Wearing the earrings is only one of the many ways in which Benevenia acknowledges her roots. The manufacturing for Cara Benevenia LLC is headquartered at Leatherworks by Arturo. The factory in Union City, N.J. is co-owned by Fashion Institute of Technology alum Christina Campagnoli, and the location allows Benevenia to be hands-on in the manufacturing process. With a background in clothing design, Benevenia was not versed in accessories at her start. The signature Cara Benevenia magenta plaid design was derived from a 1980s, Prince-inspired color palette she created during her collegiate design career. It was a plaid textile woven by hand with yarn purchased fromMichael’s that stood out in her college fashion show in 2017. “Seeing everything that Prince stood for were things that I personally struggled with in college, just being who you are or to do something that is different and that no one has done before,” Benevenia says. “I wanted to be someone that wasn’t afraid, and wasn’t going to just do what everyone else was doing.”
Elevating the seemingly mundane is Benevenia’s design specialty. Her woven leather bags are inspired by a reinvention of the classic plaid textile, turning what she calls a basic plaid into a bright pink, multidimensional textile.
She carried these skills with her when designing her first handbag, replicating her token plaid pattern — but this time trading flimsy yarn for imported leather from Florence, Italy. “It’s not out there, so I knew this was going to be really different. Let’s try to figure out what we can do with leather,” Benevenia says when explaining her inspiration.
"I WANTED TO BE SOMEONE THAT WASn'T AFRAID, AND WASn'T GOING TO JUST DO WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING"
“Everything seemed so plastic and manufactured in bulk to me. I just never saw a bag that I thought was cool, and I just never saw something that I thought was worth the money. I kept reverting back to the textile I made in college because I felt it was so different and unique,” Benevenia says. According to Benevenia, this process is mathematical. As a former member of her high school’s physics team, her initial success in her craft began with fitting and construction rather than the creative process. “I could look at the book and it could tell me how to draft a pair of pants, I can do it one time and it would fit the model like a glove,” Benevenia says. “Being so precise and making clothes fit — I could just do it with my eyes closed.” Her mathematical thinking led her to an idea about utilizing the structure of a piece of mesh to hold the woven leather in place, breaking away from design patterns she had seen before in legacy handbag brands like Bottega Venetta or Loewe. “Because those bags are traditionally woven, and don’t have the mesh to hold pieces in place, it can only be interlocked in one way. Since its woven into itself, you can’t space it out and make different patterns because it’s using itself as a grid,” Benevenia explains. Benevenia launched her luxury handbag brand with three flagship design styles and color palettes — electric blue plaid, magenta plaid, and mixed metals. “The blue was inspired by this bag,” Benevenia notes, reaching behind her chair in the coffee shop and grabbing her Stella McCartney that she saved up for years back, comprised of a patchwork denim textile that resembles a similar craftsmanship to her woven leather plaid design.
MODELS Codou Diallo (Left), Rebecca Cole (Right) HANDBAGS Cara Benevenia FASHION Marist Fashion Archives
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