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Category Archives: Handbags

Day 3 – 12 Days of Designer Christmas Shopping for Handbags

Many of Atelier’s designers have spent years perfecting their craft. In the case of handbags, there are so many elements that go into creating a beautiful purse – material selection (leathers, silks, fabrics), zippers, clasps, button closures and much more.

Nancy Newman gathers textiles and vintage fabrics from around the globe for her handbags. The bucket bag shown below includes traditional indigo dyed cotton from the Hmong tribe in Laos, a pigskin leather bottom, repurposed leather strap and a reclaimed glass bead from Ghana. Think of the work that goes into just one of her bags! She really is saving the fashion world one purse at a time.

Follow this link for all of the beautifully crafted bags by our Canadian Designers.

For your Pinterest board:

Designer handbags

Learn About Exotic Leather Handbags by Christine VonBun

Toronto Canada’s biggest city, comes with all the trappings and frenetic pace of a metropolis. Finding and creating beauty can become obscure. However, we discovered designer Christine VonBun who handcrafts exotic leather handbags in her Toronto workshop. Discover her artistic inspiration and backstory here:

What brought Christine VonBun to Toronto?

When I made my decision to leave South Africa, I set my sights on a country with vast open space. The options were limited. My tennis partner spent eight years in Canada and loved it. Toronto was the obvious choice if I wanted to stay in my field with the benefits of a larger city. I never regretted that decision. We live three hours from Algonquin Park and try to get out with our beloved canoe (we name her HMS Edelweiss) as often as we can.

Christine VonBun fabricates a collection of handcrafted leather handbags in Toronto. Her interest in fashion started on a miniature scale sewing clothes for her dolls. Christine’s youthful pastime led to her educational choice, a dedicated fashion school in Vienna, Austria, called Modeschule Hetzendorf in a baroque castle.

Nadia clutch @ChristineVonBun

The school’s applicants must pass an entry exam to test their artistic and creative abilities. Christine began the intense five-year program at the age of 14. Many students were in their early twenties and the class size was limited to 24 people. The first two years centred around art, colour development and artistic education along with traditional high school courses. In the program’s third year, you are required to select a speciality. Christine chose leather and began working on handbags, belts and wallets.

After three years at Modeschule Hetzendorf, Christine received a journeyman’s certificate in handbag design and manufacture along with a degree in graphic and fashion illustration. However, her goal was to achieve her master craftsman certification, which in Austria legally allows you to open a store and workshop in your field. Christine VonBun was clearly dedicated; she had to work as an apprentice before applying for the elite track, which then required more specialised design and handcrafted work along with business related courses.

What was the final step?

“A technical two-day exam where you have to manufacture a prescribed handbag in a Master’s workshop – while they watch you doing it.”

Master craftsman Christine VonBun moved from Austria to Cape Town where she honed her skills working for Cape Cobra Leathercraft a manufacturer of luxury leather handbags made with exotic leathers.

How does Christine VonBun describes her exotic leather handbag collection?

I use my favourite leather (ostrich) as the basis of my collection. What I do now is a limited collection, all the bags have a similar identity.  Most of my bags include some interesting detail or complicated aspect of construction you won’t see elsewhere. I am trying to let my craftsmanship speak for itself to set my bags apart from others. My line now is all about elite craftsmanship, exclusive materials and timeless elegance.

Christine VonBun

What inspires your design work?

I love to travel, and I love architecture, especially modern architecture and art deco. My inspiration is something out of the ordinary; such as a building or a structure in a European city or even a small town, sometimes it’s the picture-perfect rock formation somewhere in the Canadian Wilderness. These things inspire me to create.

Can you explain how ostrich leather is different from other materials?

I fell in love with ostrich leather while working in South Africa. The leather is really in its own category with its unique texture and softness. Due to a natural tanning process, ostrich is the only exotic leather that gets more beautiful the more you wear it. The ostrich leather absorbs the oil from your skin and the textured quill areas get shiny and wonderfully soft. I have been wearing my denim blue Adele bag for over eight years, and it is still beautiful, I wouldn’t trade it for a new bag. Ostrich is often mistakenly referred to as endangered, and nothing could be further from the truth. There are now many ostrich farms and leather sources, but I use only Klein Karoo ostrich, they are the world leader for ostrich product. I won’t compromise on leather quality.

Adele Ostrich Shoulder bag @ChristineVonBun

What tools do you need for your work?

The primary machines are a particular walking foot leather sewing machine and a skiving machine for thinning the edges. When it comes to hand tools, I have a selection of double-facetted hand-knives for cutting, and specialised skiving knives for thinning the leather edges. I need a fishbone knife for turning the edges. There are also a variety of pliers and hammers, and a good assortment of small screwdrivers, chisels and some glue pots. I use different adhesives for separate parts of the process. The most important piece for hand working is a large soft flat stone. I got mine from my old Master in Vienna. These fine sandstones are not easy to come by – most come from European churches when they renovate.

Gloria #ShoulderBag #Leather @ChristineVonBun

How long does it take to make a bag like Gloria or Lola from start to finish?

The biggest factor in making a bag is that there are many individual steps. You are much more efficient when making multiples of the same style. On top of this, ostrich compared to a flat leather adds at least 50% additional time. Ostrich skin is a premium leather, the quill pattern complicates how you cut, you want to maximise every square inch. Ostrich also has the added difficulty of a very time-consuming preparation procedure order to start the assembly.

Lola Red Patent Leather Handbag @ChristineVonBun

To answer your question more precisely, if I make the Lola in patent leather, and I make more than one at a time, I could get away with about four to five hours per bag. If I make multiple Lolas in ostrich, I am likely to spend eight hours per handbag. However, a single bag could take 12 hours. With that effort to produce a single purse, it’s easy to understand why these handbags are limited pieces. View the Christine VonBun creator page and order your signature leather handbag today!

Inspired by Art Deco KOTI Designs Luxury Silk Evening Handbags

“Home” in Finnish is KOTI, the name that Kaarina Talvila chose for her company. For her, it is a fitting name linked to memories of her mother who first taught her how to sew. KOTI Designs is also evocative of the fact that Kaarina is very settled in her adopted city of Vancouver, a place where she has lived since 1980, and the fact that she is at home (literally and spiritually) in her studio.

Silk Canister Purse in Violet and Cream Silk @KOTIDesigns

 

We were curious about the KOTI Designs story; from geology to silk handbag design. Kaarina Talvila achieved a major in geology from the University of Toronto and subsequently worked for a Fortune 500 company in computer support for mining exploration – mapping and data analysis. Now, she creates geometric patterns for silk evening bags and finishes them on a 35-year old on Viking sewing machine.

Silk Canister evening bag in Steel Blue and Chartreuse @KOTIDesigns

 

When did you start KOTI Designs?

I started KOTI Designs on a very part-time basis about twelve years ago (2004), when my children were in elementary school, but I didn’t turn it into a full-time undertaking until about five years ago.

Why did you start KOTI Designs?

Despite the early career in a science-based field, I’ve always been a creator  – right from childhood. In fact, I took time off from my software work to go back to school to do a crafts program, but I never thought it was a viable career choice. When I was a stay-at-home mom, though, with children in school all day, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to pursue, finally, the creative life I’d been wanting for as long as I could remember.

Square silk Purse Red and Purple @KOTIDesigns

Can you tell us about the crafts program?

I already knew how to sew, thanks to my mother, as well as high school Home Economics classes and years of sewing my clothes. Before starting my new venture in earnest, I took a two-year hiatus from my software career and attended Capilano University for their craft program, which encompassed weaving and surface design, as well as drawing, design and art history.

How did you learn to work with silk?

When I was at Capilano University, we got a good grounding in working with all natural fibres, both for weaving and surface design.

Why do chose to you work with silk?

When I was doing table linens, I was using natural linen because of its durability, but for my evening bags, silk was the only choice. Silk is elegant and lustrous. It represents refined quality and still has an aura of the exotic. And, most importantly for me, silk is unmatched for rich and vibrant colours.

silk-evening-bag-half-moon-shape-in-black-and-scarlet-and-gold @KOTIDesigns

Your designs are inspired by Art Deco and the Japanese aesthetic – what is it about bold, precise patterns that speak to you?

Art Deco is very geometric, and that’s me with my math and science background. My designs are very controlled and precise, but also minimalist, and that’s where the Japanese aesthetic comes in. I love the balance and apparent simplicity of Japanese design.

Can you describe your workshop (atelier)?

I have a lovely studio space. It’s on the second floor of my home in West Vancouver, with windows that look out over Burrard Inlet and a walk-out deck. I’m a bit cramped for space, but the beauty and serenity more than make up for that.

silk clutch evening bag in black rust and red @KOTIDesigns

How long does it typically take to make a bag?

I usually make the purses in batches of four or five – do all the cutting, then all the sewing, etc. It’s much more efficient than doing them one at a time, but if I were to work it out per purse, it would be about 3.5 to 4.5 hours, depending on the style.

The beautiful KOTI Design bags are made from fine silk cloth and fabricated with an exacting eye.

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of KOTI Designs

 

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