bucket bag with prices ranging from €290 to €360. “All the leathers we have are certified, so they come from European tanneries and farms where you know that it’s a byproduct of the food industry,” Margaux explained, adding that in particular the Anglet crossbody bag and Miramar bucket bag are vegetable tanned and metal-free. The bags are made by a small family-run workshop in Rome and there’s no plastic in the packaging. “I know that I’m not 100% sustainable, I cannot be 100% sustainable, but I try as much as I can,” Margaux said. She plans to use her leftover leather to make small accessories like wallets, cardholders, and laptop cases.
Margaux showed me some samples of fabric she picked up at the Linea Pelle leather fair in Milan, telling me that she’s thinking about using some straw, canvas, or woven fabrics in the summer collection. One sample was made with cotton and composite leather woven together. “They take all the leftovers, they compress it with a certain kind of technology and they create a new leather,” she said. “You give a second life to waste.”
Though Joséphine’s experience was in brick-and-mortar stores, Zoé he Heurtas bags are only available via direct sales. “I decided to cut out the retailer because otherwise my process would be too expensive,” Margaux explained. “The idea before Covid was to organize private events and trunk shows. We were supposed to have one in Milan, in Zurich, in Munich, and London.” Of course, they had to cancel everything, but now they’re cautiously planning pop-up events in Lisbon, Rome, and possibly Zurich this fall. Luckily for those of us who aren’t traveling right now, the bags are available online and ship all over Europe, the U.S., and Canada.