| Art |

Alex Mijares and South Miami's Capretto Handbag Collaboration: Exotic Totes as Canvases

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Despite what some might argue, fashion is art. But when exotic, skin-covered handbags start becoming paint-covered canvases, the art in fashion gets taken to a whole other level. For Jason Salstein of South Miami's luxury brand boutique, Capretto, and Miami-based artist Alex Mijares, such levels should be challenged.

The unveiling of the store's private label handbag collaboration with Mijares last week lured designer hoarders and loyal customers to Capretto's quarters of exclusivity.

See also: The Five Best Sneaker Boutiques in Miami

"This is called our Voyage Tote, and the concept is travel. So the question is, where will our Voyage take you?" says Jason Salstein, holding up one of Mijares' antique gold hand-painted creations.

The python leather bags, which also come in crocodile skin via custom orders, were intended for the jetsetter at heart, boasting a contemporary flare, despite its classic shapes and versatility.

Having worked with VBH, St. John handbags, and Miami-based luxury brand, Hunting Season, designer and buyer Salstein lives for exotic leathers. This season, however, he wanted to integrate vibrancy to his otherwise neutrally-hued snake skins, calling upon longtime friend and the posterchild of Miami's art scene, Alex Mijares, two months back to juxtapose art and fashion into one handbag -- or several.

"The cool thing is the actual skin itself is such good fabric to paint on," Mijares says while grazing the flaky surface of the python. "It doesn't have a coat that's clear on it, like for example Louis Vuitton bags. It's porous, almost how a canvas would be, so the paint actually adhered to it. Like, I was slamming [the bag] on the floor to see how durable it was and no paint chipped -- everything stuck on pretty well."

"A lot of these leather bags have that shine to them; regular paints do have some of that same shine, but I mixed with a lot of metallic, like copper and gold, to make that under color really pop," he says, "I got lucky and it worked out."

Known primarily for his fluid brushwork and lively coloration, Mijares decided to soften things up with looser strokes on five out of the six-bag collection. Salstein pointed out that this time, Mijares chose to paint "outside-the-lines."

"I think you just named my next Art Basel show," Mijares replied.

"We wanted to give Alex solid colors for the skins, so that he could show off his work; we didn't want to over-compete with his work; he uses a lot of vibrant color," Salstein said.

In addition to design and texture, production hit high on his Salstein's priority list. Though a fervent connoisseur of exotic bags, he wasn't too keen about his particular collection being manufactured overseas. That's why Salstein made chose to have all of his pieces made domestically. In fact, the only variable imported to complete the exotic equation were the skins, which Jason admits came from all over; one of which hailing from the same tannery that supplies Gucci skins.

Gucci's involvement, however, doesn't translate to stifling price tags. The most expensive piece of collection is the Nomad Python backpack for $1,050. Python normally runs anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 on average, dubbing Capretto's Python a shameless steal.

Next season, Capretto's line of bags will inherit a new style to add to the collection and will continue to accumulate as the seasons roll in.

Send your story tips to Cultist at cultist@miaminewtimes.com.

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