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