We chatted with Molly, designer of The Stowe. The brand spankin new FW/17 collection just hit our shelves. Learn a bit about the brand and the special attributes that make them a valuable asset to our store's collection of designers.
How did you originally start working with leather, and develop your brand as a Canadian bag designer?
This all began by accident, actually. I’m educated in fashion design and after some failed attempts at finding a position that I was happy with in that industry, I thought I might have to move onto something else. That’s when a belt that I absolutely loved broke, and I figured I could probably make a new one myself. I went down to my local leather retailer in Vancouver (where I lived at the time) and he truly took me under his wing. He taught me how to pull straps and skive by hand. He was my first mentor, and I couldn’t be more grateful. After I pulled my first strap it was like a lightbulb went off. I had just been working with the wrong materials and I had finally found my medium. Thanks to the tremendous support I’ve received from the Canadian community, the growth of my business has been totally organic and very steady. We are now travelling around the world selling our product and distributing on a global scale. It’s all still pretty unbelievable to me.
What inspired the name The Stowe?
It’s as simple as a play on the word stow, as in to stow something away. I added the ‘e’ for visual balance and to make it more of a proper name than the actual word stow.
What kinds of genuine leather do you work with?
Our leather is beautiful vegetable tanned leather sourced from a family run tannery in Italy. Vegetable tanned leather is unique in that only natural dyes are used in the tanning process. Our leather is custom tanned so the colours we offer are unique to The Stowe. This leather is incredibly tough, and very easy to maintain. My favourite characteristic of vegetable tanned leather is that it evolves - developing a lovely patina reflecting the daily routine of it’s owner, so each piece becomes truly yours.
You have made your handbags in Canada since your infancy. Why have you now chosen to have The Stowe handbags produced in Spain?
I made every item by hand myself for the first few years of operation. We were growing rapidly and we had to scale up, so we found a small production team here in Montreal to help me out. However, leatherwork is a very skilled trade and it was impossible for them to find reliable skilled labour. That small team eventually dissolved which resulted in me taking on 100% of production once again, which is obviously not an ideal situation while trying to simultaneously run the business. After searching for production in North America for months and receiving several very disappointing samples back, we decided to take the leap and begin searching for production in Europe. We have truly found our perfect fit in our team in Spain. It is a family owned factory specializing in leather handbags for over 40 years. The entire line has had a serious facelift with every detail refined to perfection. We are extremely happy with the product we’re putting out in the world, and we hope everyone else is too!
What leather bag styles are you most excited about releasing this season at ZANE Queen Street? Can we expect new handbag shapes from The Stowe?
We are introducing one new shape called the Margot (which I have nicknamed the taco bag) that is getting a ton of positive attention, I’m very excited to debut this new shape. I’m also overjoyed to finally be able to offer the most perfect long zip wallet to our permanent collection.
How do you find the customer of The Stowe in Toronto different than the customer of The Stowe in Montreal?
The Stowe woman is practical and stylish, and at the same time tough. My customer is very much present in both cities. She is represented by the type of woman who isn’t afraid to ride her bike in heels, and doesn’t conform to fickle trends or fast fashion. Attention is paid to materials and construction, and investing in timeless pieces that will serve her well for years.
Why did you feel like ZANE on West Queen West was the right fit for The Stowe in Toronto?
It’s the perfect space for our product. The light flooded front room and the gorgeous back garden is the perfect creative, fun and professional environment myself and my customers feel right at home within.
What are other like-minded Canadian brands that inspire you?
I exist in a vibrant and large community of makers, designers and creative professionals here in Montreal. Across Canada there is such a huge amount of talent popping up every day and I am so proud to be part of this movement. Some very inspirational Canadian brands are my friends at Heirloom Hats, Ora-C jewellery, Rachel Saunders Ceramics, YYY ceramics, Fortnight Lingerie, and Odeyalo clothing.
*studio photo by Yan Bleney
The BAGGU reusable bag is for far more than simply toting around groceries. Although, it is perfect for doing just that and can hold 2-3 bags worth of groceries. The 5in x 5in pouch is perfect for storing your lip balm keys and cash or for repacking it to throw in your bag just in case. The reusable, machine washable, rip stop nylon makes these BAGGU bags a no brainer.
ps. they're $13.50... yes you read that right.
Black Pepper + Cedarwood is light spicy scent with strong smoky notes for a sense of comfort and warmth.
Cannabis + Opium Den is a bright, crisp and clean scent for a refreshing burst of youthful energy.
Palo Santo + Desert Rose - a light dusty rose scent with strong palo santo notes that channel positive, peaceful vibes.
Mujer Fuerte has rich and woody yet subtly sweet notes of palo santo, sandalwood, and musk for a strong and secure scent.
View our lifestyle collection here
If scoring two bags for the price of one sounds like a dream come true, then you are in luck.
Meet your new best friend, the Carver. The Carver Backpack is a unique convertible design from the Toronto-based designer, Sonya Lee. This spacious, soft-grained leather bag has a sued-lined interior, adjustable shoulder straps and can be worn as either a backpack or crossbody purse.
The Carver Backpack’s versatile and stylish design makes it the perfect addition to your everyday, essential wardrobe and will keep you looking effortlessly polished from day-to-night.
LA based jewelry brand, Seoul Little, began as a creative hobby and quickly turned into a full-time hustle for founder and designer, Charlotte Park. Her designs are simple and stackable with a subtle amount of spunk. Each Seoul Little piece has an easy-breezy, effortless charm that will instantly elevate your essential wardrobe pieces.
Browse the Seoul Little collection of rings, necklaces, and earrings here.
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.”
Since 2010, Opelle has been handcrafting minimalist, utilitarian handbags from their studio in Toronto’s West End. Produced in small batches using responsibly sourced materials, Opelle bags are designed with the wearer in mind. Unlike most luxury brands, Opelle makes everyday essentials that are meant to be loved and live in. Uniting form with function, Opelle bags are exquisite in both their durability and design; they hold a standard of quality that is incredibly rare within the contemporary landscape of fashion.
In addition to select pieces from Opelle’s SS17 collection, we are pleased to be the exclusive stockist of a limited-run Opelle design, The Meena Market Tote in Black. Designed to be the feminine iteration of a briefcase, this tote maintains Opelle’s classic saddle shape and style with a little extra wiggle room. With a fully finished interior including a laptop sleeve and top zipper, the Meena Market Tote is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Michelle Ross Noa Earrings in Silver-Brass
Michelle Ross Odina Earrings in Brass and Silver
Michelle Ross Tash Earrings in Silver-Brass
Spitfire Warp Sunglasses