Anna and Emilia DeMauro Stitch Together a New Enterprise in East Hampton

In their East Hampton studio, sisters Anna and Emilia DeMauro make handbags and accessories from sumptuous Italian leather. Building a brand-new business can be a daunting proposition, though it’s usually less so with the support of a partner. Even better is when that partner is your sister, as Anna and Emilia DeMauro can attest. Working out of Anna’s art studio on Town Lane in East Hampton, the siblings have joined forces to make one-of-a-kind bags, belts, purses, and accessories from sumptuous imported Italian leather.

The idea for their new venture bubbled up when Anna, a sculptor and painter, learned how to work with cowhides from Florence-based leather expert Sandra Ricci during a recent trip to Italy. After returning to the States, she shared her experience with Emilia, a Springs-based Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, and DeMauro + DeMauro was born.

To make their bespoke leather pieces, which the sisters describe as “Hamptons chic meets Florentine classic,” they start with a drawing. The design inspiration can come from anywhere, but the end result is all about “timeless forms that are functional and stylish,” says Emilia. The handmade construction process is labor-intensive and shows in the details, adds Anna, who notes that the unique pieces “will last forever.”

DeMauro + DeMauro working in their studio

DeMauro + DeMauro handbags are have embellishments added such as buckles and zippers. Once the initial sketch is complete, theydraw the pattern on a piece of newspaper in order to get a sense of dimension and proportion. Then they cut the pattern in canvas or muslin, using poster board or matte board as a protective barrier between the fabric and the workbench, before stitching up the prototype. After giving their mockup the green light, they turn their attention to the real thing, working with Italian leather hides that have been hand-stained with vegetable dye.

Anna, who has a very steady hand, begins by laying a swath of hide atop a piece of Plexiglas (above left). Using a T-square as a guide, she gently scores the leather with a tool called a divider, then cuts the leather with a razor blade into the pattern pieces. Next, she places the leather on corkboard and punches out holes with an awl, marking where the material will be stitched together, and uses the divider to score lines that denote seam allowances.

DeMauro + DeMauro handbags are made by cutting the leather pieces to stitching them together

The sisters hand-stitch each piece with heavyweight Italian waxed linen thread, double-stitching with a saddle or box stitch for extra strength. Finishing touches might include Italian silver and brass buckles, hand-braided tassels or other ornamentation, and cut fringe, which requires extreme concentration. The time needed to produce one bag, which can cost from $400 to $2,000, ranges from 12 to 36 hours.

Tools used to make DeMauro + DeMauro handbags  DeMauro + DeMauro handbags

“It’s a lot of work,” says Emilia, “but in the end, that’s what makes each piece so special. The finishing touches and the details make our bags stand out from the crowd.”

Buckles and zippers are stitched to the handbags

A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Sister Act.