Leather goods designer and artistic director Serena Cancellier often likes to say that she designs “objects that get a marvellous reaction”. This Paris-based Italian believes that every creation should have an emotional dimension, a spirit, like the Rock bag that she presented at the 35th Festival International de la Mode in Hyères in 2020. Having grown up in a little village in Piedmont as part of an intellectually enlightened family – her grandfather was a childhood friend of Pasolini, her father a philosopher, her mother a Sinophile who opened a Steiner school for her daughter – Serena has always had an insatiable curiosity about the world and a sense of connection with others. From her mother, who was blind, she soon learnt a love of the dark. “We would turn off the lights and she would say, ‘Look at the dark, it is very beautiful.’ We would imagine woods, forests, rocks. It was magical and I still have a very animistic vision of the world.”
After beginning studies in philosophy and then architecture, Serena enrolled “instinctively and with a desire to make things” in the fashion department at the Milan European Institute of Design. This was followed by years of fruitful collaborations, with Marc Jacobs, Bottega Veneta, Vionnet, Christian Louboutin, Prada, Balmain, and a few It bags to boot. In light of this success, and far from the over-inflated egos of some of her peers, Serena displays a rare conviction: “It is the designer who is at the service of the craftsman.” Respect. In 2018 she opened her own studio in Paris, enrolling shortly after at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM), and today designs leather goods collections for an Italian luxury brand, whose name she cannot divulge – forever elegant – as well as for Gianvito Rossi, Isabel Marant and Nick Fouquet in LA. She also develops projects for the VGO gallery in Grasse. Unable to conceive of not sharing, she participates in Première Vision trend consultations and leads workshops in Paris and abroad. It was during the first workshop that she gave in Colombia in 2019 that she met Mercedes Salazar. From their immediate complicity and complementarity was born @casa.remedios, place for sharing and exploration. Objects that get a marvelous reaction on one side and that are eminently collectable on the other side.
Colombian designer of extraordinary jewelry and objects whose reputation, particularly among the international Gypset, is well established, Mercedes Salazar has placed artistic fecundity, poetic imagination and respect for the craftsman’s skill at the heart of her daily life. “My creations tell stories and stem from the conviction that objects link mankind to the universe,” she confides, an approach that doesn’t fail to find echo in the Magic Realism that is so emblematic of Latin-American literature, that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in particular. It was during a trip to Mexico, at the age of 18, that Mercedes developed a passion for making jewelry and designed her first pieces. On return to Bogota, she established her brand in 2001, traveling tirelessly around Colombia in order to learn more about the various craft techniques still practiced by some 200 communities around the country. “I immediately understood that by working with craftsmen, designers can contribute to the preservation of skills that are disappearing, that it goes well beyond handiwork, it is about the transmission of information from one person to another.” From her pink-walled home–studio, today she designs talisman jewelry – she doesn’t hesitate referring to some of her earrings as “ear-hugs” – as well as woven bags or baskets. For several seasons she has also been making objects for the home, all made locally. So it’s a double commitment, both cultural and social, that drives her.
Whether her models are branded Mercedes Salazar or developed for specific collaborations – for fashion designers such as Manish Arora or hotels in the Seychelles (Mercedes Salazar x The Luxury Collection), Mexico, Doha or Miami – everything comes from designing with abandon, from color and from materials. With equal enthusiasm she turns her eye to semi-precious stones and gold, or straw, raffia, wire or recycled PET. “I love the possibility that humans have of working with all materials, moving from idea to object.” These words, coupled with the sudden lucidity of her meeting with Serena Cancellier, the friendship that followed and their shared respect for craftsman’s handwork, sheds light on the origins of CASA REMEDIOS. Unique handmade pieces, 100% made in Colombia, all glowing with a magical benevolent presence.