Maria comes from a very old family of bookbinders. The bookbindery is in her family’s house, the Palazzo Marigliano in Naples. The fact that her handbags are handmade in the same way as a book, by a bookbindery rather than a fashion house, is I think really interesting.
As an actor, the physicality of the book is really important to me. I think you can have a relationship with a physical book that I’m not sure you can with an ebook. A lot of people do auditions with iPads now and that bewilders me: creating characters is something humans have done since the beginning of time and the idea of going in with an iPad — it just feels really wrong.
For my book clutch, the book I chose was E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. I have a leather-bound copy of that and I love the fact that it’s got notes in it, and scribbles down the side, that it’s annotated and it’s real. Those highlighting apps that you can get to highlight stuff on screen make me slightly die inside. When you pass on a book that’s got your own squiggles in, there’s something deeply personal about it. It’s so revealing.
I love E.M. Forster and did an extended essay on him when I was studying at Oxford. Before that, I spent a period with some of my best friends in Florence for six weeks, trying to learn Italian. Like for Lucy Honeychurch in the novel, Florence for me is linked to the dawning of adulthood. My friend has a photograph that I love, of me at 18 looking out over the Duomo and the whole city. I look like I’m just on that real brink of childhood and womanhood — and like I had no idea what’s starting. A Room with a View very much has that same feeling of being on the cusp.
With her book clutches, Maria has created something that lets you give personality and life to something that you own, which is why I think they appeal to so many girls around the world. Lots of Maria’s success so far has been word of mouth, for instance on Instagram. People have seen her book clutches and really liked them and I think that’s maybe because you are able to print your individuality on to your clutch. People want the multifarious. Women want to be perceived as different and individual and I think that’s why Maria’s hit on something. You don’t feel like you’re conforming to fashion.