Just a few blocks up from the Arno in Florence, a shopping district unfolds on the cobblestone streets, the odd angles of which can disorient a man more accustomed to the grid of a planned city. Here you’ll find Italian casual at Happy Jack; streetwear forum favorites from Woolrich, Barbour, Barena, and Beams Plus at WP Store; unique softly tailored clothing at Frasi by Simone Righi, and bespoke from Liverano and Liverano. One of the larger shops is that of Wanny Di Filippo’s Il Bisonte in Via Parione.
Il Bisonte is a leather goods maker with a dedicated following. The bearded and ponytailed Di Filippo started the company in Florence in 1970, and it’s grown to have stores in well-heeled shopping areas in Italy, the U.S., China, France, and Japan. The appeal is in the quality of the vachetta leather and the relaxed and quirky designs. The leather Il Bisonte uses is not the tough, raw hide Di Filippo’s cowboy imagery might call to mind, but a softer, more refined leather that suits his men’s accessories, like briefcases, wallets, and watches, and women’s pieces, mostly handbags, sometimes complemented with colorful canvas.
The shop in Via Parione is an ideal setting for the warm tones of Il Bisonte leather goods–lots of wood, buffalo-themed and otherwise western decor, and touches that attest to the popularity of Di Filippo as a symbol of Italian craftsmanship and idiosyncrasy. Asked why the bison/buffalo association, Di Filippo has said “For centuries these animals have been source of life and future for the people who roamed in Northern America territories. Nowadays it is a symbol that I proudly use to “sign” my product.”
After browsing in a city where you can shop in conspicuous luxury at Stefano Ricci’s palazzo or buy dirt cheap leather jackets whose origins are sketchy at best, Il Bisonte seems to represent good value. Solidly built belts start at about EUR65, while some wallets are under EUR50. Leather portfolios are in the EUR150 range, and one briefcase we particularly liked is EUR366.
Il Bisonte has shops around the world and is stocked at other shops, like Union Made in San Francisco.
Watches start at EUR195; automatic models about EUR700.