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Otaat: L.A.-Crafted Bags from a Harvard-Trained Architect

OTAAT Drum Clutch, Toby Bag and Toto Box

L.A.’s Albert Chu isn’t the first guy you’d expect to go into the fashion world. He studied architecture (at Harvard, no less) and his grandfather was the mathematician who proved the Gauss-Bonnet Theorem in 1944 in just a few pages. Chu takes that mindset — paring things down to nothing but the necessities — and integrates it right into his line of bags, Otaat. Short for “One Thing at a Time,” the Los Angeles-crafted bags are the perfect mashup of craftsmanship and cerebral design.

Otaat Topher Backpack

The unisex collection of bags, pouches and backpacks are all designed with the discipline of an architect, taking away extraneous embellishment and only adding when completely necessary.

€œAfter all, why do something in a zillion steps when you can do it in a sentence?€ Chu told the New York Times.

€œIt may be harder, but to me, the end result is so much more satisfying and beautiful.€

That end result is a collection of daily necessities, including a pared-down backpack (the accessory of the moment for guys and girls alike), the foldable and packable Ninja Pouch, which boasts multiple zippers and configurations for carrying and the Box Bag, which has two sets of handles so that you can carry it horizontally or vertically without losing any function.

Otaat Drum Clutch

Smaller pieces such as card holders and wallets are pared down to the bare minimum, eschewing slit pockets and zippers — each one’s crafted from a single piece of leather and uses the minimum number of stitches possible. It might sound brainy, but the resulting collection of small leather goods is more whimsical than philosophical, especially when its crafted in bright, cheerful colors. Another sign that Chu’s not all business? Otaat offers party hats made of the same high-quality leather as its bags.

For more information, visit www.otaat.com.

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Monday Muse: Marchesa Luisa Casati Inspires Lulu Frost

Marquise Luisa Casati

Marquise Luisa Casati

In Belle Epoque Europe, the dandy movement was taking a stronghold in menswear and women were still wearing panniers and corsets. Italian noble Marchesa Luisa Casati, however, wasn’t content just fitting in with the (historical) ladies who lunch set. Born into aristocracy, she and her sister — reportedly the richest women in all of Italy when their mother passed away and left them her fortune — Casati embraced the dandy movement and began to dress with more eccentricity and flair. She would be quoted as saying she wanted to be a “living work of art.” She favored the dramatic, choosing capes, bold patterns, fur and the finest materials such as velvets, pearls and brocades. And to make more of a statement, she stacked on armfuls of jewelry (sometimes wearing snakes as bracelets) and held a longstanding fascination with the occult, magic, the afterlife and seances.

While Casati, known for her extravagance, has been an inspiration for the fashion cognoscenti for some time now (Marchesa, the red-carpet favorite designer line founded by Karen Craig and Georgina Chapman, takes its name from Casati), it was her darker side that caught the attention of Lulu Frost jewelry creator Lisa Salzer who embraced the darker, more otherworldly side of Casati for her spring 2013 jewelry collection.

Lulu Frost spring 2013 presentation

Lulu Frost spring 2013 presentation

Shedding a more mystical and mysterious light on Casati’s influence and working with close friend and author Leslie M.

M. Blume, Salzer embraced the “living art” ethos and highlighted unique fashion muses for her spring collection, which took from Blume’s book, Let’s Bring Back, a tome dedicated to bringing back traditions and things from times gone by. In addition to Casati, her presentation included capsule collections inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli and Jazz Age activist Nancy Cunard. Salzer focused the Casati collection on dark, occult designs, which included cascades of chain and saturated green or black crystals.

Casati was fascinated by celestial influence and magic, so it’s no surprise that there are also crescent moon and sun motifs sprinkled in as well. The chain swags and large, chunky gems also lend to the air of luxury and over-the-top eccentricity embodied by Casati herself. The models at the presentation wore piles and piles of the pieces all together that would have made Casati proud, and fit in perfectly with the layering trend of today’s times. We say work your inner Casati. Our only caution: Skip the snakes-as-jewelry trend bit! .

Photos courtesy MarchesaCasati and by Fashion Trends Daily