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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!

How Designers are Turning Rocks into Beautiful Gemstone Jewellery

Classifying Gemstones

Talk about a rock-hard job! A gemologist must wade through a detailed analysis to arrive at a classification for a rock. Their conclusion after reviewing  colour, clarity, hardness and refractory qualities determines the relative value of a stone.

Even today, gemstone classification follows a methodology first invented by the Ancient Greeks. The analysis starts by dividing stones into precious and semi-precious piles. The precious gem group includes sparkling diamonds, red rubies, icy sapphires and green emeralds. The list of semi-precious stones is extensive.

The problem?

“There is no universally accepted grading system for gemstones.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Inert. Stable. Perpetual.

Powerful. Influential. Transforming

Hocus pocus?

Maybe, but there is a strong belief foundation behind the dominant properties of stones.

From the American Gem Society website:

“According to folklore and stories throughout history, many gemstones are thought to offer mystic healing to its wearer.”

For the fashion crowd here is what Elle Magazine had to say:

“Despite what you might think, touting the “healing” properties of gemstones isn’t just a fleeting Hollywood trend reserved for Miranda Kerr and um, Spencer Pratt. Gems and stones have been believed to hold metaphysical properties, alter our moods, and remedy a spectrum of ailments for thousands of years.”

Whether you are a believer or not. It could hardly hurt to add one of these fabulous gemstone jewellery pieces to your accessory collection.

The Powers of Gemstone Jewellery

Colleen Poitras’ significance bangle marks the power of gemstones by acknowledging life’s milestones and the need for a little luck around your wrist.

Significance bangle moonstone @ColleenPoitras

Erinlaura harnesses the strength of rough cut stones with dainty gold filigree to craft harmony in her pendants.

Collins Necklace #Jewellery @Erinlaura #MadeinCanada

Anastassia Sel remodels old-style ring settings with stunning non-traditional stones.

Aurora Ring #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

Gemstone Qualities

What stone to buy? Here, are some details on a few of the semi-precious stones in their gemstone jewellery collections.

Purple Amethyst @ColleenPoitras

Amethyst is quartz. A crystal that calms the wearer and brings a closer connection to inner thoughts. The stone creates a deep awareness (especially if worn during meditation) and a sense of protection. This gemstone helps to banish negative energies. The Greeks believed the purple amethyst to be a “sobriety stone” associating its rich burgundy colour with Bacchus (god of wine). February babies this is your birthstone.

Black Onyx @ColleenPoitras

Black Onyx – Persistence and healing this is the stone to wear to that challenging client meeting. The impenetrable dark stone improves both focus, dedication and retention. Black Onyx might be a good choice to wear to your next exam or budget meeting. Perhaps a gift for a student.

Chalcedony @ColleenPoitras

Chalcedony is known as the Speaker’s Stone. The stone of someone who reflects upon the impact of their words before speaking. This light blue stone absorbs negative thoughts and energies. A nurturing stone for a friend.

Labradorite @ColleenPoitras

Labradorite this stone is bewitching and transforming. Facilitates magical powers and clear a path through the haze of memories and desires. Having trouble remembering your dreams? This stone provides clarity, improved communication and tempers negative feelings. Maybe you should get one for everyone in your office.

Moonstone @ColleenPoitras

Moonstone associated with the moon and the goddess Diana. A gemstone for the ladies, it encourages reflection and inner exploration. Moonstone is a good luck stone, offering protection and increased fertility.“ According to Hindu mythology, moonstone is made of solidified moonbeams.” (source). The adularescent nature of this stone with made it a favourite of 1960’s flower children. Moonstone continues to charm designers.  This stone is an excellent choice for the ladies on your shopping list.

Rose Quartz a bit like rosé wine this gemstone can vary from pale to dark pink. However, in this case, it has nothing to do with the length of time spent on grape skins. Prized by ancient cultures, archaeologists date rose quartz jewellery specimens from Iraq to 7000 BC. Revered for centuries, rose quartz is a healing stone. A love stone.

Rutilated quartz @ColleenPoitras

Rutilated Quartz a clear quartz peppered with Golden Rutile increases creativity and balance your energy chakras. Trouble sleeping? Worried about ageing or life’s road blocks this attractive stone will help bring clarity and centre your thoughts. This stone may even improve your love life.

Watermelon Tourmaline Union Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

Tourmaline is a quartz stone. These crystals run the gambit of the colour spectrum from clear to black. The stone of luck, love and positive energy. A watermelon tourmaline gets its name from the green exterior and red interior, like the melon. Wearing a black tourmaline stone might just bring you more luck than playing the lottery.

Skimbaco Essential Oil Diffuser Jewelry for Easy Designer Fashion

Discover how a lifestyle choices created a successful brand and a line of essential oil diffuser jewelry.

Katja Presnal is the founder of Skimbaco a lifestyle brand that she founded in 2006. She tells us that the name is not something you will find in a dictionary. Rather it’s a combination of a Finnish slang word “skimba” for skis and “co” for Colorado.

“The company was launched while we lived in Colorado and skiing in was the way we enjoyed life to the fullest at the moment. Everyone can define their own “skimbaco” – it is like modern carpe diem of enjoying the moment despite where you are.”

katja-and-gaby-in-bali @Skimbaco

Presnal says that her family does live a “Skimbaco” and somewhat nomadic life. “Our three children were born in three different countries, and we have explored the world together. Just in the past two years, we have lived in Sweden, New York, and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.”

Skimbaco Lifestyle started as an online store for artisan products (closed in 2008) and a blog. Presnal’s proven creative talent landed her a job at a marketing agency, where she worked with large brands. However, she felt that she was not living the Skimbaco lifestyle and felt this was critical to growing the company. Quitting her agency job apparently worked as Skimbaco is now an online magazine and significant lifestyle brand. Presnal and her team encourage you to travel the world and embrace local culture through the glossy magazine pages.

What is it about essential oils that you feel relates to the lifestyle you are promoting in your business?

I’ve always been a huge believer in natural remedies and even only used essential oils for the labour when our second daughter was born. After visiting farms around the world and seeing how they cultivate cinnamon in Sri Lanka and aloe vera in Italy, I have always been drawn to using earth’s best for skin care, wellness and yes, even health care. I started using essential oils as part of daily wellness regimen about two years ago, and it took me by surprise what kind of difference the daily use of essential oils can contribute to your physical and mental well-being. I realised that essential oils are not just some natural remedies to be used in need, but that they can be part of your wellness regimen to keep you healthy – and happy.

enjoy-life-jewelry-lifestyle #Jewellery @Skimbaco

How did essential oils result in designing jewelry?

I started using essential oils in my favourite leather bracelets a few years ago and realised that leather diffuses the oils. The scent stays in the jewelry longer than on the skin. It became my favourite way of diffusing my oils, so I teamed up with my favourite designer DeAnna Cochran to create a designer diffuser jewelry line. The ENJOY LIFE diffuser jewelry collection by Skimbaco Lifestyle is done in partnership with DeAnna, and all of our pieces are handmade in her studio in Texas.

Can you describe the process for designing the diffuser jewelry?

First, we test different materials on how they absorb the essential oils, and we test them with several oils. It’s important that the materials diffuse the oils, but also won’t get ruined in the long-term use. A lot of our inspiration comes from our travels. The current collection is inspired by the colours of Bali, the sandy beaches and tropical ocean.

2getger-turquoise-earrings #Jewellery @Skimbaco

I try to stay on the top of today’s trends. However, I also wanted to offer pieces that are pretty timeless, that you can wear for years. We don’t follow a specific process yet, and some of our designs have even been born out of an accident. For example, our team member saw a close up picture of the 2GETHER silver hoop earrings for the first time, and she immediately commented: “I love that minimal necklace!” We were puzzled at first, but then saw it as an opportunity to create a minimal necklace and the Just ONE DROP necklace was born.

just-one-drop-turquoise-lava-bead-silver-hoop-necklace #Jewellery @Skimbaco

What materials are used in the jewelry?

We are constantly testing new materials and how the oils can be used in them. We currently use lava beads, leather, and geode crystals. Currently, most of our metals are silver.

Check-out the full Skimbaco collection of diffuser jewelry here.

Images credits: All photos were provided by and published with the permission of Katja Presnal at Skimbaco Lifestyle

Smart Designer Shopping for the Uncomfortable Realities of Travel

Unfortunately, the glory days of travel are long gone; glamorous overland excursions, plush ship berths, expensive china and silver flatware remain legends of past voyages and dreamy novels. Although, you can still find handcrafted leather steamer trunks, smart cosmetic cases with shiny buckles and monogrammed hat boxes – in flea markets.

Travel Air #TravelTips @Atelier_boutiq

Today’s reality of airline limitations on baggage weight, size and quantity force you to pack wisely. Standing in the queue at airport security, balancing your laptop, spare change and shoes, is usually enough torture to ensure that you do not select more than the absolutely necessary items for your trip.

Mediterranean Boat #TravelTips @Atelier_boutiq

However, black suits and white shirts are boring.

Essential Poncho @ArtiganiMilanesi

At Atelier, we have travel solutions for your next voyage, accessories to brighten up your suitcase without adding weight or bulk. Here are some smart shopping ideas for your next out of town business meeting:

Essential Cashmere Cardigan this Italian tailored sweater will keep you warm on the plane or in the conference room. Available in multiple colours.

Essential Cardigan @ArtigianiMilanesi #cashmere

A stunning 100% silk scarf by Morija Designs, is easy to pack and will dress-up with any outfit.

Smart Designer Shopping Travel Silk Scarf

Eye-catching and comfortable to wear jewellery like the Collins Necklace or the Matter Series Ring in stainless steel will steal the show at your next client appointment.

Collins Necklace #Jewellery @Erinlaura #MadeinCanada

 

 

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

The Yin and Yang of Erinlaura Designer Jewelry

For this young Vancouver designer, opposing energies create unexpected harmony in her jewelry. Erin Johnson has lived in Canada’s west coast metropolis for several years now. Originally, she moved to attend the University of British Columbia, but the city’s many attractions keep her close.

Mia Necklace #Jewellery @Erinlaura #MadeinCanada

Erin founded her company Erinlaura Jewelry three years ago, the brand is a combination of two names – her grandmother’s and her own. Erin describes her grandmother, Laura, as an influential force in her life and one who continues to provide guidance. As a young woman, Laura emigrated to Langley, British Columbia from Vieste, Italy, with her spouse and they started a family. Young and resourceful Laura made everything from scratch from pasta to blankets, from bread to clothing. Erin credits her grandmother with teaching her how to work with her hands.

“She has always taught me to be strong and never give up. She has also taught me that it is ok to fail, which is an important thing for anyone starting their own company.”

Experimenting with materials Erin designed a delicate ring for herself using rose quartz and unwittingly launched her company. She wore the ring to work (at fashion retailer Aritzia) and before she had finished her shift co-workers were placing orders for similar models.

Collins Necklace #Jewellery @Erinlaura #MadeinCanada

Each Erinlaura Jewelry piece is named after one Erin’s best friends (clearly, she has a few). Combining rough cut stones with delicate chains is the yin-yang of Erin’s work. She tells us that she is attracted to the flaws in gemstones and it is in those blemishes that she sees the beauty and the possibilities. Her base materials come from stores in Vancouver and Arizona, and her inspiration from her surroundings.

Check out some of Erin’s “friends”: Mia, Kristen and the Collins necklaces. Rough semi-precious stones wrapped in fine strands of gold.

Cali Necklace #Jewellery @Erinlaura #MadeinCanada

Before we let Erin get back to her studio, we asked her to share her favourite Vancouver haunts, and where she hopes to see someone wearing her jewelry.

#TastesofVancouver

Coffee: 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters – Start the day with the perfect raw almond milk latte.

Breakfast: Café Medina for the best brunch in town.

Lunch:  Lift for an excellent view of the water and fresh oysters too.

Dinner:  AnnaLena Restaurant for tasty share plates and even better cocktails.

Stay: Rosewood Hotel Georgia with its unbeatable central downtown location.

Classic Vancouver?: Take a walk on the Seawall.

Healthy activity?:  Quarry rock hike with a Honey’s Doughnut in Deep Cove afterwards.

Look for Anastassia Sel Designer Jewellery on New York’s Fashion Runways

Volgodonsk is unlikely to be on many travel bucket lists; a Russian city located on the Tsimlyansk Reservoir, where the nearby nuclear plant is a local employer. This town is where Canadian artist and rising star jeweller Anastassia Selezneva was born.

Anastassia Selezneva emigrated to Toronto, with her parents, when she was nine years old. Artistic activities occupied after-school hours and much of her Canadian childhood. She explains that she had limited time to “hang-out” as she experimented with ballet, piano and visual arts. Selezneva attributes these touchpoints with creative circles to her desire to attend the Etobicoke School of the Arts.

Orion Earrings #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

However, Selezneva says that her journey to jewellery production began as an artistic outlet

“I started to fiddle and experiment with jewellery in November 2012. Wire wrapping, learning about stones, their properties, and teaching myself how to solder. I needed a creative outlet and my finance job was not giving me that.”

Black Tourmaline Union Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

Her practical business degree, from York University (Toronto) a safe choice, but one that did not fulfil her artistic needs. Selezneva’s diversion with jewellery has led her to global fashion centres;

“Anastassia has created ‘haute couture,’ one-of-a-kind works for Toronto, Milan and New York Fashion Week runway shows.”

Selezneva is now laser focused on her business and her Anastassia Sel brand. She recently (June 2016) graduated from the George Brown College fashion studies program.

Branch Ear Crawlers #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

“This program is intensive and not for everyone. It has very high expectations. To succeed in this program, you need to have patience and dedication to the craft. The one-year program that I took, gave me a solid foundation of the different aspects of the jewellery industry such as goldsmithing, surface finishing, gemology and technical drawing.”

Why did you move towards jewellery from other creative directions?

I remember always going through my grandma’s jewellery box and having a wild fascination with how much beauty it holds and how different jewellery can be. I think my inspiration for jewellery design came at a very early age, but it took some time to blossom into something concrete. Looking back, I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I decided I will be a jewellery designer. It just happened naturally.

Can you explain how you choose a stone for one of your pieces?

I have always gravitated towards rough stones. I love nature and looking at raw, rough, organic forms brings me closer to it. Ideally, in my comfort zone, all of my pieces would have rough stones. However, as a designer, I have to be versatile and appeal to various clients. If I were to choose my favourite stones, it would be black kyanite and rainbow moonstone. They are polar opposites. Kyanite is rough and dark, and moonstone is light, airy and smooth. When I design, I let the materials talk to me. It depends on the piece, but I typically start my design from the stone and create the piece around it.

Vitae Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

You work with recycled 14K gold and sterling silver. Can you share your sustainability philosophy as it relates to jewellery?

The way I see it is we as a society need to learn to reuse the resources we have to create a sustainable environment. Resources are finite, and we have to be conscious of how we recover and use it.

Cosmic Ray Ear Crawler #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

How do you find the inspiration for your pieces?

Nature is a big part of my inspiration. The freedom that comes with the natural environment. The place that we are whole, authentic and small. In urban areas we have titles and hierarchies, in nature, we are one. Mortal. Finite.

Union Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

What do you want someone to “feel” when they are wearing one of your pieces?

Empowered and authentic.

Topus Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

At Atelier, we are thrilled to be able to showcase jewellery designs from this young designer, who is quite clear that she would like Anastassia Sel to be New York City-based in the future. For now, she shared a few of her version of “where the locals go” in Toronto:

Favourite restaurant in Toronto?

Bar Raval for hipster tapas and Bairrada Churrasqueira for their great patio and Portuguese food.

Favourite coffee shop in Toronto?

Balzac’s Coffee Roasters.

Favourite thing to do on a Saturday in Toronto?

I typically escape the city to a beautiful park like Algonquin, Tobermory or Hilton Falls. However, if I do stay in Toronto I usually check out what festivals are going on (Wine/Beer/Music) or go to a lively patio.

To see the exclusive Anastassia Sel collection currently available on Atelier click here.

Colleen Poitras is Changing Your Look With Pretty Edgy Jewellery

Tomboy to jewellery designer. Colleen Poitras says “Ironically I was more my father’s daughter growing up, a tomboy who loved sports and wanted nothing to do with fashion. I’m not sure when the shift came, but it did, and I was suddenly sewing my clothes in high school, falling in love with fashion and really big earrings!”

After high school, Poitras studied the art and trade of jewellery making at George Brown College and the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. She now credits her mother’s work as a seamstress with unlocking her interest in fashion. “I was always creating something, but my first love was fashion. There is an excitement for me pairing clothing and accessories and seeing how the right combination can make an outfit come alive!”

The Colleen Poitras company tagline – Pretty. Rocker. Chic – is a perfect description of her work. Her shimmering stainless steel Endure Cuff hard-core enough for Wonder Woman yet flawless with that little black dress. The delicate Breathe Bangle is pretty enough for your niece, but you know you want one too. The Falling Chain Necklace is a waterfall of airy stainless steel chains bound by a touch of leather.

Matte-Series-Ring in Stainless Steel

You work with a selection of materials; leather, concrete, stainless steel and semi-precious stones.

What attracts you to those materials?

It’s really interesting to me how my material choices happened rather organically. I hadn’t thought to work with leather until I needed some supplies that required me to go to a leather supplier and I was drawn in right away. The minute that I started working with leather was when I found my voice as a jewellery designer. Concrete was another medium that was unexpected. Again, the possibilities excite me!

Matter choker leather and stainless steel

Of all the materials you work with is there one that is your “go-to” and if so why?

Leather is definitely my go to material. However, I am also having lots of fun experimenting with the concrete and mixing it with metals and leather. What I love about leather, are the endless possibilities – it offers versatility that lends itself to well to my designs.

Significance bangle moonstone @ColleenPoitras

Your work seems to strike an impressive balance between edgy (just on the end of trouble) and feminine keepsakes.

Do you design with a person or place in mind?

I love that this comes across. I wouldn’t say that this is 100% intentional, but I do design what I would wear, and I am a combination of all of those things. I think we all are! We all have a little pretty, we all have a little rocker, and we all have a little chic. Every day is different which is what makes every day so fabulous!

Can you describe your workshop?

I have big windows that let in a lot of light giving it a very “lofty” feel. My photography accessorizes the walls, and I’ve had a custom work table built specific to my needs. It is light and airy with a bit of industrial edge. The perfect “me” workplace (okay in a perfect world I would have a little more space)!

Colleen Poitras designing Canadian women's jewellery

With any one of the Colleen Poitras pieces, you can almost guarantee that you will rock it in your jeans or bring your evening dress alive, but you might need to battle someone for these limited edition pieces. Check out the full collection here (quickly) before her gorgeous pieces are sold out.

French Designer Fashion Style. What is a Carré Silk Scarf?

Surprisingly, it was not Hermès that invented the word carré, but once the company launched its line of square silk scarves, the luxury fashion world has not looked back. Since 1937, there have been over 2,000 unique designs for Hermès carré silk scarves. Worn by royalty and coveted by many, you can read the Hermès story here.

French Carré Silk Scarves

A luxury scarf does not start with humble beginnings; the silk has to be top quality. In the case of a carré silk scarf, the fabric must be cut in an exact square. The raw edges are sewn and then rolled and finished by hand — roulottage is the mark of a premium brand.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Why buy a square scarf? The shape allows for more options for wearability. You can see what we mean with in the Hermès Maison des Carrés.

Petitjean Paris is a new line of ready-to-wear silk clothing for women. Léa Petitjean is the company’s founder, she completed a degree in luxury marketing and has gained an appreciation for excellent craftsmanship, from her work with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers. However, it is quality fabric that “speaks” to Petitjean. Her approach to nothing short of perfection becomes clear when you understand that she vetted many French artisans before determining whom she would trust to execute on her vision, including established silk printers in Lyon.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Atelier has been fortunate to secure a limited number of silk scarves from Petitjean Paris’s introductory line – Les Jurassiennes. These scarves are “Designed in Paris and made in France.” Gorgeous enough to frame – order your carré today.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Petitjean Paris

What are the 5 Good Reasons to Buy a Cashmere Sweater

A few years back I was invited on a girls’ trip — massages, pedicures, shopping and cocktail bars. Wrong! We were hiking.

What to pack for a long walk on the Camino de Santiago? The resounding answer was a cashmere sweater. The group was headed to walk a section of the Camino Frances starting at the French-Spanish border and over a six-day period we would cover about 120 kilometres.

As our departure date loomed the email volume escalated (the group was not exactly “What’s App” savvy at the time). Well past our youth hostel days, we chose a self-guided, partially supported pilgrim tour. In other words, we had engaged a service to move our bags from one destination to the next, and to book our accommodation. Yes, I admit we were doing a bit of a “princess” tour and thrilled we had picked that option when our first three days were rain-filled downpours that would have made Noah proud.

Luxury Cashmere Sweater Anouk Cardigan Artigiani Milanesi

Here, are five (of many) reasons you should own a cashmere sweater:

It is a natural fibre – Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of Cashmere goats that have been bred to produce the hair in greater quantities. Think of this filament as the fleece layer that you put on when the weather gets cooler. The cashmere belly-layer is “harvested” when the animals begin shedding, typically in the spring (May-June). The cashmere is combed or sheared (less desirable) and sent to a de-hairing facility to remove the coarse hairs. Only then, is the fibre ready to be spun into yarn.

It is not itchy – Unlike sheep wool,  the cashmere fibres are separated by hand from the coarse outer hairs leaving a soft, downy textile. This time-consuming process is manual, but the result is well worth the effort for the wearer. Did you know that it takes, four-six goats to produce enough fibre for one sweater?

A perfect travel companion – Honestly, who doesn’t like linen, but for backpack travel talk about wrinkles! Cashmere, it can be folded, rolled, stuffed and it still looks perfect.

Lightweight – Have you ever put on a wool sweater to get rid of a chill, only to feel weighed down? Cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool, yet significantly lighter.

You deserve it. Is there is a favourite sweater (or two) in your closet, the one with threadbare elbows? It’s time to buy a new one. A high-quality cashmere garment made with longer hairs that have only been combed (not sheared) should never have the annoying tiny pills on your sweater.

Handmade in Canada from 100% Cashmere, nothing less.

Gracie Lacie Cardigan @ArtigianiMilanesi #cashmere

 

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