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THE COFFA BAG-A TRADITIONAL TREND

Photography by Artem Beliaikin

A DESIGN MARVEL WORN BY THE MOST CHIC WOMEN OF THE GLOBE, THE COFFA SICILIANA IS A TIMELESS MUST-HAVE FOR A PERFECTED LOOK.

Words By Alessandra Di Perna

Born as a utility among the agricultural substratum of Italy, the Coffa is the iconic basket of Sicilian rural heritage, traditionally used to carry earth or ocean products by farmers and fishermen. Easy to remember are famous illustrations of Coffa variations filled with all types of goods, saddled on mules, facilitating transportation between ports and cities on mountain tops, where exhausted labour workers were required to shift heavyweight after a long day of work.

These bags, originally from Sicily, are characterised by the material used to make them: the “curina”, describing the inner, softer and most resistant part of the Sicilian Dwarf Palm leaves. This special plant finds its perfect habitat in the warm and stony soils of the Italian island, although in recent years has become increasingly threatened by urbanisation of rural areas.

However, Coffa’s traditional craft process has not been so easily lost yet. The leaves are removed and sundried during the warmest summer months; before the spines are subsequently removed, creating what are known as cords. These cords are then usually braided into unrefined and curvilinear shapes with arched borders, in a strong net, with split ends protruding out from the braid. For a more refined design, artisans may opt for an internal leather sac and a bright foulard, representing the sea and Sicilian landscape. Local artisans then often get to work embellishing with pieces such as mirrors, medallions and thread, each masterpiece usually taking almost two days to finish.

W Magazine (left), Net-a-Porter, Loewe (final image)

While this procedure is now replicated by machines worldwide for industrial production, many designers are returning to Sicily to find local craftsmen who respect the traditional craftsmanship used to create these iconic bags.

In recent years, contemporary designers have taken this accessory and reworked it to offer a more “millennial” alternative, often forming them into mini, maxi or bucket bags, appealing to the mass market and more specifically, the Metropolitan woman, with a countryside touch.

 

Dolce and Gabbana, with Stefano and Domenico’s cultural background and Sicilian origins, have been pioneers for such trends, being the first to expose the Coffa on an international stage at Milan Fashion Week. Since then, in following seasons, many designers have included similar straw bags in their collections: Prada, Loewe and Jacquemus being a notable few.

Dolce & Gabbana, Vogue

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