Interior of Carlos Falchi’s new Artisan Workshop in East Hampton
Carlos Falchi’s exclusive python lifesaver and surfboard
A painting by Carlos Falchi
Brazilian-born accessories designer Carlos Falchi has come a long way from bussing tables in Manhattan. Since those humble beginnings, he’s toured with Tina Turner, designed costumes and accessories for Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley and today works with famed costume designers like Patricia Field. His eponymous collection counts actress Sharon Stone and designer Vera Wang as fans.
Now Falchi has just opened a new store, Artisan Workshop, on Main Street in East Hampton, that features luxurious, exotic accessories and beachwear of his own design as well as pieces by Isabella Fiore. (Where else can you find a python surfboard and life preserver?) Dear friends, Falchi and actress Susan Sarandon sit down to talk style, summer and the new shop.
SUSAN SARANDON: You went from bussing tables at Max’s Kansas City in the ’60s to becoming one of the premier luxury accessory designers today. What about your work do you think has made you so successful?
CARLOS FALCHI: It’s been quite a journey, and I feel really honored and blessed to be able to do what I love. When I first started designing, I think people were attracted to my work because it was unusual and something they weren’t accustomed to seeing. As a general rule, I always break the rules.
SS: You’ve instigated so many key accessory trends that have revolutionized the industry. What were some of your favorites? CF: The buffalo bag will always be important to me, as it embodies the ideology that I try to channel in every design. I made this deconstructed style at a time when all the popular bag designs were structured and highly constricted, so the established design houses didn’t accept the nature of its design. Its cult-like success gave me the confidence to trust my instinct, even if that meant breaking with convention and going against the grain. I also continue to return to my original collage concept, because it best showcases the diverse beauty of exotic skins. It emphasizes their surprise element. I created our totes when women were entering the workforce in strong numbers in the early 70s. They needed a stylish bag that could hold everything they needed to accompany their power suits. The tote was sexy and also highly functional.
SS: What I love about your designs is that you truly have your own signature style. What sets your collections apart from other designers? CF: I didn’t start out here in America with the intent of becoming an accessories designer. I just have a genuine love and passion for art and beautiful, exotic skins and leathers; these eventually led me to design. I still hold true to this philosophy today, and every bag made in our company is made by hand and overseen by your truly. Our handbags are inspired by art and an appreciation of the process rather than fast fashion.
SS: What are some of your passions outside of work? How do they inform your designs? CF:I’m lucky that I really love what I do, and much of the time that I do not spend at work is spent pursuing other forms of artistic nature. Painting is one of my favorites; I particularly love painting in my garden—it's so relaxing! After I paint something, I will usually rework the canvas and add in some type of collage aspect by adding exotics and different textures.
SS: I’m excited about the new Artisan Workshop store. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
CF: It has a beach-bohemia feel, with beautiful white wood panels, chevroncovered walls and Moroccan hanging lanterns. It will showcase an exclusive collection, which includes beautiful ombre, hand-painted oversize clutches, canvas and water-snake totes and small leather goods such as caiman flask covers, iPad cases and BlackBerry and iPhone covers. The Hamptons is this beautifully crafted balance of chic opulence and laid-back casual. Opening a store in a setting where I feel that my product and art will be appreciated and can really thrive is a huge accomplishment. I’m really looking forward to seeing the response.
SS: What are you most looking forward to about summer?
CF: I love to go to the beach and spend time diligently building my sandcastles, only to watch them be washed away the next day. Other than that, spending time with my girls, Missy, Juliet and Kate.
SS: What are some of your favorite Hamptons places and activities? CF:I love bicycling to town for ice cream at Scoop du Jour with my girls and spending time on the beach in East Hampton—and who doesn’t love The Golden Pear’s coffee? Missy and I love to visit the nurseries and pick up some fresh fruit and veggies from the fruit stands on the way home. We have so many dear friends who live in the Hamptons, so it’s great to visit.
SS: I think of you as a designer who has produced an atmosphere that seems so friendly, it’s almost like family. Now you actually have family, your daughter Kate, working with you. What’s that like? CF: It’s a great addition to the team, as Missy and I have already been working together for almost 30 years. And even having Juliet chime in from time to time is great. It’s definitely a very family-oriented atmosphere—even the people outside of our family we work with feel like family, too, as many of them have been with us since the company started. That being said, working with family can be challenging at times, but we speak our own language and share a bond that is really special and unique. Being able to work with Kate and Missy is incredible and really gives me so much pride.
SS: You worked with Elvis. Whom of today’s icons would you be interested in working with? CF:I always welcome the opportunity to collaborate with people who have a vision for quality and individuality; I feel it keeps my designs fresh and significant. I would love to see Lady Gaga in a Carlos Falchi python outfit at the next Grammys. Jay-Z is such an icon; I would love to create a men's leather accessory line with him. Justin Bieber... once he's old enough to vote, we can revisit this question.
Artisan Workshop, 38 Main St., East Hampton, 324-5859