When you work, as Team GRAZIA does, in a world filled with spectacular fashion, bling and bags, often carried by the world’s most famous and stylish women, it’s almost easy to become immune to how special some pieces really are.

Unless that is, you have snaps of a Lautem bag illuminated on your computer screen. That’s precisely what happened when yours truly had this image (below) open on mine while researching this interview.

Words like “amazing”, “OMG” and queries of “what’s that?” shot at me from colleagues as they walked past. “Ooh, that’s cool,” said beauty editor Chrisanthi. “Beautiful” was the quip from fashion director Aileen – high praise indeed given she sees the best of the best in the fashion arena almost every day. And of course, given it’s growing raft of celebrity and street style fans, we’re not the only ones who are wowed.

Lautem, Euler BAG in Ocean (A/Symettria collection), $1355. SHOP NOW

Understated, yes, but these are the bags the phrase talking point was made for, and the fact that they’re functional, ethically hand-made and timeless just adds to their appeal. And at a price point of that ranges from around $995 for a wrist clutch up to $1600 for the premium pony-skin bag, Lautem is far more accessible than many other equally luxurious big-name brands.

We haven’t heard this kind of buzz about a new bag label since Mansur Gavriel hit the scene with its (now multi-award-winning) bucket style.

The Spanish brand’s recent arrival to the Australian market takes us to lucky 13 in its countries of retail, but as Elena Garcia Silva – who founded Lautem almost four years ago with her husband – points out, its success to date is just the tip of the iceberg. Menswear and shoes are on the horizon. Lucky us.

Solange Knowles with her Lautem TT
Credit: Supplied


YOUR BACKGROUND AS AN ARCHITECT IS OBVIOUS IN YOUR DESIGNS. WHY THE DECISION TO CHANGE CAREER? I don’t think I changed my career, but I needed to do something different after working for years for a stressful important government project that completely burnt me out.

WHERE DID THE CONCEPT FOR LAUTEM COME FROM? We launched the brand during the summer of 2014. Together with my husband, we thought it was the right moment t to create a project that we could finally call ours after working for more than 10 years in different projects and having achieved enough experience, even if not related with the fashion world.

WHY BAGS RATHER THAN OTHER SCULPTURAL PIECES LIKE JEWELLERY OR SHOES? I especially love bags and shoes. I had the opportunity to spend some time in Ubrique, doing some practice with the artisans that are now producing our bags and I was completely amazed by their skilfulness and their technique. I tried to push their technique to the limit to produce something different and there it starts the Structurae collection.

Lautem, Fermat tote in Siena (A/Symmetria Collection), $1735. SHOP NOW

OFF-WHITE’S VIRGIL ABLOH IS ANOTHER FAMOUS AND VERY POPULAR DESIGNER NOW WHO STARTED HIS CAREER AS AN ARCHITECT. WHAT BENEFITS DOES THAT TRAINING BRING IN THE FASHION ARENA? There are a lot of architects recycled in the fashion world. Gianfranco Ferré probably has been the most famous. But in the end, as Massimo Vignelli said if you design one thing you can design everything. It is a matter of discipline and how you face the blank sheet.

WHAT ARE THE PARALLELS BETWEEN BAG DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN? Architecture is a discipline of design, the most complete probably, so there is not much difference between designing one thing or another. It is all a matter of proportions, volumes, details, solutions and functionality.

DO YOU MISS ARCHITECTURE OR THINK YOU’LL EVER RETURN TO IT? The creative act is always stimulant be it a bag, a building or furniture. At the moment Lautēm is taking 110 percent of my time, but maybe in the future, there will be more time for other projects.

Lautem, My Funny Valentine bag (STRUCTRAE COLLECTION), $1375. SHOP NOW

SOLANGE AND EMMA WATSON ARE AMONGST LAUTEM’S CELEBRITY FANS. WHO HAVE YOU BEEN MOST EXCITED TO SEE CARRYING ONE OF YOUR BAGS? I must confess that what excites me more is receiving nice feedbacks from real customers. I am really proud to sell an object that is beautiful and well executed. It cost us a lot to find to best leather and hardware, but now we are very happy with the results and happy customers are the best reward.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK A WOMAN’S BAG REFLECTS HER OWN PERSONALITY AND SENSE OF STYLE? I think that bags and shoes can tell a lot of a personality of a woman, they have the power to change completely a look. Practicality is also very important to me, but every bag has its function. They are not the kind of bags you use to go shopping at the supermarket.

Lautem, Temptation in White (STRUCTRAE COLLECTION), $1305. SHOP NOW

YOU MENTIONED THE SPANISH TOWN OF UBRIQUE WHERE YOUR BAGS ARE MADE. CAN YOU DESCRIBE IT? Time goes at a slower pace in Ubrique. There is no hurry there. It is a small white village surrounded by mountain and it is really magic – you have the sensation that time somehow stop there. You need to have a lot of patience and stay always focused to produce those pieces of art. I lived there for four months because of a friend that convinced me to go there.

ETHICAL PRODUCTION IS ONE OF YOUR COMPANY’S PILLARS. HOW DOES THAT INFLUENCE YOUR WORK AND PRODUCTS? It is how we decide to live our lives and it is a matter also to try to leave a better world. Money is important, but we want also that everyone in the process has its right reward and could live also a good life. At the same time, we don’t want to enter in the fast fashion circle. We try to sell beautiful and timeless objects at a fair price that makes you happy. Buy less and buy better it is also part of the brand DNA.

Lautem, The Shorty George in Yellow, $995. SHOP NOW

DO YOU DESIGN WITH A PARTICULAR CUSTOMER IN MIND? When I first designed the Structurae collection, it was not meant to become commercial. It was an exercise for my creative pleasure. I sewed personally my first “My Funny Valentine” with some help from the artisans. So I guess I design mainly for myself, but now that everyone can buy my creations it surprises me how different kind of people get interested in them.

WHO DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR TYPICAL CUSTOMER? They are bags with a strong personality, so they are not for everyone. I think you must be a strong woman, but at the same time, more than one customer talked us back how they feel empowered and secure while wearing them and that is what really makes me happy.

Lautem, My Funny Valentine bag in Pure Black (STRUCTRAE COLLECTION), $1650. SHOP NOW
Lautem, Night and Day in Pure Black (STRUCTRAE COLLECTION), $1210. SHOP NOW

WHAT IS THE LUJADO TECHNIQUE AND WHY IS IT SO INTEGRAL TO YOUR PIECES? Lujado is important because it gives durability to the bag. It consists of thin layer of plastic paint covering and giving protection to the border. It is applied by hand and it costs a lot of hours of work and patience and increases a lot the price of the bag. That’s why it’s only common in luxury bag production.

WHICH IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE FROM THE CURRENT COLLECTION? Now I use the Euler in Eggplant a lot. I love that colour and Euler has a very practical size.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER DESIGNING SHOES OR PIECES FOR MEN NEXT? We will launch next year a business line that will have men as the main target, even though it will be quite a-gender and I think that it will good also for business women. Shoes are a big passion as well. Maybe in the future.

GALLERY: other styles in the current Lautem collection