Based in South Africa, Calie Parese creates stylish and unique bags and accessories using ethically sourced crocodile skins
Sisters Catherine and Alice Pearse share a passion for art and fashion, and a love for the beauty, spirit and culture of southern Africa, where they grew up. Their vision – to produce high-end, luxury accessories inspired by Africa – has proved so successful that, just a year on from the launch of their brand, Calie Parese, there is already a long waiting list for their Signature Tote: a classic handbag with an interesting “African twist”.
The Signature Tote is made from Nile crocodile skin in earthy browns and white leather, with gold-plated handle rings that draw inspiration from the traditional brass adornments worn by some African cultures. “Although our Signature Tote is a statement piece, it is also classic, elegant and timeless,” says Catherine. “We see our collection not as fashion pieces that will be used for a few seasons, but as pieces of wearable artwork. The quality and exclusivity of the Signature Tote has made it an appealing investment choice for both clientele that are avid collectors of luxury handbags through to those who want a piece of wearable art that they can pass down generations.”
Very much a family business, the label’s moniker is an amalgamation of the sisters’ names. Catherine is now based in South Africa, where she oversees the production side of the company, and Alice, who concentrates on design, is in London. Alongside the Signature Tote are a clutch, wallets and belts, each with details that echo and complement the bag. There is also a men’s collection.
All of Calie Parese’s products are handmade in Cape Town by specialist exotic leather craftsmen that have inherited their knowledge and skills from three generations past. Many hours are spent meticulously crafting each individual piece from locally sourced raw materials, meaning that every one is unique. Although the brand doesn’t yet provide a bespoke service, customers may request a tote without the statement white leather stripe, if that is their preference. A mini version of the tote is also in the pipeline.
As graduates of some of the UK’s most acclaimed universities (Alice studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Catherine graduated from the London College of Fashion), the sisters are keen to bring their vision and talent to a wider range of accessories that will celebrate the spirit of Africa further, starting with a collection of silk scarves that will launch later this year. The scarves will feature the distinctive artwork of a well-known Zimbabwean artist who specializes in African-inspired watercolours. “The collaboration celebrates her as an artist, staying as true to her paintings as possible, and using our silk scarves as a way for people to wear a piece of her artwork,” says Alice.
Those who own a Calie Parese product can be sure it is both authentic and traceable, which is now vital given the growth of the luxury resale market. The company is currently developing a unique authentication software that makes use of Artificial Intelligence as well as a cutting-edge traceability system.
Producing sustainable goods made from ethically sourced skins is extremely important to the sisters. “We work closely with Exotic Leather South Africa,” explains Alice. “It sets the standards and best practice for the industry, to make sure that our entire supply chain is both ethical and sustainable.”