I’m not a huge shopper, but I do love to buy bags. Not only are they useful, but they come in every style imaginable. From the leather tote that’s my summertime sidekick to the beaten-up canvas backpack that fits my laptop just right, I depend on my collection of bags to accessorize and to organize.
In a lot of ways, bags are an ideal product to make and sell. It’s easy to change up colours, styles and materials with the seasons; customers are always happy to buy more; and best yet, they don’t have to fit, meaning you don’t have to worry about keeping a variety of sizes in stock.
Looking for inspiration? Here are six bag makers in Canada that we love.
What: Leather bags and accessories and apparel created by Indigenous women designers Devon Fiddler, Helen Oro and Tori-Lynn Wanotch.
Why we love ’em: The team at She Native has style, and it shows in their extensive yet well-curated product line: think cosmetics bags in buttery natural leather, printed tees and beaded fringed earrings. Fringed leather medicine bags feature three strands of beads that represent the past, present and future, and are designed to hold any object that contains special or spiritual meaning to you: items like lavender and cedar, crystals, rocks or sweetgrass.
Workshop’s favourite: The Tipiskâw Pîsim makeup bag (pictured above) has a subtle, classic look and a convex zipper opening that’s both practical and beautiful.
What: Bags and accessories made with locally sourced, vegetable tanned leather and upcycled materials.
Why we love ’em: Förtrollad is Swedish for enchanted, and owner Karin Edhland, who grew up in Stockholm, associates the word with creativity, imagination and the Nordic forests she explored as a child. With this connection to nature in mind, she tries hard to make her business sustainable: products are made to last with minimal waste, and a portion of proceeds go toward tree planting initiatives.
Workshop’s favourite: The Gefjun slingbag features a woven design that’s classic yet contemporary, in colour options for urban sophisticates and tree huggers alike.
What: Handmade fanny packs crafted from upcycled materials: remnants, scraps, thrifted finds and community donations.
Why we love ’em: This family business is all about making do with what you’ve got and making it spectacular: limited-edition fanny packs come in fabrics and materials including velvet, denim, faux fur and even patchwork leather, in multiple sizes and every colour under the sun. They also make a few other accessories: mini wallets, cardholders and snack packs for kids. Plus, they donate a portion of sales to a different charity partner each month.
Workshop’s favourite: The Utility Pack with its multiple pockets brings practicality to a whole new level, and the corduroy-look “double knit” fabric has a cozy fall vibe.
What: Vegan leather bags and accessories.
Why we love ’em: It’s a tale as old as time: a crafty person with particular style can’t find what she’s looking for and decides to make it herself. In this case, founder Claire Carreras was searching for the perfect vegan leather backpack, to no avail. And so, White Rhino was born, with a built-in USP and some obviously pent-up demand: the brand’s cute and varied backpacks, wristlets, purses and more have won media attention from numerous publications in the vegan space. There’s also a feel-good angle: Carreras donates a portion of profits to World Animal Protection U.S.
Workshop’s favourite: The chic Mackenzie Backpack in blush rose is what ultra-femme dreams are made of. And it has pockets, lots of them!
Where: Oakville, Ont.
What: Bags and accessories in bold, colourful fabric prints.
Why we love ’em: Designer Muriel Corbierre loves to try new designs, a preference that keeps her customers coming back for more. The beauty of this approach is she offers a fabric choice for just about everyone, whether you’re looking for florals, pithy sayings, seasonal motifs or, you know, rainbow unicorn cats.
Workshop’s favourite: It’s hard to resist the popular florals by Rifle Paper Co., which Corbierre uses to full advantage in Anna Graham’s Hillside tote pattern. (Sadly, it’s out of stock.)
Where: Mascarene, New Brunswick
What: Handmade canvas bags in a range of styles, sizes and colours.
Why we love ’em: This is a business with staying power: it was founded in 1991 and has been creating its bags ever since. Current owner Sadie Gagner has her studio on the property of her old cape house in southwestern New Brunswick and works to create a product line that prioritizes function, durability, community and the environment. If your 100-percent-cotton bag gets too worn to use anymore (or you simply want to exchange it for a fresh look), Topsail offers store credit for trade-ins and will repair and resell used bags to keep them out of landfill.
Workshop’s favourite: The Galley is the all-purpose tote you’ll always find a use for. The handles are sized to be carried either in the hand or over the shoulder, and a smart inside pocket keeps your water bottle upright.
Did we leave out your favourite Canadian bag maker? What other types of goods should we feature? Let us know in the comments!