Danielle Pisani-Salerno is the ultimate bag lady. At the moment her Hiroo home is bursting with handbags in endlessly different shapes and sizes that she has just produced for her new label, Virgo.
Pisani-Salerno, who studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, gave up a job that incorporated everything from fashion merchandising to corporate graphics design at New York’s Macy’s department store to follow her husband when his job took him to London. She freelanced there for two years until the company relocated them again — to Japan.
In Japan she “got up the nerve” to start her own company. Traveling around Asia and coming across fabulous fabric gave her inspiration and, consequently, materials for the Virgo bags. The bags are handmade from Chinese silk brocade, antique Japanese kimono and obi as well as Thai silks. A unique method of covering them in different-colored organza overlay can easily transform even the most everyday patterns or garish designs to shimmery, sophisticated material perfect for evenings.
“There is definitely a gap in the market,” says Pisani-Salerno. “I mean I could sell a one-off antique kimono bag at Berdorf-Goodman for $800 but I don’t want to. I want to fill the gap between the overly expensive and the cheap but tacky.”
Her creed is “functional elegance.” And sticking to this has meant she has succeeded in producing bags (which sell from 5 yen,000-10,000 yen) that accentuate an ensemble rather than steal the show.
However, who said utilitarian chic has to be dull? Chinese brocade dragons dance across everyday shoulder bags while beads and velvet ribbons trim tiny but handy Thai silk evening pouches. Similarly, barely there kimono silks and “mock snakeskin nylon” cover hold-alls, knapsacks — with curtain-rope straps — and travel totes. And courier-boy satchels can be found in dark cherry-blossom prints or felt.
And there’s more: Pisani-Salerno also makes matching makeup bags to coordinate with all her designs.
She is currently in discussion with three Tokyo stores which are keen to stock her bags, particularly those that are bead- and tassel-trimmed for evening.
However, once she sells out of this season’s batch she is determined to focus on samples for the trade show at Jacob Javits Center in New York. From here she hopes to officially launch a label that will take off in the states.
Meanwhile, she will still take commissions. She has just completed a couple of bridal bags and has taken on an order for nappy bags in plain black and faux snakeskin for trendy mothers who are up to their finely plucked eyebrows with baby pastels and cutsey Disney characters.