13BC fuses fashion and art with its beautifully distinctive and highly enamelled clutch bags

Born out of its founder’s love for timeless fashion, 13BC’s collection of clutch bags are handcrafted by Florentine artisans using the increasingly rare technique of Cloisonné enamelling.

“I had difficulty finding a high-quality clutch bag that was more like a piece of jewellery than an accessory,” explains Cherine Magrabi Tayeb, the Lebanese-Saudi design patron who founded 13BC. Cherine wanted to find a minaudière – an evening handbag with a hard case that was named by the designer Alfred Van Cleef in the 1930s. “They were considered jewellery, and made out of gold and diamonds,” she says. “I wanted to revive that aspect of fashion – the minaudière – that’s since been lost over the years, but make it more relevant for a modern woman.”

From its first appearance in the 1930s, the minaudière has been the epitome of minimal elegance. Small enough to be carried in one hand, but large enough to carry a lady’s essentials, it was adopted for its style and practicality by the great fashion houses of the 20th century, each adding its own unique high art or period design twist.

With 13BC, Cherine has developed a brand that moulds together art and fashion, walking a thin line between fashion accessory and collectible design piece. “We make 13 limited-edition designs per collection, each serving as an ode to the art of enamelling,” says Cherine. “Each 13BC minaudière is handcrafted by skilled artisans in Florence using a unique method.”

That method is Cloisonné enamelling, which involves fine wires being fused onto the metal’s surface to create separate cavities which are filled
with enamel paste, fired and hand-finished. It is an extraordinarily lengthy process that tests the skills of even the most experienced enamelling craftsman, and it can take up to three months to create each 13BC minaudière.

Each of 13BC’s minaudières tells a story. Its first collection, To Isla Mujeres, depicts a “mischievous” fictional woman as she undertakes a journey of self-discovery to “a place where she can be her truest self”. One of the brand’s more recent collections, Monomyth, which launched at 2019’s Paris Fashion Week, takes us on another adventure into a world of wonder. “It begins with an escape into the extraordinary,” explains Cherine, “one that leads to an expansion of the mind and a fresh connection with nature. It involves cleansing, rebirth, strength and self-discovery. A new perspective is the way to enlightenment, where our heroine is ready to declare that she is in love, but forever free. It is a story that every woman can relate to. We want a woman to feel in whatever environment she’s in that this is a statement piece that reveals a whimsical and fun side to her.”

Each clutch is designed to be a timeless addition to a woman’s wardrobe. Cherine stresses that sustainability is a factor in the production process, as well as in the decision to create just one collection a year. “We’re very conscious of our responsibilities,” she explains. “We are supporting a threatened industry, and we deliberately avoid using toxic materials. For us, 13BC isn’t about following seasonality and trends; it’s about stewarding a collection that is as unique as it is enduring.”