It is amazing how Karma works, and you would not believe it until you are not only a witness to its wonders, but can actually touch it when it comes full circle.
On September 24, 2016 my Karma came full circle in the heart of Firenze in a store; Benheart! It has been just over 5 years since I had my bad experience in Florence when buying a leather jacket from a store at the San Lorenzo market and I am now the owner of my “new skin”, the most beautiful leather jacket courtesy of Benheart!
Only 11 days prior to my Sicily, Florence trip, I received an email from Tommaso Barletta, a manager for BENHEART, an Italian Brand which designs, produces and sells Leather clothing and accessories, all artisanally hand-made Made in Florence. He wanted to share the story of Benheart, including of the story of Ben, stylist, and owner of Benheart. They were intrigued by my story and wanted to be able to collaborate in some way as my blog has been well received not only in Florence but around the world. After checking out their website and social media, we set a date to meet when I was going to be in Florence. This day literally changed my life!
It was our first morning in Firenze, and the skies were blue and the air was crisp. In anticipation of re-discovering Florence, and my meeting at Benheart, I was too excited to sleep in our beautiful apartment overlooking the Piazza Della Republica. The walk along the river was wonderful and exciting, as I kept recognizing places from shots from Benheart’s Instagram posts. A turn at Piazza Carlo Goldoni, then a slight right onto Via Della Vigna Nuova, and we immediately saw BENHEART.
We were greeted by Tommaso, and the store manager, the beautiful Letizia. I was immediately blown away by the store- the fragrance of fresh, quality leather was intoxicating, and the variety of colors of jackets, shoes, bags and belts were beautifully and artistically displayed. I immediately wanted to start touching everything, which can be taboo in many places in Italy, however I was encouraged to explore which I did with a Huge smile on my face!
Trying on my new shoes!
It is important to the ‘family’ of Benheart to educate those that walk in the doors about their leather, and the quality and uniqueness of their goods. You are not just buying a leather jacket; you are buying a second skin. Their shoes are also just as unique- hand sewn, and garment died, and OH SO Comfortable! Please watch this video as Tommaso explains more about their shoes.
When I say family of Benheart, I use this word as a verb, as the actions of all that I met acted extremely proud to be a part of this special family. It was quite moving to witness. A great example was when Ben arrived at the store; You could see the love and affection and respect that they have for each other. Ben is a dynamic personality and one of passion and purpose and wears an aura of love that is inspiring.
As I was already pawing at the many jackets, but urged to wait for Ben to introduce the jackets to me and size me, he quickly got me in one of his creations. I was immediately struck by the comfort and workmanship. There was NO way that this was going to wrip, tear or do anything that a San Lorenzo market jacket will do. It literally felt like a second skin!
The unique placement of his Benheart zippers are fashionable and flattering. I also appreciated his use of different textures on each jacket- again keeping each piece unique in design.
This is THE ONE!
Once my craving was filled to try on and pick out a leather jacket, Ben and I had a conversation about his touching story, and why he and friend Matteo created Benheart.
Ben is the mind of our company, and his story is totally unique. Muslim and of Moroccan origin, Ben came to Italy when he was seven years old, and worked in the leather business, in Scandicci, the epicenter of leather in Italy for many famous brands including Gucci, Prada, and Ferragamo to name a few. His developed a love of working with leather over the more than 12 years that he was then designing jackets and purses. One day, during a soccer match, he suffered a massive heart attack and went into coma. After 7 months in the hospital, his life was saved thanks to the donation of the Christian heart of a young man. When Ben recovered, he decided to start his own dream, together with the friend of a lifetime, Matteo, and founded Benheart – which literally means “Son of the Heart”.
The selection of Made in Italy belt buckles
Everything is singularly, hand made in Scandicci, through the hands of experienced Italian artisans, according to traditional methods, handed down over generations. All of Benheart’s creations (that is really what they are) and all raw materials, leather and accessories, are 100% Made In Italy. Their creations are sewn by hand and specially garment-dyed in traditional tanneries, so every product becomes one-of-a-kind. Everything we sell comes Certified and with a Lifetime Guarantee.
Ben sharing his story
Our conversation flowed with ease, and even with the successes that Ben has created in the 4 years since starting Benheart he was humble. If anything he was excited to get a jacket on me and share with me his story, which he did. As I listened I looked over at Letizia and I could see the emotion on her face as well. She had heard his story 100’s of times, but as she said you can not help but be moved no matter how many times you hear Ben share it. Another sign of the love and respect they have for each other. You see, Letizia used to be a customer of Benheart, and her love of not just their creations, but their story she then became a part of the Benheart family; Brilliant!
Then a bombshell was unexpectedly dropped on me. The Beautiful, Unique and one of a kind red jacket that I could not keep touching as I was wearing it, just as a pregnant woman can not keep from touching her baby filled belly, was gifted to me. As Ben was telling me that he would like to give me this creation, I had tears in my eyes, as well as Kathy. We had come full circle together. I was in total and complete shock to think that one moment I was going to be making an investment, then the next it was being stamped with my initials, and handed to me with love! As I write this article, I am still in disbelief that my beautiful red leather, 100% Made in Italy jacket is mine! But it is!!!Then what is a girl to do? Keep shopping! I was already eyeing the custom belts, and had picked out a pair of shoes, which I happily bought. My shoes were of course a compliment to my new skin, and my belt was fit to my waist for size, the buckle was classic and perfect for my, and then it was stamped with my initals.
The work bench at Benheart where creations are made!
Letizia fitting me for my custom belt
The saying, time flies when you are having is fun rang true, as we looked at our watches and we discovered we had been at Benheart for 3 hours! During those 3 hours, the store was buzzing with old customers, and of course new ones also. It was wonderful to feel that I was now a part of this wonderful community! Everyone we spoke with was genuine and of course happy with their Benheart creations.
My new friends- Ben, Letizia and Tommaso at Benheart
Grazie Mille Letizia!
What I have take away from the hours spent at BENHEART is something that I knew in my heart when I started my blog almost 6 years ago, to share my story and experience with buying leather in Florence; there is so much good in the world and specifically in Florence. I made sure to say to buy leather in Florence, but to be aware of what you are buying. I am happy and honoured to have met Ben, Tommaso and Letizia with Benheart, and just as I spread the bad news, I will spread the good news, which is called BENHEART!
One day I hope to celebrate your store opening in Canada- a goal that Ben shared with me!
Should your travels take you to Firenze, Roma, Milano, Verona, or San Francisco (store opening soon), make sure you stop by Benheart! You will be happy you did!