Mercedes Machado and Her Unique Handbags

Irene Sanchez

Mercedes Machado masterfully combines art, style and color in her unique and original handbags.

 Mercedes Machado grew up in a house where art permeated all aspects of family life. In 1942, years before her birth, her grandfather Dr. Alfredo Machado Hernandez created the Venezuelan Association of Friends of Colonial Art and later the Museum of Colonial Art in Caracas. Dr. Machado devoted his life to the preservation of the art and architecture of the Hispanic period in Venezuela, and his interest in saving the artistic legacy of Venezuela’s colonial period gave his family purpose and meaning.                              MERCEDES MACHADO. His granddaughter, the now renowned fashion designer Mercedes Machado, tells us how her earliest childhood memories are closely related to her grandfather´s work. “I always watched my mother while she worked with silver, ceramics, sculpture, embroidery and enamel. My parents collected artworks, and painters and artists regularly visited our house in Caracas. I was constantly exposed to that world, and that is reflected in what I do today. On weekends, when we went to the beach, I took along a little sewing machine and did not stop making dresses for my dolls.” Mercedes was the only one, in a brood of four siblings, who realized that, to be happy, she would have to devote herself to the world her family came from, in particular to fashion design.

By the time she was 20 years old, she embarked in the adventure of a lifetime. She went to England and France, where she complemented her design work with studies of languages and literature. In London she fell in love with British culture, and the city still inspires her today. “I feel totally identified with the British people, with their combinations, the dramatic color palette, and the quality of their fabrics… They fascinate me! Their fashion style has great weight and has influenced my current work.” In the 70s Machado got married and had four children: Manuel, Carlos, Ricardo and Paulina. During that time she continued making frequent trips and spending long periods in European fashion capitals, including Milan, where she experienced firsthand the visual quality of Italian design and craftsmanship.

                              1. Mercedes Machado2. Mercedes Machado with daughter Paulina who is the face of the collection.

Back in Venezuela, she had the opportunity to work in the wardrobe department of the National Opera of Caracas. “I had to dye fabrics for certain presentations, and that was something I enjoyed very much. Later I left the cinema and the theatre and devoted myself to making my own creations”. From then on, Mercedes spent her days sewing tapestries with velvets and antique fabrics she collected, the ones her mother loved so much. “I used to dye any fabric with the colors I fancied… everything in my house was dyed!”

Visiting Madrid was another important benchmark in her development as a designer. During one of her trips to the Spanish capital, Machado brought with her a suitcase full the tapestries she had designed, which caused a real stir on the other side of the ocean: she sold them all! It was 2002, the year of the great general strike in Venezuela, “the Oil Strike”. “Since I spent all day at home, I picked up the antique fabrics I still had, linens and velvets, and started cutting and sewing them to make handbags. The neighbors that came to my house were captivated by them, and wanted to buy them.” Without realizing it, Mercedes was starting to define her own style. Soon her ideas became a reality, and with it came success. With the experience she had acquired in Europe and with art in her blood, that same year Mercedes launched a design company called Jacaranda Handcrafted Bags. Fashion magazines like Vogue Italia and the Vivre catalog published editorials featuring her handbags.

                              Ismachseven Business partners Isabella Delfino and Mercedes Machado.

Her current partner and in some way, her “soul mate” in business is Isabella Delfino, “a Venezuelan photographer with a wonderful eye, and a tireless traveler”, says Mercedes, cheerfully adding: “it is difficult to find someone with the same aesthetic sense, but when Isabella and I visit a shop in New York, for example, we each go our separate ways and when we come out we have the same things.” The professional rapport between them was the origin of Ismachseven (IM7), their new label. The pair opened their first boutique in Key Biscayne, a secluded island across the bridge from Downtown Miami, to bring their clients closer to the incomparable style of the handbags Mercedes began to sew years ago at home in Venezuela.

Ismachseven: Creative Process, Production and Style

For the creators of Ismachseven, inspiration comes from their world travels, a passion shared by both. “Last year we went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the colors of the sky, the earth and indigenous fabrics have influenced our latest collection”.

The handbags are striking, with daring colors and textures. The clients of Ismachseven have something in common: they are “tired of normal things, and are looking for something different, something risky”. In this sense, Ismachseven is a perfect fit for the New York market.

In their website, where these bags can be purchased, you can also find elegant evening clutches, uniquely manufactured with the best satins, and bags to wear on any occasion. You may also discover a bag with a similar format to the well-known “Birkin” from Hermes, with intense colors, fabrics from Guatemala, France or the United States, leathers from Italy or clasps from Switzerland. The results of these combinations are always spectacularly unique.

Crocodile skin from Colombia is without a doubt one of materials that defines the unmistakable seal of IM7. For Mercedes Machado, passionate about the process that transforms leather into an elegant handbag, her best-selling creation is the hand-painted “Manuela Crocodile”, selected in 2012 by Trends Update as the “clutch” of the year in the United States, and “the best buy” next to designs by Alexander Mc Queen and Prada. “This handbag has been produced with all kinds of materials, from leather to suede. It is comfortable and great for day or eveningwear. I love the fact that so many meanings can be applied to the same creation “.

                           Santa Fe Collection.

Machado’s greatest source of professional pride is seeing how Ismachseven is becoming recognized in the eyes of potential clients, even if they have not yet visited the shop personally. “My daughter called me recently from New York and told me that people constantly stopped her on the street to ask where she had purchased her handbag. The same happened to me at the airport in San Francisco”.

Mercedes keeps very active and admits she can easily get bored of established routines. “The only exception is these handbags. It seems incredible, but every woman needs at least one. And what can be better than invent them, change them, and when you get bored, create a new one.” Between trips and with the 2013 agenda full of projects to be realized, this beautiful Venezuelan knows that the bright future that awaits her is in her own hands. And in them we will always see a colorful and stylish handbag, with the same personality and elegance she exudes.

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