It is truly a thing of beauty, starting with the name, Le Ninè, words that evoke girlhood and sweet innocence, family and childish amusements, that tell of the lives and the successes of Fiorella Polito and Francesca Ferri. These two friends from way back are now working together on an adventure that has transformed a bag of humble origins into something exquisite, the epitome of feminine, made-in-Italy elegance. But who are the Ninè that inspired these delicious wicker baskets lined in silk and embroidered with sparkling Swarovski crystals? Who are the “little ones“ implied in the nickname, who travel the world and grace the halls of Grand Hotel Tremezzo, where there are limited edition La Ninè bags in its signature orange? Ninè, the plural of Nina, honors the daughters of Fiorella and Francesca, named Carolina and Nina, as well as Fiorella’s mother and Francesca’s grandmother, both named Carolina. A story filled with memories and traditions on the one hand, but also – and above all – a story of women of character, imaginative, strong, spirited and vivacious women. Women of Puglia. Women blessed with creative abandon, which is certainly the case for Fiorella, who turned her back on a meticulously planned career as a lawyer and notary, embarking instead on a journey of self-reflection – where she discovered talents and ideas she never knew she had – that changed everything. “All I did was bring out into the open the projects my mother used to do in secret in her studio,” Fiorella reports from her atelier in Bari. “Everyone in my family has always been very crafty: My mother knitted and sewed, and I’ve always made jewelry. One day I had some Swarovski crystals left over from a project and just for fun I hot-glued them to a straw bag. When my friends saw it, they were like, ‘It’s so pretty! Make one for me, too!’ And something just clicked.”
In her collection of wicker and straw baskets, Fiorella has given a new lease on life to a basket originally used to harvest rice in the marshes of Vietnam and Thailand, its fine weave made from the local reeds both extremely durable and very light. With a geometric design of ideal proportions, Fiorella “dresses” the bag with an entire constellation of Swarovski crystals and an interior lining of luxurious fabric. “Making the prototype was truly that easy, and it became an instant success after I wore it to a private event. My life was completely transformed from that moment on. Once I founded the company with my friend Francesca, retailers started calling, we set up a website and we were flying.” That’s also when the Le Ninè bags started flying off the shelves, sharing with the world not only the rich tradition of Italian craftsmanship, of artisans making things by hand in hours of patience and precision, but also the colors and materials of their enchanted homeland. “The white crystals call to mind our distinctive Trulli cottages in all their whitewashed glory, the green evokes the leaves of an olive tree, the red and pink shine like a Puglia sunset, while the royal blue, the azure and the turquoise remind us of the sea we see before us every day,” says Fiorella. “And then there are the fabrics: silks made in Como, striped cottons from a weaver not far from my house and tassels and cords made by master craftsmen in an ancient Tuscan workshop.”
Currently available in three sizes, the classic small, medium and large (with a “mignon” version no bigger than an orange coming soon!), it is the simplicity of the Le Ninè bags that make them so alluring. “When I first designed the bag, I had a particular woman in mind to wear it: a sunny, smiling positive woman of character,” Fiorella Polito continues. “The woman who chooses our bags is confident, a woman who knows who she is and how to wear a Le Ninè bag, by day perhaps with a pair of jeans – in black for an edgier look – or by night with sophisticated evening wear.” But what happens when the picture-perfect bags leave the atelier, where Fiorella and Francesca work with a group of extremely talented women, and travel to the four corners of the world? “It’s a super important event,” Fiorella reports. “We line them up by color, pack them one by one into their boxes, with the lining neatly folded, and then we bid them farewell – quite literally! ‘There they go!’ we say and wave goodbye.” There go the little ones, just like the real Ninè who are poised to grow up and and become the modern women of tomorrow.