Driven by his passion for crocodile skin and the long experience he gained in his father’s leather goods laboratory, in 2004 Giorgio Santamaria opened “Giosa: la bottega del coccodrillo” in Via Ciovasso, in Milan’s Brera district.
His love and knowledge of the ductility and robustness of crocodile skin enable Santamaria and his collaborators to use a variety of tannings and finishes, expressing themselves in high-quality, exclusive creations. Besides the items sold in his store, his atelier produces custom-made articles: from the choice of colour to the most sophisticated finishing touches.
How did you learn your trade?
My father dealt in leather goods, although he did not specialise in crocodile skin. At the age of fifteen, I stopped going to school and officially started working in my father’s workshop. For the first few years, we processed the hides and skins that were given to us by our clients, to whom we delivered the finished product. Later we started buying and selling the skins ourselves. In those years, I realised that big luxury goods brands like Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton etc., produced bags in many different materials, but none specialised in crocodile. I decided to start a business that would focus only on this type of product (hence the name of our atelier). I wasn’t driven by ambition, I simply discovered a very strong passion for this type of skin.
Do you have any assistants?
Fifteen in all: ten who work inside the atelier and five more outside. These artisans work at home, like in the old days. Only one of my artisans can make a bag from start to finish, and three apprentices are learning the craft (my son, my nephew and another young man). The other workers are specialised in specific steps of the manufacturing process.
What makes your atelier unique?
Our exclusiveness lies in the fact that we specialise in crocodile skins, creating different articles: bags, jackets, hats, frames, suitcases, backpacks, shoes, phone cases, etc. Crocodile is a beautiful material because it is extremely “malleable”. On top of this, every skin is different because of the scales: even if you make 1,000 bags in the same model, the pattern of the scales will always be different. And then the finishes are also very different, because they can be shiny, opaque, soft or hard: that’s what makes this product unique.
Who are your clients?
Our clientele is mainly Italian. In the past few years, however, we have started to supply foreign clients, Korean and Russian in particular, who buy our products for their stores.
What channels do you use to promote your products?
We have recently started working with a press office, through which we reach newspapers and magazines that require coloured bags or special models for their editorials. We also work with personal shoppers, who connect us with affluent private customers.