Monday, April 10, 2006

The reveal

I got one lonely curious reader inquiring about the origin of my Happy Bag, so I must be true to my word and reveal it.

Don't you get tired sometimes of seeing the same brands ostentatiously displayed just about everywhere--Prada, LV, Coach, Gucci, Armani, Fendi, Dior, Chanel, etc.--over and over again, their logos branding us incessantly. They need even not beautiful or comfortable or make you look good: the signature items are instantly recognizable and they sell well because they offer instant recognition and status. (I expressed my intense disapproval of signature items elsewhere).

To me, this is as close as we get to a fashion dictatorship. And, at the point where I see everybody and their sister toting around a LV bag, counterfeit or not (ugly little things!), LV is no longer luxury.

A surprisingly refreshing break with this totalitarian rule may come if you, say, have relatives in an obscure Eastern-European country, which is just happening to undergo a fashion revival. A country like, say, Romania.

That's the origin of my happy bag. To be exact, it comes from the shop of a luxury leather goods maker in a fancy district of Bucharest, Dan Coma. Dan Coma, the husband of a famous Romanian designer, Doina Levintza, designs and produces high-end leather goods in his spectacular home-based shop. The home is a regular pre-WWII villa, huge by any standards, and full of fantastic decorations that blend seamlessly with the couple's fashion productions:
Two Levintza dresses

Shoes by Dan Coma

Leather goods for men by Dan Coma

Bags by Dan Coma

More Levintza dresses on display

Trust me, the display was enough to leave all the Carrie Bradshaws of the world salivating. The shoes, bags, or dresses were all made according to your measurements and specifications; you can even go to the basement and choose your leather or materials from the thousands and thousands of rolls freshly shipped from Italy or France. The array of choices is dizzying, and the prices will, of course, beat any Western competition. My unique Happy Bag (so called because it makes me and anyone around me smile) was $250--pricy, in absolute terms, but a bargain for a fashion luxury item. Dan Coma sells his items under the brand name of Dacoma.

The downside is that you pretty much have to go over there to get an order done. They will do just about anything you ask for, and fast, but if you want to order from here, forget it. They simply don't have the mechanisms in place. They speak mostly French, and English is a tough proposition. Email communication is tenuous at best, with longs gaps in replying. Financial instruments are few and far between (we had to pay cash for all the leather goods we got--my husband also ordered a bunch of items--over $1,000 in cash, if you know what I mean). We tried to place an order with them for months--since last July, in fact, only to be told this January, after much back and forth and miscommunication, that they can't honor our order, they're too backed up. As I type this, their website,, is down--I suspect it has been for a while.

The upside is that everything we ordered is extremely well made (custom-made, of course), durable, gorgeous, and unique. When we were there, they were a pleasure to deal with, and had all the goods delivered to us in record time (less than 2 weeks). Next time I go there (not this year, but maybe the next?) I'll have him make some shoes for me. I've always liked the idea of custom-made shoes, tailored to fit your foot to perfection. I might even have Mrs. Levintza cut a dress for me. At about $600 to $800 per dress, it ain't cheap, but it's 10 times cheaper than haute couture in Paris, at comparable quality (though, possibly, more wearable).


At 6:56 PM, Blogger Henri-V said...

So Scarpediem, after Dan Coma makes a last to fit your feet, would it be easier for his studio to make more shoes-to-fit while you are still in the US?

I wish it was still customary to buy goods from am artisanal craftsperson instead of from a mega-company. I know we still can, but you just have to choose the time involved over the temptation and convenience of name-brands. Good for you -- I hope you get a custom frock the next time you travel to Bucharest, too.

I was late seeing your Happy Bag; very charming and will definitely not be seen in duplicate form on the city streets.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Scarpediem said...

Thanks, Henri V. I love that bag, and wish I could carry it more (for now, I'm toting my laptop and books around most of the time).

I will attempt to get him to make me a pair of shoes next time I get there, and we'll take it from there.

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