If you happen to meet Benedetta Bruzziches, and to meet her in Caprarola, you will understand it immediately: there is something magical there. It’s like if time has stopped. But not because technology is not present, nor because people can be defined “old” in some way. On the contrary.
You perceive it because the time of respect for the Earth, for kindness and goodness never ceased to exist. There they follow the seasons, as Benedetta’s mother taught us not to eat tomatoes in January because it’s not “normal”, as her brother Agostino taught us to work at any time and on any day, and he has always a thousand projects in mind, who always gives his best to be a brilliant handyman. And Benedetta teaches us to speak with so much love for her land, for the people who live there, as she shows us the places where she draws, in front of a lake, or her books, where she learns to merge herself in the adventure and the intensity of the lives of the Saints. But the love she puts in her creations, that’s for her the way to express herself and her life. And, above all, what surprised us the most is her way of understanding women through her creations, as well as telling a story.
And then, from her bags, you can breathe all of this: a bit of madness, a stunning collaboration between people who love each other, difficulties, wonder, beauty, a woman, a mother with a big heart, a team that is a family.
And I think that’s exactly what drove us to Caprarola for two days to meet Benedetta: because, as she says, you feel it when there’s something special. And Benedetta Bruzziches has that something. Very, very special.
You lived in Rome, Milan, India…but then you came back to Caprarola. How much Caprarola affects your creations and your ideas?
Staying in Caprarola is 50% of the work. First of all, because it’s not a place, it is like a genius with whom I have a deep relationship. The ancients thought that every place was inhabited by the genius of the place that was called Genius Loci, and this genius could decide to give gifts and make favors to those who lived there and who managed to enter into a relationship with him, in short, he would do that for those who he liked. I feel very close to the genius of Caprarola. I feel it gives me so much: the land where I grew up, a land that has always given me a lot.
I am a farmer’s daughter and this experience, this relationship with the land has always been useful for me. My family taught me that there is a season to sow, one to plough the land, to work it, to work hard. And then there is the season when you can collect what you have sown. And this also applies to my work. And then there are also those seasons that go wrong because a storm comes and takes everything away. If I didn’t know this, I probably would have stopped a long time ago. Caprarola gives me so much as a land and it’s also the place where I feel at home, the place of the family. In fact, my bags are homemade, it is important for me to tell this.
These bags are homemade with the beauty and care of all things that are homemade, like homemade jam. My “homemade” bags absorb all that energy and care for things that are done well.
However, Caprarola gives me so much for another reason: for me it’s an extended family that makes me feel welcomed and “spurred”. The country cares for you. Even the relationship you have with death here is different: all people who slowly leave, leave you something. This closeness to death makes you feel life even more. This country puts you in front of the true relationships of life and, therefore, also the ones with death. And here’s another rhythm. And it seems like if this precious rhythm “drives” what we do.
Cares for you.
Craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability. How do these three values space in your Brand?
There is so much innovation in what we do and we need to make craftsmanship innovative too. Craftsmanship and sustainability are two words that for me go hand in hand because being artisans means knowing the value of things that are done with your hands and therefore being in harmony with the world and this is sustainable. I want people who work in my laboratory and in my company to be happy. For me it’s something very important. Sustainable means that when you do it, it makes you feel good. Sustainability is not just related to materials, that is only the surface. Sustainable is the artisan work, the one that brings you back to the times of the human, of the man. What makes you feel good.
In particular, we have had a real experience of what sustainability means. We are used to think of the production process as a world in which we only produce, produce and produce. But it makes sense only to a certain point.
So, I want to tell you about our experience with Manù. It’s a very delicate thing to say, of which I don’t speak very often, I always try to make the situation speak for itself. Manù is my assistant with down syndrome who is anything but down, she’s totally up.
…sustainable means that, when you do it, you’re happy.
This is sustainable craftsmanship: a place in which there is room for everyone, in which each of us, with his own peculiarities, talents and gifts, manages to find his space. Manù in my company is essential in the same way that is essential Simona who deals with the whole research of materials and manages the contacts with the suppliers, as well as Massimo who takes care of all craftsmanship.
Essential is also my brother Agostino who takes care of all the rest. This is our greatest luxury: we can allow someone to take care of us, of our harmony, wellbeing and enthusiasm. It’s something that looks at people as something wonderful where the most important thing is not the product but what you are doing to carry out talented resources.
This is what sustainable craftsmanship is.
Nobody knows these things, we won’t “wave” them around. Another thing we always do before sending the bags to our clients is to call the priest who blesses them (laughs)…but nobody knows! But I know that those are blessed bags, and somehow you can feel it, I am sure. And many women afterwards confirm me that they feel and recognize the value enclosed in the bags. I believe it’s worth saving money to have a bag like mine or the one that many others make, which are full of values. The bag is just a bag but there’s so much more in here.
The bag is just a bag, but there’s so much more in here.
“Ariel: a bag must guard an entire world”. What is your world inside Ariel?
So, you have to know that my collections are always born after something that happens to me. It’s such a complex and hard process that then becomes part of my life. So, I began to make bags to explain what was happening inside me.
In particular, Ariel was born when I started taking a course about the “10 Commandments” and this path was one of the most revolutionary things I have ever witnessed. Obviously, many opportunities came along. My imagination took a step ahead. Ariel is a bubble of oxygen, those that are created under the deep see and that afterwards reach the sky
So, it talks about the path of this very delicate bubble from the sea to the sky. For me it represents the bag of the Queen of the Sea. When you see it, you don’t understand what it is: you don’t even understand that it’s a bag. You see it and a part of your deep self, something that every woman has, the Queen who lives inside you, recognizes the bag and says: “That’s a beautiful thing for me!”.
A woman who sees Ariel is a woman whose inner Queen explodes, comes out. She dominates her. It’s a bag that when you carry it in your hand, forces you to a certain type of posture. Beauty is not a question of connotation, it’s not a question of weight. Beauty is a choice. Those who choose to wake up, to remember to be beautiful. This thing is powerful, for me it’s a great satisfaction. Even in a context where we are all victims of consumerism, when you see something beautiful, you recognize it. Fashion has to bring out the best, and creative people must be able to create it.
Beauty is not about features, is not about your weight. Beauty is a choice.
I think there is also a fine line between your bags and the world of art. Have you been influenced by a particular art movement or by literature?
I love traveling and I also love reading. I love the lives of Saints, artists that have influenced my work so much. Such as the book “History of a Soul” by Saint Teresa of Lisieux. We all want to do something that goes beyond time, which is full of meaning. Saying that my work has something to do with art, is something that you perceive (laughs). However, if you perceive it, it’s true.
I live this job as a vocation: at some point in my life I found myself immersed in this adventure and I don’t think it was a coincidence, it’s never a coincidence. It’s an adventure in which I try to grow up now. Because in the end, as in all the relationships of life, or you suffer from them or you live them and use them to enjoy the happiness of the journey. So, with all the difficulties this work brings, it becomes your pilgrimage, your growth. I tell my personal journey as a woman throughout my collections.
What about your last collection? What are the inspirations and the materials?
The latest collection is about female intimacy, on the Venus that lives there. It was interesting to see how many artists of the past have “expressed” the Venus that lives inside women. For example, Matisse, who inspired me: I was very impressed by his way of experiencing femininity. When he represents this Venusian aspect he does it in two ways: he represents the woman who sleeps, in the dream world, so totally unreachable; or he represents her while talking with her girlfriends, in that intimacy that you can only have with a friend.
In another part of the collection, I talked about another aspect of the Venus that lives inside the woman, with two talented artists who work porcelain in their small shop here in Caprarola: Anna and Paola Marinuzzi. Together we developed what was supposed to be the substratum in which Botticelli’s Venus placed her feet as soon as she came out from the water. For this reason, we made all these leaves and stones in Limoges porcelain.
And then we told the “Venus in Fur” by Roman Polański. Indeed, we worked with varnish, another aspect of femininity that represents seduction.
Can you tell us the name of a woman in the fashion world, or of the past or the present who inspires you?
There are so many, how can I pick just one! So, before we mentioned Saint Teresa of Lisieux. Another woman I would certainly like to meet is Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet, the sharpest pen in the world. Then there is a woman of whom I am now reading the diaries, Etty Hillesum, another woman who knows how to use words very well. I am fascinated by women who can tell through words what are their inner growth. She talks about her everyday life but it’s one of the most adventurous lives I have ever read about, she lives things very intensely. Same for Santa Teresa of Lisieux, who was one of the strongest women, very passionate.
They were all women who have pulled out their passion, who have been and still are revolutionizing the world. Another woman I would like to meet is Lauren Bacall, just to learn how to move the head like she did: I am so fascinated by that kind of sensuality and how she knew to flirt…it was beautiful! Then she had that wonderful romance (with Humphrey Bogart). Another one I admire is also Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These are the women who left their print in the world, that changed the life of too many people to go unnoticed: how many women have followed the dream of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for example, and have dedicated their life to that kind of mission?
A curiosity: what are the things that Benedetta has in the bag: thoughts and objects that can never miss?
I can’t tell you what there is, but I can say those things that are always missing. The keys, so I always have to climb over the gate to get into the house. The tissues are always missing: I admire a lot those women who always have them in their bag, I find it something very elegant. Surely, I always have a diary and a pen, a couple of books. Not always there is money because I’m really dissociated from money and this is not a good thing. We should learn to always carry a lipstick.
Now, I tell you the names of some of your bags and you tell me a word, an adjective, a person that comes to your mind…
Carmen: the bag of affection, it was born because of my need of cuddles. Carmen comforted me when I needed it. I had just broken up with my fiancé, but I had to design a collection, so I interpreted it as an antidote to overcome the end of a love story. Carmen was the first phase of the end of a romance, it was the bag that I used to recover when I was about to collapse, when I was in bad condition, when I was about to cry: Carmen was the bed and the sofa, the only place I wanted to be at that point, and I had to make you feel that moment too. When you touch it, you feel it can be your friend.
The big wave: Poetry, it’s the Queen too.
Brigitte: from Brigitte Bardot, it’s irreverent.
Princess: well it’s a poem, even in the wind that moves it above.
Smiling moon: Relationship. Because it’s the relationship with our lunar part.
For you, dreaming is something very important. Even in your packaging’s creations you mention: “If you can dream it you can become it”.
Partially, it’s like that, but I don’t think it depends entirely on us. We are put in a path so with the expression “If you can dream it you can be it”, you are asked to listen to the voice that you have inside and to follow it: but often it’s not an easy thing, especially today. If you are a designer who wants to try to emerge, it’s very complicated, even if you can always think it’s possible.
You are on a path where you must also accept that this dream of yours will somehow “shapes” you, and then that dream becomes something that changes you a lot.
Dreams are like stars, they allow you to follow a path. If you think about it, men in the past used to follow the stars to get the right direction in the desert, but you never know what you could find in the desert: that star only guides you, you must be crazy if you decide to cross the desert alone with all the things that might happen there. In the end, stars are far away, you don’t know the future. Getting out of the desert, that’s another matter. Then there are other stars, like the comet stars, the ones we have to recognize in life because everyone has its own comet star.
Dreams are like stars, they allow you to follow a path.
What is Benedetta’s dream?
My dream has changed so many times. It’s a dream that changes with me, depending on the choices I make. Maybe in the past my dream was to build a company in Caprarola and be able to show it. There is something inside of us that asks us to fulfill our life but it’s not something necessarily linked to something real: there are people who only have the money to do things and there are people who only have dreams.
I don’t have the ambition to become a multinational company, for me the most important thing is to know that I am growing up as a woman doing what I do. I feel like I am getting a lot from what I do, from the people I meet, from what I learn. It’s a question that challenges me: how can you tell right now what’s your dream? I just realized that everything I thought in the past about my future is completely different now. I am just enjoying each moment see what happens next. Sometimes it’s about accepting things for what they are, accepting your own limits, understanding what are the compromises that you can’t accept.
Airstream Motorhome, one of those produced between the ’60s and’ 70s. I found two in England, I want to repair one and go around Europe! Or I would like to do the Paris Daquar or Paris Beijing. All you find on the street is the material that you can then use to bring out the genius: drawings collections, enter houses, meet craftsmen, produce pieces on the spot…what a wonder! For me, a creative gypsy, the idea of taking a trip and creating a collection based on the trip is precisely the dream. And then, this is the cherry on top of the cake, inviting people on the camper and during the evening you stop and offer barbecue to everyone: you must know that Benedetta Bruzziches in the evening offers dinner! (laughs) All people gathered together around the camper. A “fashion on the road” project.
For me, a creative gypsy, the idea of taking a trip and creating a collection based on the trip is precisely the dream.
Would you like to add something?
There’s something I’d like to talk about. I receive a lot of messages from women who want to start doing something, who have ideas: they are people who would like to do something beautiful and ask me for advice, I don’t really know what to say because with my work I know it’s really difficult. It’s a delicate topic. We have to continue to make this happen. To have other people like me who alone are launched into this “Bronx”, who think to produce their own collections and find their place in the world where we are small fishes eaten by huge companies that take the whole market.
I hate to call women who wear my bags “consumers”. They are my women: on one hand there is a whole part of consumers who are totally conditioned by the massive marketing of companies that we find everywhere and that have almost completely removed our cabability of choice. We don’t know why we buy something, there is something that hypnotizes us but in reality, are we really choosing that thing? We don’t know, it’s the nebulous world of marketing where there is all this confusion that makes consumers buy without any kind of awareness.
On the other hand, there are many women who want to invest their time and efforts “marrying” a cause: not just buying products, they are opening their eyes to find out what’s behind what we are buying. This means to shed light on those realities that tomorrow can be our own reality, the one of your children: if you choose to buy a bag made by Benedetta Bruzziches, you know that you are not buying just a bag, but you’re “marrying” the cause of someone who in the future can represent an opportunity for your daughter who wants to undertake the same path. There must always be someone who searches for something special and why it is done like that, because it tells the story of a reality that still exists and that can represent your children’s dream.
It’s not just a product, it’s an opportunity to teach and to make possible what now can be considered a sort of miracle, because we started without money, we have spent all resources and now we are a company that produces some of the most beautiful bags in the world.
It’s not just a product, it’s an opportunity to teach and to make possible what now can be considered a sort of miracle.
For instance, why did you interview me today? Because you saw a bright light that made you think “hey, I believe in this miracle”. We are not a multinational company that has “no face”. We are here, facing each other. And that is what we must return to do: we have to help each other. That’s the beautiful thing. Women: think what are you going to choose, and think well. Think about your friends that have decided to undertake this adventure. Think of your kids, who one day would like to do something important and they will think that is actually possible. These big companies are “eating” us.
Between “small ones” we must help each other and I want to stay small, I want to know the people I work with, I want to sell that bag once a year to a woman who can speak with me directly. During press days I want to interact with the media, I want to meet them all.
I want to live this life also throughout my job.