Canadian eco-designer Erin Templeton is like the mixologist of the leather handbag world: She refashions vintage numbers into the clutches and all-purpose bags that make up her eponymous label of recycled and new leather pieces. Even her personal wardrobe portrays a similar knack for reupholstering.

Standing in her room at Toronto’s Drake Hotel, where Templeton is revealing her fall collection, the Vancouverite gushes about the vintage overalls she snagged a Queen West thrift shop a few days before. “It makes me happy when I find silly things,” she says, enthusiastically tugging at an ornamental zipper that’s likely from the outfit’s former life as a pair of blue jeans.

Templeton is just as spirited about scouring the
vintage shops back home for offbeat, and often tattered, leather pants and skirts, that are mercifully given a second chance as one of her beautiful totes or colourful change purses. (It’s no surprise her studio is littered with old clothes instead of neatly laid out bolts of fabric. That’s just not her style.)

Erin Templeton TCB, ($335).

Here are our top three must-have pieces from Templeton’s handcrafted, beautifully rugged and one-of-a-kind (literally) Fall/Winter 2012 line available at her shop in
Vancouver’s historic Chinatown or her website. (

1. TCB, $335

The fabulously mustard Taking Care of Business bag lives up to its no-nonsense name. Made from B.C. farmed and tanned bison, the practical, minimalist design allows for the bold goldenrod yellow to stand out. The catchall bag, lined with denim and sturdy enough to carry a laptop, is made with sleek brown leather straps and comes in black, chocolate and tobacco; and cinnamon or hazel, made with B.C. elk. Available in September 2012.

For more stylishly sustainable eco-friendly fashion labels, read on…
2.  Stash Bag, $395

An always-classy pragmatist, Templeton crafted the multi-purpose stash bag with two hidden pockets for concealing those personal items you always want to keep handy. “I invented it for taking beer to the beach!” says Templeton, laughing as she reveals the sunken-in pockets on each side of the shoulder bag. Made of entirely new leather, the Stash comes in black, chocolate, sand and whiskey.

3. Kiss & Make-up, $44

Like that eternal line straight out of
Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re going to get with the diverse leather used for these makeup and
jewelry travel cases. The endless palette of vintage and new leathers make this rainbow of a collection as pretty as it is practical to toss in your luggage.

Which other names in recycled Canadian fashion should you know? Here’s list of four stylish, enviro-friendly labels to show some love to this spring.

1. Matt and Nat

Inder Bedi, creative director and brand founder, has been producing his line of vegan goods out of Montreal since 1995, available in boutiques across Canada, the United States, the U.K. and Japan. The line of sleek cruelty-free handbags and clutches are made with sustainable fabrics like cork and faux suede and lined with recycled plastic bottles. Bonus: An exclusive deal

Erin Templeton BYOBs, ($145).

inked with Apple in Fall 2010 means that whatever protection your iPhone or MacBook desires, there’s Matt & Nat for that.

2. Paper People Clothing

Launched by Jennifer Fukushima in 2001, the ethical designs by the Ryerson University fashion design grad are available in boutiques across Canada. Fukushima’s girlish, spring country-inspired Spring/Summer 2012 collection is defined by a bouquet of muted
florals (greys, mauve, pale yellows) made from lightweight reclaimed sweaters (cotton, ramie, silk and wool fabrics) and bed sheets.

3. Preloved

With a Queen West flagship fixture, Preloved has been creating one-of-a-kind pieces made from vintage reclaimed fabrics since the label’s inception in 1995, and is available in retailers in across Canada and the U.S. (with a boutique in Sydney). Founder Julia Grieve and creative director Peter Friesen scour rag shops for wool and khaki base fabrics, and the reclaimed lace that leaves an ornate finishing touch.

4. Heidi Ackerman

The futuristic designs by the avant-garde Toronto-based designer have mainstream and organic appeal: over the years, Ackerman has been embraced by Toronto’s Alternative Arts and Fashion Week as well as
Toronto Fashion Week. Her collections include sustainable materials made from organic cotton, vegetable-tanned leather and yarn made from soy, recycled cotton and bamboo and can be found exclusively at eco-clothing boutique Thieves on Queen St. West.

Read more:
7 sustainable luxury brands making eco-friendly fashion
Au naturel: 5 organic beauty products we love
Spring fashion trends: Reds and oranges
Beauty bargain: Top 10 must-have products under $15