MAKERS + MATERIALS
Every Harlen is handcrafted by master Italian artisans using the finest—and most durable—all-Italian materials.
Hundreds of steps, nearly a dozen ateliers (custom hardware on a single Harlen is sourced from five), and hands that have been creating the world's most exquisite leather goods for decades.
Here, some of the stories behind our details.
Just north of Milan, in a town built around ancient roundabouts, along a dusty two-lane road, there is an almost magical place where master artisans have been creating exceptional leather goods for over 50 years. Today, this atelier creates items for the world's most recognized and enduring brands. The Harlen Collection is handcrafted here.
The history of the atelier is one of entrepreneurship and commitment to craft. In the early 1960s, after apprenticing with several prominent leather goods workshops, an enterprising gentleman decided to open his own. Decades later, his sons joined him. Today, they are at its helm.
Like so many ateliers in Italy, this one honed its collective skill over generations. But unlike so many others, it is uniquely able to execute our complex and challenging designs. Those at the atelier are truly the artisan's artisans, and they craft every one of our pieces with meticulous precision and extraordinary care.
The signature hardware.
Our design, which was awarded U.S. design patent no. D780,060S, began as a pencil sketch. From that beginning, a talented industrial designer created a three-dimensional technical drawing that crossed oceans to appear in the workshop of veteran Italian metalsmiths. They created the custom molds that would become the brand's signature hardware.
Fabrication of the instantly-identifiable Harlen zipper pull begins at a renowned metal arts firm near Florence, just beyond the place where the walls of the old city stop and the gas stations begin. The building is a nondescript shade of gray that melts into the Italian sky. Inside, seamlessly using both time-honored techniques and cutting-edge technology, artisans create hardware for the world's leading fashion and design houses—as they have for over four decades.
A thick rope of brass is melted into a hot liquid and poured into a custom Harlen mold. The result is cooled, trimmed, and carefully packed for the journey to a second-generation, family-owned atelier that is a morning's drive beyond Milan, where—like all Harlen hardware—it is finished in palladium and polished using processes that take days to complete.
The Alcantara® lining.
Once you've experience the extraordinary feel of this material—and learn that it is nearly impervious to wear—you'll accept nothing less.
Invented in 1970 and considered to be a technological breakthrough, Alcantara® can be found on private yachts and corporate jets and in the leading brand of electric cars. It is our lining of choice not only because of the company it keeps but because of its exceptional utility: easy to maintain; lightweight; scratch-proof; resistant to wear and fading. Its look, feel, and function on day one are designed to be indistinguishable from its look, feel, and function on day 1000. And it is made exclusively in Italy.
Alcantara S.p.A., the firm behind the material, is a European leader in environmental best practices. Notably, it was one of the first companies in Europe to be granted a certificate of carbon neutrality. Remarkably resilient and exceptionally refined, Alcantara® is the Harlen lining of choice.
The Raccagni Super R zippers.
We sampled zippers from companies around the world, from the United States to Japan and beyond, and there was just no question that Raccagni's zippers are the Serena Williams of zippers. The world's finest. Full stop. End of story. And within the Raccagni line, the Super R subtype is the best of the best. Created in 2003, that innovative zipper combines, as the company explains, "the best of craftsmanship and industrial technology." From design to completion, Raccagni zippers are made entirely in Italy. As expected, Harlen's zippers are exclusively the Super R.
We visited the sprawling Raccagni factory in Brescia—about an hour's drive east of Milan—to witness the creation of these perfect zippers. The facilities span three large buildings and feel unending. A massive replica of a zipper greets visitors. Inside, impossibly high ceilings contribute to the vastness. The factory buzzes with activity. It is impeccably clean and palpably happy. Zipper tapes are sorted neatly into rows by color. Machines click and whir.
Simone Raccagni is the youngest of the three Raccagni children. He's our tour guide: tall, well over six feet, with an eager, friendly smile and wavy hair that bounces when he talks. His lilting Italian accent nearly matches that cadence. He's the newest member of the family business—one that his parents, Italo and Daniela Raccagni, founded 35 years ago. Today, all three children work alongside them.
Because the work is all-encompassing, Simone says the factory is the family's second home. And the work is round-the-clock because they are not just creating a product. They are on a quest, really, to perfect these small but essential pieces of hardware and to transform a zipper into a singular piece of art.
And so everyone at Raccagni stays focused on the mission: to create the world's finest zippers. So they innovate. They ensure quality. (Loop magnifying lenses are everywhere.) And they create a truly perfect product. Every zip, as they call them, every time.