By Alex Y. Vergara
Images by Noel Pabalate
In less than a year, Mai Mai Cojuangco has again collaborated with Rica Lorenzo of Idée Clothing Store with a second collection of unique and exquisite ladies’ bags made in Italy. Dubbed as Demetria + Idée, the exclusive line consists of the Bucket and the two-in-one Demi, which the Florence-based Cojuangco, a trained modelista or craftswoman, designed herself.
The Bucket, which comes in fuchsia, chartreuse, and cerulean, is accented with brown stripes and topstitching. It can be used as a handbag or, thanks to its long, detachable leather strap, slung over the shoulder. Although each bag has the same angular and boxy shape, Cojuangco made sure that no two bags are exactly alike.
Apart from the position of the brown stripes, each Bucket, which is also lined in soft, exquisite leather, is accented with a hand-cut and hand-sewn printed silk scarf or foulard that doubles as the bag’s opening.
Once you buy Cojuangco’s Bucket, that bag is yours and yours alone. The likelihood of you bumping into another woman with the same Bucket bag is slim. To begin with, the total number of Bucket and Demi bags Cojuangco brought with her from Italy is probably no more than the number of one’s toes and fingers combined.
And if you do find yourself in the same room with that woman, your respective Bucket bags will still look different because of the scarves and placement of brown stripes. Both Bucket and Demi, which come with a box, dust bag, and care card, are priced at P49,850 each.
“I researched and went to vintage shops in Italy in search of the scarves,” said Cojuangco. “They’re made of silk and are one-off. Even bags with the same color come with different hand-sewn scarves. This one, for instance, has dog prints, which could readily appeal to a woman who likes dogs. The other one has a warm yellow-gold tone that complements the bag’s apple green color.”
The Demi, which is named after Cojuangco’s daughter Demetria, possesses two personalities, said its creator: With a shoulder strap, it’s a smart and convenient bag for day; without it, it instantly turns into an elegant yet modern clutch by night.
Its design came about after Cojuangco noticed that today’s women, including herself, hardly have the time to go home from the office and change bags for a more formal or dressy evening event. Not a few women now want bags that are practical and roomy enough for day, and dressy, compact, and elegant enough for night.
“I guarantee you that the Demi has a different personality when you wear it like this,” she said, as she slung the Demi over her shoulder. “Once you take the shoulder strap out, the look changes instantly. It now looks more formal and fit for evening.”
Cojuangco even tapped the services of an Italian bronzista, an artisan who exclusively does bronze and other metal objects, to help her fashion the Demi’s metal casings based on a pair of molds. The bag, which is like one big pillbox or compact powder case, also comes with two holes that house a pair of magnetic snaps.
“The guy hasn’t made a bag in his life,” she said, referring to the bronzista. “The idea was for him to make a pair of metal frames that would fit snugly.”
Every element that makes up both the Bucket and the Demi, from the leather down to the mold and hardware, is made in Italy. Like the Bucket, the Demi is also lined in leather. For the meantime, it comes in black, red, and navy.
“Everything you see is from Italy. Only their designer is Filipino,” said Cojuangco, who lives most of the time in Italy.
Unknown to many of her countrymen, Cojuangco has been designing bags for other companies and individuals within and outside Italy for almost 17 years now. To prepare for it, she first got her hands dirty, sometimes hurting herself accidentally in the process, studying and later working as a modelista.
“I studied the science and math that go into designing and making bags,” she said. “I know the basics, concepts, and terminologies behind it. But it takes decades of practice to be great at it. These days I collaborate with artisans who do bags based on my designs.”
She and Lorenzo first collaborated last April. And how are Filipino women responding to her bags?
“Women I’ve talked to love the idea that the Bucket is one of a kind,” she said. “They’ve also seen the beauty and practicality behind the Demi. I like the idea of giving women something that will last them a very long time. I’m not out to compete with established designer brands. What I’m doing is something totally different and unique from what they do.”
Idée Clothing Store is located at 2263 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. Open weekdays, 10am to 6pm, Saturdays, by appointment. For bookings and inquiries, call (2) 833-9763. Follow
@ideeclothingstore on Instagram