When Cambiaghi relaunched last year, the cool girls took notice. Who knows whether it was the founder’s handsome great-grandson, Matteo Perego di Cremnago newly at the helm (more from him below), the racy campaign images or simply the timeless bags and hats themselves, but something was definitely in the air.

Drawing on the rich history of the brand, Matteo and his team remastered the accessories first designed by his great-grandfather, Giuseppe Cambiaghi, more than a century ago. He kept the formula straightforward and created classic handcrafted pieces that reflected Cambiaghi’s roots while appealing to the contemporary woman.

Knowing the Cambiaghi lineage and catching wind of the buzz, the Barneys team partnered with Matteo on an exclusive line. What resulted was a collection of smart bags in neutral colors (yes, red is a neutral in our book) with special details like a light pink trim or a cherry-colored lining.

We spoke with Matteo about Cambiaghi’s exclusive collection at Barneys and learned more about his decision to revive the brand.

How does Cambiaghi’s heritage play a role in your designs? What does the heritage mean to you?
Cambiaghi was founded in 1880 and has always set the standard in terms of quality and values. We’re a company with a global vision and the goal of creating luxurious products to meet the needs of a discerning few.

Our heritage, even after a century, still represents an important role for the company. Pure and timeless designs have clearly defined our iconic style.

Why were you inspired to revive the Cambiaghi brand?
I’m passionate about product research and sourcing unique raw materials. This, coupled with my emotional commitment, drove me to relaunch Cambiaghi. When I was a child, I used to hear stories about the company from my grandparents and it’s been a lifetime goal of mine to carry on these memories.

An early shot of the Cambiaghi factory.

Could you tell us about Giuseppe Cambiaghi, the founder of the brand and your great-grandfather?
Giuseppe Cambiaghi started his career as shop boy in a hat manufacturing company in the 19th century. After many years in the business, he opened Cambiaghi Hat Manufacturing Co.

He spent time in London’s millineries learning the trade secrets and once back in Italy, applied what he had learned to his own business. In just a few decades, Cambiaghi grew from a little factory to a company that employed more than 1,500 people and made eight million hats per year that sold all around the word.

Because of his humble beginnings, workers’ rights were very important to Giuseppe. He was one of the first in Italy to offer bonuses, housing for his employees and support for women during their pregnancies. He also donated a hospital to the city of Monza. For this, he earned the Italian Order of Merit for Labour.

To carry on his mission, we’re launching Bag to School, which delivers bags to children in need in India.

Do you have a favorite Cambiaghi piece?
I would say the Thaila bag because it’s timeless yet very contemporary.

Vintage Cambiaghi Advertisement
Vintage Cambiaghi ad.

Tell us about your exclusive collection for Barneys. 
We wanted to develop an exclusive line for Barneys because we share the same values when it comes to attention to detail and extensive product research. The source of inspiration for the collection dates back to our tradition of creating unique handcrafted bags that make you feel something new each time you wear it.

Did you have a muse for this collection?
Every bag has been named after a woman in my family. The only exception is the Paloma clutch. It’s a tribute to Paloma Picasso.

What are your favorite spots in Milan?
I love the hidden gems in Milan. I find myself wandering around the corridors of Milan’s Museum of Science & Technology where we donated 19th century horse-drawn carriages. I like the Indro Montanelli Gardens because they’re a quiet getaway from the city life. On most nights, you can find me at Libera eating one of the city’s best risotto al salto or tasting a fine glass of red wine in the convent-turned-wine-bar, N’Ombra de Vin. And of course I love Jamaica bar, the historical Milanese nighttime rendez-vous.