THE LEATHER OF IL BISONTE
It runs deeper than love, the feeling between the bison and Wanny Di Filippo, the rescuer of the Pontassieve-based firm, famous for its leather products whose distinguishing mark stems from the sturdy animal: it verges on symbiosis, which has been on-going for 40 years and is now trying out a new dimension.
In the space in Palazzo Corsini, the creator of Il Bisonte has founded a museum: the cataloguing has reached a decent stage, which is no mean feat given the 1 200 pieces.
A boundless collection hailing from all over the planet and devoted to the bison: sculptures, period postcards and bone fragments as well as T-shirts, bottles of vodka and even a gigantic iron bison, weighing more than a ton, which a Belarusian made from a car wreck.
"A unique piece that I'll position at the company entrance," explains Wanny.
"I'm fascinated by the feeling of peace and strength that bison convey."
The story of how a hippy became a fashion entrepreneur, going as far as distributing Tuscan cowhide worldwide (handbags, travel bags, wallets, belts and shoes made by a staff of 60 people) dates way back, when he worked as a rep selling spare parts for cars.
"I needed a travel bag for my shoes and tried to design one.
"Then he tried his hand at ranges of bags, created in a basement in the centre. From that moment on, the story of Il Bisonte has seen one success after another.
"I've learnt that nothing is impossible. As a young man I didn't even know how a bag was made: I put two goat skins together, sans lining, bound by hand.
Unrestrained by the rules of the leather trade, I made whatever came to mind, like the Renaissance artisans.
"The first to buy were Americans: "Perhaps because they had wiped out their own, they fell in love with my Bison".
Then there's the idea of the museum. Well, actually the museums.
Because alongside the collection of the bison in the showroom, Wanny is searching the archives to find the early creations (for a display in Pontassieve) amongst 3 000 designs.
The search is done in his own inimitable style: whoever brings one of the first designs to Il Bisonte for inclusion in the museum will be rewarded with a new piece.