The hour is late and Dusty Crum is tired as his truck motors into Sarasota just ahead of sunset.  A professional python wrangler for the Python Elimination Program, Crum’s day starts early, in the Everglades, where he’ll creep barefoot through the hollows and underbrush for invasive Burmese pythons, some as long as 16 feet, before wrestling them into submission. Pulling into the lot, the lights of 530 Burns Gallery glow warm and inviting in the eventide, and the shade of a massive banyan reaches out like grasping fingers melting in the growing night to welcome him at his last stop of the day, the Lady in Black. He sees her through the window. He used to bring her flowers—orchids—but now he brings her only snakes. And with her latest collection—Nikki Sedacca for Wildman—fashion designer and 530 Burns Gallery owner Nikki Sedacca uses these offerings to unite eco-conscious sentiment with snakeskin style. A collaboration with Crum, aka Wildman, this new line of snakeskin accessories not only supports efforts to restore the Everglades—an inimitable ecosystem ravaged and transformed by invasive predators—but does it all with local pride. Native Floridians both, Sedacca and Crum keep the operation in-state with a local tanner and Florida-based manufacturers. SRQ slithered into the workshop to see what’s what. 

Where did this idea originally come from?   Nikki Sedacca The situation is tragic. Burmese pythons should never have been introduced here, yet they cannot stay here without disastrous consequences for the delicate Everglades ecosystem. This collaboration grew out of a sense of obligation to commemorate these beautiful reptiles. The result will be beautiful, timeless and elegant treasures people may cherish for a lifetime. 

Photography by Barbara Banks.

Do you have concerns about using animal products?  I cannot stress enough what a huge danger the Burmese pythons pose to Florida’s wildlife. A trip to the Everglades is vastly different from 10 years ago. You will not see as much diversity in the wildlife. You will not see rabbits blissfully hopping around or a family of deer frolicking through the marsh like before. Dusty is working to restore the Everglades. There are no animals who can fight these creatures. At the same time, the snake is a sleek and beautiful animal. We transform their beauty into a product people will love and understand that they, too, are playing a part in saving the Everglades. 

From a designer’s perspective, what appeals to you about working with python?  It’s a beautiful pattern and the leather wears forever. The use of leather has a rich history, and highlights design and craftsmanship. I love the natural pattern, and it remains a force in guiding the design of each piece. There is an elevated respect for the material when you glide your hand across the texture of the skin. 

Photography by Barbara Banks.

What is your starting point?  Snakeskin is a tantalizing texture. The snake is edgy, elusive and mysterious. A person who wears snake is confident, original and seeking the extraordinary. It is the variance of feeling—the smoothness of small scales morphing to the large scales’ more rugged texture. Visually, the juxtaposition of different textures and lines creates an intriguing conversation piece and makes the wearer feel like they are adorned in a piece of art. Combined with varying hues of white, tan and brown, the snakeskin’s iconic patterning inspires each piece with its natural, everlasting beauty. 

Is there a particular snakeskin piece that HAD an impact on your design sensibilities?    I inherited a handbag from my mother, whom I can best describe as glamorous in the old Hollywood style. She was always elegantly pulled together. I love how timeless and classic this bag remains; the leather looks as good as it did the day my mother invested in the piece. In fact, it was this quality of timelessness that inspired our newly released “Forever You” clutches. Each is one-of-a-kind and designed to be a statement piece that will last a lifetime. It’s a perfect fit with the contemporary woman who is both sophisticated and spontaneous. And it’s a legacy piece. This new collection will store and keep safe particular memories and moments for the wearer—the first of which will be assisting in restoring the Everglades.

Is snakeskin a material that can be worn every day?   The versatility of each piece in the collection
allows the wearer to mix and match with current favorites in her (or his) closet. Pieces like the “Urban Bag” were designed for a woman of stature and influence who is constantly on the move, elegant in the latest innovations.  Our wide selection of “Forever You” clutches are perfect for an upcoming garden party or a night out on the town and can be worn with anything from jeans to a little black dress. Today’s woman is searching for a piece that can transform seamlessly from day to night while retaining its unique qualities. 

Now that the first line has been released, do you have any favorites? The Urban Bag is one of my
favorite pieces from the collection. After making several tweaks to the original sample, I found the perfect proportion of the crossbody handle to the size of the bag. It lays comfortably on the shoulder and reflects the modern woman who loves fashion, but is also connected to design in a classical style. 

Which item surprised you? I knew the Florida Python Pendant would be the iconic piece for the collection, but I am humbled by the overwhelming response I have received to its exotic look and feel. It’s the perfect symbol for a luxury collection with an all-American story, deeply rooted in the beauty of Florida’s native landscape. 

Is there a dream material that you would love to work with next?  This is just the beginning of the collaboration. Currently, I am looking forward to a collection of snakeskin jewelry combined with black
diamonds. The edgy feel of black diamonds highlights the sleek texture of the snakeskin.