Leather goods born in T.O.

ELLE (Canada) - - Cover Stories -

We can talk in hash­tags if you want; we’re re­ally good at that,” jokes Ali­son Booth, co-founder of Toron­to­based ac­ces­sories line Brunswick + Co. I’m sit­ting in the airy white down­town stu­dio she shares with her busi­ness part­ner, Ali­son Lovell, as the pair ex­plains to me how they have been learn­ing to mar­ket their line of lo­cally made leather hand­bags and clutches on so­cial me­dia.

The duo, who have been friends for two decades, launched their com­pany from their neigh­bour­ing homes on Brunswick Av­enue in 2010 and have been man­ag­ing ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness— from de­sign to e-com­merce to ship­ping—ever since. It’s one of the rea­sons they are adamant about keep­ing pro­duc­tion lo­cal. “We can get on our bi­cy­cles and go see our fac­tory,” ex­plains Lovell. “We can over­see ev­ery­thing and be in con­trol of it.” Their ma­teri­als, how­ever, are sourced from all over the world, such as but­tery leather and soft hair on hide from Brazil and New Zealand and luxe coated can­vas from Italy. “It’s like a zoo,” says Lovell with a laugh, ges­tur­ing to the mix of prints in their fall/ win­ter 2015 col­lec­tion. “We were drawn to all the dif­fer­ent tex­tures and colours.”

Lovell’s back­ground as a tex­tile de­signer and Booth’s prior de­sign stints at Cé­line and Coach in­form their love of unique pat­terns and sim­ple, func­tional de­sign. “We’re al­ways cir­cling back to this idea of clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary,” says Booth.

“When we started, we found that there was a hole in the mar­ket for an af­ford­able hand­bag that just works,” adds Lovell. “And it was al­ways more in­ter­est­ing to us to find some- thing a lit­tle more off the beaten track, not some­thing with a ‘name’ be­hind it.”

“So we had the idea for a no-logo bag at a mod­er­ate price point that’s ac­ces­si­ble to women like us,” says Booth. They’ve con­tin­ued to use them­selves, and their friends, as in­spi­ra­tion sea­son after sea­son, im­agin­ing what styles and colours will take the wearer from board­room to day­care pickup to din­ner out with friends.

With their bags cur­rently car­ried in high-end life­style shops in Canada, such as Pink Tar­tan and the bou­tique at Toronto’s Four Sea­sons ho­tel, the pair have set their sights on break­ing into the U.S. mar­ket this year. “And I’ve al­ways wanted to make cool caf­tans,” says Lovell, smil­ing.

Booth laughs, but her part­ner’s ex­cite­ment is con­ta­gious: “Yes!” she says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “They’ll go with our beach bags!” n


Brunswick + Co.’s Ali­son Lovell (above, left) and Ali­son Booth make the go-ev­ery­where

car­ryalls you’ve been search­ing for (from $75, brunswickandco.com).

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