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Posted on September 9, 2012 by Teresa Cannata'

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”, wrote Ray Bradbury in one of his masterpieces, Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel published in 1953. The importance of being free to interpret the world by ourselves, without being influenced by the media, is clearly a fundamental theme of the story: books represent the enemy, things to be destroyed because they could “poison” the minds of people totally used to watch television and blindly accept what the State says.

I couldn’t imagine a world without books: I’ve always been an avid reader and, as a teacher, I understand their role in society, especially in the lives of young generations. I love technology, too, but I could never read a book on an electronic device: the feeling of holding a book in your hands, leafing through it, taking notes or underlining interesting passages, is something which can’t be replaced. I’m sure Olympia Le-Tan agrees with me, since she has turned her passion for books into a successful career. The French designer has become famous thanks to her unmistakable book clutches – bags which reproduce book covers from the European and American literature. Embroideries, silk and felt appliqués are used to replicate illustrations, some of which are part of collective imagination.

The clutches that have been produced so far are amazing, but my favourite is the one featuring the first edition cover of Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, published in 1958. This clutch is part of a special collection Olympia presented in January 2012 at Pitti Immagine in Florence, inspired by masterpieces of the Italian literature and cinema.

Each Olympia Le-Tan piece is hand-made and numbered: the cover is reproduced on canvas, then mounted on a brass frame and lined with Liberty patterned fabrics. 

A nice detail is inside the bag – a label saying “hand made with love in France”. 

This Italy-inspired collection was displayed at Museo Bellini in Florence, along with beautiful pictures by Max Farago. The one above presents Cleo Le-Tan (the designer’s sister) and the fashion editor Andrew Richardson as Angelica Sedara (Claudia Cardinale) and Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon), protagonists of the 1963 movie by Luchino Visconti inspired by the book by di Lampedusa. I love this picture because it brings the protagonists of an iconic movie into a modern setting, but still keeps their main features (see Cleo’s dress and updo and the eye-sash on Andrew) intact.