Summer is a state of mind for Montserrat Alvarez, the designer and founder of Heimat Atlantica, an accessories brand known for its colorful, hand-woven bags that put you in a happy-go-lucky mood no matter the season. Vibrant and adorned with porcelain charms intended to help you manifest your deepest desires, Alvarez’s creations don’t look anything like the French market totes overflowing with baguettes and peonies—nor do they resemble the typical Jane Birkin wicker basket. They are pure magic.
Alvarez, who was raised in a small fisherman town in Galicia, Spain, first moved to Rome when she was 18 to study art history. After graduating, she left Italy for Paris to work with brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, an award-winning design duo. Alvarez tells Glamour it was here where she found herself “surrounded by all these creative spirits who were interested in crafts but also had a very contemporary point of view.” But it wasn’t until a breakup that Alvarez decided to create something of her own.
“I first discovered these basket bags in Portugal that are very specific to the area, and then found a woman there who could make one for me.” Looking to bridge tradition with modern touches, she asked for the bag to be multicolored—and because she loves to collect little charms and fetishes, she decided to attach some to the front to help her find new love. “I’ve always loved objects because they make me feel safe and remind me of a moment, a feeling, of travel,” she says.
Alvarez, who doesn’t come from a traditional fashion background, was simply following her instincts when she first launched the brand in 2016—something she still does to this day. Her appreciation for craftsmanship combined with an old-meets-new approach is something that’s also resonated with other creatives, including the lauded fashion designer Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons, whom she collaborated with in 2018.
Heimat Atlantica bags are made in a workshop in the traditional Portuguese way by handweaving reed sticks that are first sun-dried and then dyed with pigment on looms to create intricate patterns. (Alvarez designs these herself.) The Sargadelos talismans affixed to the front are based on local myths and fables; they are also handmade in Galicia. The Biser charm that started it all is there to help you find (and hold on to!) love. The Cigarron is for happiness, and the hands of the Biman offer protection for your money and belongings. “Everyone understands the charms because they’re related to our human wishes and behavior,” Alvarez says.
Ahead, we caught up with an expecting Montserrat Alvarez—who yes, did find true love in the end!—to see what’s always in her bag, plus her current maternity essentials, and the charms she’s attaching to her soon-to-be little one’s stroller.
The last thing you bought
I bought dishes and all kinds of other home essentials because I just moved to Geneva from New York City.
Your everyday bag
I’ve been wearing our Cupid bucket bag in red. We created the seahorse charm in collaboration with Flora Langlois, a French artist behind the design studio La Falaise. I love how the seahorses catch the light, and how they move and make noise when you walk.