In preparation for their upcoming pop-up shop: April 14th and 15th from 12pm-4pm hosted by Zane, we had a chance to ask the women behind Opelle, Amy Malcolm and Beth Nicholson, a few questions about their design process and the inspiration for their SS17 collection.
Opelle was born out of personal necessity for a functional handbag. How did you learn about crafting quality leather goods?
A: Honestly, lots of trial and error. My background is in art (sculpture) and tailoring, so I had a good foundation to build on.There is not a lot of old-school community in Toronto anymore but what’s left was my most valuable resource early on. I picked up a lot of tips chatting with our suppliers, the guys who came to repair our machines or help prep. Our process has truly evolved organically. In recent years there’s been a resurgence of handcrafting which is amazing to see.
Opelle has grown to include different series and collections of handbags. Can you tell us a little more about your process when designing a new piece, from idea to execution?
A: Usually the design process starts with a need. We’re always looking at the collection as a whole, and as fashion changes, our lifestyle changes and the needs of our customer evolves. I like to fully work through an idea from start to finish and one thing always leads to another. The Meena series, for example, is very different from a production perspective to the rest of the Collection.
How do you decide which pieces become a part of the permanent collection?
B: The pieces that fall naturally into the Opelle catalogue and sell consistently for a few seasons transition seamlessly into the permanent collection.
A: It originally began because we couldn’t discontinue anything without an outcry from customers. I think our customers appreciate that they can rely on the go-to basics always being available.
What inspired this spring's collection?
B: The Spring 17 collection was inspired by natural colours and textures, things that can be found in nature. We were drawn to the texture of basket weaving and looked at straw and sea grass weaving. The colours all have a sort of washed quality to them, almost like they are sun filtered. We are always inspired by plant life and Amy's partner is an interior landscape designer
so there is always a flow of incredible plant life in our space. We wanted to capture that natural mood by having the plant life play its own character in our lookbook shoot.
What do you hope to communicate about your products to customers this spring?
B: Every piece is made to order, hand cut and made in our Toronto atelier. Having that kind of oversight throughout the entire process of creation is rare and we are proud to be a brand that is 100% made in Canada. We love that we are a female owned and operated company and we are creating a creative workplace in the city and cultivating makers and creators.
Can you tell us a little bit about this basket weave texture?
A: It’s actually lawn chair fabric from the 70’s. It’s cellulose fibre, so totally natural. We’ve both long had an obsession with weaving and heavily textured basket style materials, but I dug my heels in for a long time because it is very challenging to work with. This is really a classic example of how material dictates design. The material needs very careful handling and treatment, so the style is relatively simple. They are my favorite pieces of the season.
Where do you see this product living?
B: Our bags have always served multiple purposes. They are functional, aesthetically refined and thoughtfully designed. So I think the bags live in the multifaceted worlds of our Opelle woman. She is a designer, mother, artist, entrepreneur (etc) and our bags are her go-to for the various textures in her life.
What advice would you give to other young female designers/creatives living in Toronto?
B: Find your community. Toronto is a vibrant and growing creative city. Be patient. Work hard and stay focused. And you can always knock on our door!
Beth and Amy’s Top Three Sources for Design Inspiration:
- “We have some pretty intense and animated discussions in the studio about what is happening in fashion. Our daily banter is one of our top sources of inspiration and new ideas. Not to mention serious laughs!”
- “We love Tumblr.”
- “We are inspired by the women in our lives and by our lifestyles. We need to address our (needs) as designers, mothers, artists, all while maintaining aesthetic integrity and providing something necessary and meaningful.”