The top 10 handbag designers in Toronto
The top handbag designers in Toronto bring a ton of talent to the Canadian fashion scene, and they're making inroads in a retail scene dominated by mid-priced juggernauts (Roots, Coach) and high-end trophies (everything they sell at Holts).
There's good reason to go local for your latest piece of arm candy, beyond giving a valuable boost to a small business (and, probably, saving a bundle on markup). Bags may be the most symbolic item in fashion: they're a signifier of taste, of lifestyle, and of how much cash you're really willing to sink into five pounds of leather and hardware.
Sling one of these independent creations on your arm, though, and you'll telegraph to the world just how plugged in you are to the Canadian fashion scene (while, of course, looking smashing).
Here are the top handbag designers in Toronto.
Designer Ela Aldorsson started her line hoping to hit the sweet spot between high street and high-end - elevated, but still within reach of the average buyer. It's working: Celebs are snapping up the made-in-Spain clutches, including the zipped Editor's Pouch and asymmetric-closure MILCK clutch, and Club Monaco recently started carrying them in stores.
Sandi Falconer and Danielle Wright's leather clutches and mini wallets are simple in shape and construction - but an ever-rotating selection of whimsical prints and bold colours adds visual zing. They're a favourite of design blogs and boutiques the world over; recently they even worked on an exclusive line of cardholders for J. Crew sister store Madewell.
You can't round up Toronto's best bags without mentioning Hoi Bo. Sarra Tang's line, based out of a studio in the Distillery, combines leather and waxed cotton into slouchy, quietly-cool bags jazzed up with ingenious folds and pleats.
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in town who can top Jensen's accessory design resume: She previously worked for Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein before launching her own line in 2008. Jensen makes everything from satchels and Bottega Veneta-style woven totes to wristlets and wallets, all of it skirting the line between minimal and glamorous (read: perfect everyday bags).
While Bird's primarily known for her edgy-bohemian jewelry line, she actually started out making handbags - it was casting the custom hardware that piqued her interest in working full-time with metal. She sporadically releases new bags, including a net-and-chestnut-leather collection for Spring 2013 that's the perfect foil to her city-meets-Coachella style.
Here's one for the vegans - and the bargain hunters. Nella Bella's Tarek Al-Azbat works exclusively with faux leather, so the brand's totes, satchels, clutches and wallets don't break the bank (everything's priced under $150). The brand's design sense is decidedly minimal and classic, with little hardware or frills, but thrill-seekers can skip the neutrals and grab the same model in poppy jewel tones or party-ready metallics (or, heck, get one of each).
In the year and a half since launching her eponymous line, accountant-turned-bag designer Sneha Varma has earned nods from Elle Canada, FASHION and Flare (the Canadian fashion hat trick). It's easy to see why: Varma's clever use of details like ribbing and perforation and liberal doses of colour add a fun, sporty edge to her totes and clutches.
Amy Malcolm's handmade leather bags are making waves, quietly popping up in Canadian fashion editorials and on the arms of the fashion-forward. She began with the Lotus, a gracefully-paneled, teardrop-shaped satchel, and expanded into a slew of bags all rendered in locally-sourced leather so soft, I'm always tempted to start stroking my computer screen while looking at their web store...
Ivy Chen designs for the professional on the go: her handbags are kitted out with a telescoping handle and wheels, as well as plenty of interior compartments for those important documents. Jolie bags are trickling into stores around Toronto, but the line is already sharing virtual shelf space with the likes of Rebecca Minkoff and Diane Von Furstenberg on eLuxe.
Bookhou certainly doesn't limit themselves to handbags. The husband-and-wife design duo's Dundas West store is a one-stop shop for ceramics and textiles, all designed in-house. But their laid-back canvas-and-leather bags have been spotted on major design blogs around the world, and their signature black-and-white triangle pattern can be spotted (from a mile away) on fashionable arms around town.
Who did I miss? Plug your favourite local handbag designer in the comments below.
Photo of a Jessica Jensen handbag