Monday, February 8, 2016

Artistic inspiration is all in the bag

By Danielle Valente
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Jess Rizzuti shows off her work in her Riverdale home that doubles as the workshop where she creates designer bags, such as the Fifi Carry All, pictured above.

Getting a “time out” in grade school never felt like a punishment to Jess Rizzuti. It meant more time next to the easel. 

“I knew it was art for sure,” Ms. Rizzuti said. “I didn’t know what in art, really because I liked to do so many different things. And I still do.” 

Now she’s the designer behind an eco-friendly handbag collection combining high fashion and practicality. Her collection hit the shelves in 2008, has been featured in Nolcha Fashion Week for up-and-coming designers and is now available at Pamela Gonzalez in SoHo.  

Ms. Rizzuti is currently working on her Spring 2014 collection and shows no signs of slowing down.  

Her pieces include the “Fiona” baguette in cork with a black handle and “Fifi Carry All,” a chestnut leather hobo embossed with a crocodile center, among other designs. 

The names, she said, were inspired by circus posters she would sketch in college.

Ms. Rizzuti grew up in upstate New York, where she was exposed to the value of creativity early on. She credits her mother, Linda, most with getting her artistic juices flowing. 

Her mother came to art through necessity. She didn’t have enough money to buy her own clothes and grew up making her own — styles her daughter said were good enough for the runway. 

“My mom always said, ‘I wish when I was your age there was art school,’” said Ms. Rizzuti, who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. 

But what Ms. Rizzuti loved most about her mother’s style were the cowboy boots she used to wear. She managed to acquire her own (in red) after burning her entire 4-year-old body with her mother’s chicken soup, which had been simmering on the stove. 

Along with visits to a plastic surgeon, the accident led Ms. Rizzuti and her mother to Bloomingdale’s in White Plains. 

“It was my reward,” Ms. Rizzuti said. 

It was there that her affection for accessories grew. 

“When [my mom] asked me why I put certain things together, I said, ‘It just goes.’ I always felt connected to fashion,” she said. 

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