Few designers either within Rhode Island or well outside its borders can boast a century-old lineage intertwined with a legacy of haute couture. Argentinean-born, Newport-based Marcela Calvet is the exception. Style, it seems, is in the luxury handbag designer’s DNA. Calvet’s history and legacy is rooted in the Parisian fashion scene of the late 1920s, when it partially acquired the iconic couture label Callot Soeurs (established 1895). “Callot Soeurs was completely absorbed into Calvet in 1937,” Marcela explains. “However, the name was never changed because Callot Soeurs was a well respected and renowned label, while Calvet was known primarily for its award-winning wines in Bordeaux, and the incredible Calvet Museum of Fine Arts in Avignon.” In 2005, she says, “it came time to awaken the fashion aspect of this sleeping beauty from its long slumber. That was when I decided that in the 21st century, the brand had to be known as Calvet.”
Today, Marcela adopts a design and construction philosophy that has not much changed since the 19th century. “Just to give you an idea of how we work at Calvet Paris, only one artisan is in charge of one design from start to finish,” she says. “That translates into a high degree of expertise and extreme attention to detail.” Marcela depends on a team of seasoned artisans with a long heritage of crafting the luxury goods to make the pieces that bear her name. “When you create an element of beauty, you have to keep in mind that your creation has to reunite elements that will make it unique, desirable and appealing; but at the same time, you have to make certain that the finished product possesses the traits that make your designs stand out, not just in terms of aesthetics but in terms of quality in craftsmanship.”
Calvet Paris already had a private global clientele when it operated out of a Bellevue Avenue appointment-only studio, but earlier this spring, Marcela came to the forefront of Newport’s toniest address, opening a retail location reminiscent of a Parisian boutique. Marcela designs the limited edition collections that she says pay homage to the glamour and elegance of the past, as well as the practicality and functionality of the present. “I combine the best attributes to create my beautiful designs so that my handbags will be enjoyed not just today but for many years to come,” she declares. Price points begin in the low $500s, and like many luxury lines, possess an enviable expected longevity and an exclusivity factor.
Though working with clients and sourcing from around the world means a robust passport and a seemingly endless email inbox, she makes sure her world isn’t all work and no play. Says the jetsetter, “We live in such a beautiful part of the world here in New England that we need to make time to enjoy the beauty of our scenery and the company of the wonderful people who are part of our lives.”