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Bag designer Elena Ghisellini’s love affair with leather

When did you realise leather was your thing? “I was quite young and remember looking in a shop window with my mother at a leather cape by Trussardi in a lovely honey colour, and asking her what this amazing material was. It had such a sensuous texture that I knew then I wanted to do everything in leather.”

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Was your mother a strong influence on you? “My mother, Gabriella, wasn’t addicted to fashion but she had great taste and appreciated quality, which she trans­mitted to me: she had great shoes and I was completely in love with her bags. I’ve dedicated bags to her, including this season’s Gabria, which is named after her.”

You’ve designed accessories for everyone from Salvatore Ferragamo and Trussardi to Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. How do you separate them when you’re designing? “Each is an inspiration but they inspire different things in me. It’s like acting in different movies. It’s easy to design hand­bags for a brand that has a great identity because it’s so stimu­lating but there has to be an emotional connection each time.”

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How do you keep your own brand DNA separate? “I wish to continue consultancy for other labels, as it is super-productive for me to keep doing two things [Ghisellini currently works with Tod’s and Pucci]. I am full of ideas and in contact with inspiring, talented people, but with my own brand I am communicating who I am, what I am. It’s not a brand, it is me, Elena.”

Do you have a favourite bag? “My icon is the first Felina clutch I designed for spring-summer 2014. It has a special front that reminds me of an animal and was born because I wanted to give the object a feminine soul. A cat can be feminine, have a great personality and be a bit aggressive when she wants to be: it is very me, F-Elena.”

And a favourite collaboration? “My favourite time was with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. I worked with him from the moment he joined Givenchy and it was wonderful. We masterminded the Nightingale and Antigona bags.”

Tell us about your latest collection. “Each season I focus on a specific skill of craftsmanship. For next summer there is the ‘crossing’ technique [a weaving of multi­coloured strips of leather into a bag], which I have used on the Angel bag and the Gabria. The Lolita leather doll hangs from the strap and comes from a new line of jewellery that I am launching.”