Woodside Designer Lisa Rissetto Crafts Simple Bags That Feel Like Buttah

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For avid equestrienne and designer Lisa Rissetto, the California lifestyle means “making the most of time spent outdoors.” Her namesake brand, Rissetto, recently launched out of a studio in South San Francisco, celebrates the natural beauty of the Bay Area in a collection of vegetable-tanned Italian leather handbags that exude casual sophistication.


But of course they do: Rissetto, an established designer who got her start in New York, designs for women like herself—active, confident, and discerning in their purchases. “Do you really need another fuchsia leather bag with four gold buckles?” she laughs, holding up one of her classic hobos for contrast. The silhouette is simply elegant. In a mesmerizing shade of mahogany, the bag is also roomy and built for the working woman's real life—it transitions seamlessly from carpool to boardroom. (In a typical day, Rissetto takes hers from a morning walk with her Rhodesian ridgeback, Willow, to meetings at her SSF studio to dinner with her family where she might have a glass of wine overlooking the Western hills.)

Rissetto's Greer drawstring hobo is an easy classic.

Her tireless spirit and consumer philosophy comes thanks to a legacy of strong, creative women in her family: “They believed in buying the best quality you could afford, and taking care of it so it would last.”  Designing luxurious bags that are both durable and affordable is Rissetto's personal gift to women; she also launched an initiative, Women We Admire, to honor female leaders and innovators from Grammy Award–winning cellist Sara Sant’Abrogio to Napa winemaker Elizabeth Vianna.  

Rissetto sporting her Greer drawstring hobo at the Sonoma Horse Show. 

Upon relocating from NYC to work at SF-based Esprit, Rissetto fell in love with the city’s spectacular views and superb weather—“We lived in Bernal Heights, and we loved walking our dog around the trail that rings the top of that hill”—and resolved to stay. In 1989, she helped to cofound G. Hensler & Co., a private label leather goods purveyor that sells to such major retailers as The Gap and Anthropologie. And then in 2004, she purchased the company outright in order to execute her personal vision of the quintessential Californian handbag.

Rissetto's studio in South San Francisco.

In 2007, the company launched 49 Square Miles, a tribute to SF that would also hone the details of her signature style: “soft leathers that sit comfortably when worn; straps that allow most styles to be carried across the body when we need our hands; and washable materials that guarantee extended wear,” she explains. Currently being rebranded as Rissetto, the line continues to enhance these attributes through premium materials and artisanal manufacturing methods.

The Miramontes foldover tote. The Portola backpack. Each bag is named after the picturesque lanes of Woodside, where Rissetto lives today—she moved there in 1995 in order to keep a quarter horse, Bugs, on her property. She aims to place her collections in 300 retail locations worldwide.

For now, we’ll drive down the peninsula to grab a cup of Stumptown Coffee and try on a Manzanita crossbody bucket at Emily Joubert Home and Garden before hitting Rissetto's beloved local trails.  //  Rissetto bags are currently available to shop online at 49sqmi.com; and will be available at rissetto.com later this month.

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