In Buenos Aires, near a brothel where a man was stabbed to death while a young Jorge Luis Borges watched from behind a steel gate, a leather-goods purveyor named Don Gines Aynié set up his shop in 1919.

Clara Aynié at work.

He had recently left northern Spain and France, where he made saddles for Hermès. In his new home, he picked a neighborhood known for its violence. But on the opposite side of the street was a racetrack and polo field which would soon fill his shop with horsemen, gauchos, and aristocrats.

Aynié Saddlery, which remains in the Aynié family (and across the street from the same racetrack and polo field), continues to produce some of the world’s finest saddles and leather goods.

Left, the shop in 1960; right, the bags are still made by hand.

In an austere white room, amid the tangle of anvils, benches, hides, and punches, the bridle butts and farrier chaps, and workers who have been with the family for more than 50 years, sits Clara Aynié. There, this fourth-generation member of the Aynié family’s Argentinean branch conceives and constructs the purses which are so rare and coveted by stylish women around the world.

As a child, the lithe and lambent Aynié played among the scraps of fabric, boots, hides, and belts of the saddlery, developing an early love of clothes and accessories. She also had a familial affection for the craftsmen who worked there. While training in fashion and design at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, she went to work for Jessica Trosman, one of Argentina’s most respected fashion designers. Two years ago, at the age of 22, she embarked on her own venture, fusing her family’s dedication to handwork with her own inspirations. In 2021, she presented her collection at London Fashion Week, and a limited number of her bags are now available at the Big Bang Faena store, in Miami, and Proyecto República, in México City.

At Aynié’s workshop in 1943: Gerardo Aynié, Clara’s great-uncle; Ginés Aynié, her great-grandfather; Domingo Magaldi, one of Aynié’s employees; and Orestes Aynié, her grandfather.

Each bag, the editions of which are limited by the rarity of the leathers, is the laborious product of highly skilled artisans—weavers who knit, women who sew, those who make patterns and others who hand-cut the leathers. With this skill manifest in every purse, Aynié’s creations are not unlike Byzantine mosaics in which the handwork is integral to the complex beauty of the object.

Her Pared Black Bag, made of black leather and gray netting, was inspired by the sewing satchel her grandmother carried. The Montura style has all the comforting sentiment of a knitted basket, but with enough architecture to ensure that it’s useful outside of the house. Finally, the Martingala Sash, woven in Patagonia and worn around the neck, is modeled after the belts (fajas) of the gauchos.

Will it be slim crossbody or an oversize carryall?

Aynié sells from her small space in the saddlery; prices range from $350 for a minibag to closer to $800 for the largest styles. She will ship her creations anywhere in the world, but she would much prefer to meet her customers in person at the saddlery. She’ll even bring in some cortados from the café around the corner.

Michael Rips is a New York City–based attorney and writer. His latest book is Objection! The People vs. Amy Coney Barrett