Designer works leather into eye-pleasing pieces

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      Having spent several months studying fine arts in Florence, local designer Denise Wilson knows that Italy really does have an appreciation for all things beautiful.

      “And it’s not just something you see in high art, but everything they use in everyday life has an element of design,” says Wilson, who recently sat down with the Straight at a downtown café. “They don’t just use a can opener because it’s a can opener. There has to be something that’s decorative about it.”

      This aesthetic philosophy comes into play with Wilson’s three-year-old Patina collection, based mainly on whimsical wallets ($12 to $34) and leather notebook covers ($40 to $140) accented with Wilson’s artwork. Where Patina takes a lighthearted approach to “all things beautiful”, Wilson’s new high-end label, Bronsino, is way more stylistically decadent, specializing in finely crafted, one-of-a-kind handbags.

      Each purse is named after a European city. There’s the Stockholm slouch ($330), a bohemian hobo-style bag made from napa lamb leather; the Paris ($360), a French tote made with sturdy leather and lined with reclaimed upholstery fabric from France and Italy; and the top seller, the Bilbao ($295), a buttery-soft leather bag that is conveniently the same shape as the average fashion mag. And like most of her purses, the Bilbao comes in vibrant colours like lime green and electric teal, something that many—but not all—of her customers appreciate.

      “I’m always getting ”˜Can you do brown?’ ”˜Can you do black?’” Wilson finally caved and (reluctantly) introduced mainstream shades into her collection this season. “There are so many manufacturers in Indonesia and Thailand doing brown and black. And I don’t want to be competing with mass production.”

      Another product with next to no black is her Bronsino journal covers. These refillable leather sleeves are designed and hand-stitched by Wilson and a few local sewers. Then her husband, Tito Hinojosa, decorates them with everything from original sketches to vintage wallpaper patterns to excerpts from classic Spanish literature, such as Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

      Wilson’s attention to detail is one of the things that got her noticed by ShinyFuzzyMuddy, a 12-woman collective of artists and designers ( ). Earlier this year, Wilson was approached to join the group in time for an exhibit at Video In Studios this weekend (Friday [December 15], 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday [December 16 and 17], noon to 5 p.m.). She’ll be alongside such local creators as Holly Cruise, who will be showcasing items from her jewellery collection, including her whimsical cupcake rings.

      Patina Designs is currently sold at more than a dozen locations in Vancouver, including the Vancouver Art Gallery Gift Shop (750 Hornby Street), Heather Ross [in House] (1517 West 6th Avenue), and Twigg & Hottie (3671 Main Street). Bronsino Designs for Living can be found at more than 10 locations, including Umeboshi Shoes (3638 Main Street), Miss Coquette (4372 West 10th Avenue), and Lark 8th Avenue (152 East 8th Avenue).