Calie Parese is a luxury accessories brand that takes its inspiration from the wide blue skies, dramatic landscapes and rich cultures of Southern Africa. Sisters and co-founders Alice and Catherine Pearse have channelled the sunlit days and horseback adventures of their childhood into a timeless collection of finely crafted crocodile bags and clutches that speak of the grace and beauty of the land, and the spirit of Africa itself.
“We have always loved luxury and been taught to appreciate it,” says Alice. “We want to share African beauty and its adventurous lifestyle with the world, as well as showcase what Southern Africa has to offer in the way of craftsmanship and design excellence.”
Catherine, who graduated from the London College of Fashion, and Alice, who studied at Edinburgh College of Art, decided to take the plunge and launch Calie Parese (a conflation of the sisters’ names) in early 2019, with a tightly edited collection handmade in South Africa.
Calie Parese’s Signature Tote perfectly expresses a love of luxury and African embellishment that fires the sisters’ creativity. The beautiful natural symmetry of Nile crocodile skin is offset by a statement stripe of white leather and chunky gold-plated rings decorating the handles. “The gold rings are a reference to the traditional brass adornments worn by some African tribes,” says Catherine. For Alice, who has studied jewellery-making using the traditional wax carving technique, the ring detail is an ideal marriage of craftsmanship and African culture.
The Signature Collection includes a clutch with gold corner detail and a wallet that echoes the Tote’s gold rings with a gold-plated bar across the front. A high-waisted belt that combines the dark brown, soft-gloss Nile crocodile and slim white leather stripe of the Tote completes the look. Gentlemen can choose from classic wallets and belts made with the same attention to detail and finish.
While Alice is based in London, Catherine has moved back to South Africa to oversee production and ensure the perfection of every piece that leaves for export. “I check everything before it ships to the UK,” she says. “I have a very personal relationship with the manufacturers so I know how every element is made.”
Calie Parese has evolved as a true family business. The sisters’ aunt, a professional photographer, provides the evocative imagery on the company’s website, while Catherine’s boyfriend’s family introduced them to the crocodile skin industry.
“Once our interest in Nile crocodile was sparked, it was a learning curve understanding how to work with skin that is controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES),” says Catherine. Calie Parese guarantees full CITES certification for each of its products. “Our crocodile skins are farmed and tanned under strict licensing controls in South Africa. We take great pride in where we source the crocodile skins from, and in knowing they are ethically and sustainably farmed.” The company also works with Exotic Leather South Africa, a not-for-profit organization that develops best practice in the industry.
As the brand grows through word of mouth and select luxury sales, Alice and Catherine are planning new pieces for the collection. “I love designing beautiful things that make women feel confident,” says Alice. The confidence of the Pearse sisters themselves comes through bright and clear, honed on the family farm and polo-match afternoons of their childhood and distilled in their exclusive collection of luxury accessories.