Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sighing Over Venice Is Nothing New, But Buying Is More Useful Right Now: Declare Leather Goods and Newstand

The Declare boutique on Calle Seconda dei Saoneri 2671 (photographed before the start of an event on 24 November 2019)

For over 200 years the troubles and ruination of the defunct Venetian Republic have put visitors in a philosophical mood (or at least a complacently, sweetly melancholic one), and with a new "plague" upon us it's little surprise that this old vein, overworked and exhausted though it's long been, would again become a destination for literistic pick-axers, as it is for Colm Toibin in the new issue of the London Review of Books

Deathly quiet calli, a sprinkling of rather unsatisfactory locals, untrafficked canals: all the usual elements are evoked once more to serve as a ground for the celebrated names and works of the distant past. You know the ones: Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Thomas Mann, Henry James....

Ah, inhale deeply of the autumnal air...

I have little patience for this kind of stuff.

To walk through Venice now is to walk past shop after shuttered shop, empty hotel and restaurant after empty hotel and restaurant--and not to reflect with a dulcet sigh on the aged Titian's last days in the plague-stricken Republic of 1576 but to wonder how all the people familiar to you by sight if not name from all these establishments are managing to support themselves and their families without a job.

Of course such hardships are, alas, not unique to Venice these days. But if Venice is on your mind and you find yourself in need of a gift--either for yourself or others--or in some instances, a necessity, I thought I'd put up some posts about Venetian shops that might interest you.

I'm not one to push consumerism, but the posts that follow are simply shops that I like and frequent, and whose proprietors in each case have impressed me with their knowledge of and, yes, even devotion to what they do, and the detailed attention they pay to what they produce. 

In the case of the shop Declare, just a short distance from the church of I Frari heading toward Campo San Polo, it was the colors and obvious quality of the leather of their bags and wallets that caught my eye as I passed by. But as I wasn't in need of either it was their magazine and journal wall that made me walk in.

In fact, the first two images of this post were taken in November 2019, when I was planning to do a post on the series of events being hosted in the shop, each of them featuring the editor(s) of a different art or cultural or intellectual journal carried on the wall. 

But then the holidays arrived, and then Covid arrived, and the event series had to be canceled and has not yet been able to be revived. 

The well-curated array of reading material on its wall continues to be worthy of a visit all its own if you are in the city. But if you are not, Declare's original line of bags, available for purchase online, is worth a look no matter where you live. 

The shop's owner, and the designer not only of the bags but now of a new line of original jewelry, Omar Pavanello, is a man who is as passionately knowledgeable about the materials and methods with which his lines are produced as he is about their form. The bags are hand-produced by artisans nearby on terraferma, and so committed is he to the quality of their production that you can easily find yourself in a detailed discussion of different dying and tanning methods of the leather itself. In fact, reminded by one of his bags of the feel an old Coach bag I bought back in the days (1980s) when that (now mass-marketed) line of leather goods was still produced in limited numbers in Manhattan, I found that Omar was such a fan of the quality of leather they used back then that he'd sought out and bought a couple of old examples as inspiration.

As the photo at the bottom of this post indicates, the newest line includes more colors than are depicted in the online store. If you are in the market for leather goods actually produced in Italy, just outside Venice, of the highest quality, please take a look at their online store, and contact them (by email or phone--English is spoken) to find out about new colors not yet shown on the site. 

And if you are in Venice--or the next time you are--by all means stop in the store.  

 (For more on Declare's partners, Omar and Anna, see the following 2018 article in the local paper La Nuova.)

Anna Tonti, partner of Omar Pavanello in Declare (left), interviews Michaela Büsse, editor of Migrant journal on 24 November 2019 (The six issue run of the Migrant journal is itself very much worth checking out--focusing on a different theme in each of its limited run of issues, this cross-disciplinary and always thought provoking publication defies easy categorization.)

Omar Pavanello (photographed 5 November 2020)


Handbags from the new Autumn 2020 line (5 November 2020)


  1. I am happy to say that I bought a bag from Declare in August, the red version of the one in your photograph. The shop people were helpful and informative. In fact, living in rural Lincolnshire, we do the large part of our clothes and home objects shopping in Venice.

    1. The crowds can sometimes be so bad in Venice (or at least they used to be) and so many of the shops one passes can sell, well, basically touristy junk, that I suspect it's pretty easy to miss those shops that offer things one won't find elsewhere. It's great, Victoria, that you have not missed out on this important aspect of Venice, and make the best of it, while allowing them to stay in business. I rarely think much about bags, I must be honest, but Declare's stuff made me stop and take a good look--and that red leather is fantastic.