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Made in Canada: Brunswick + Co.
“We can talk in hashtags if you want; we’re really good at that,” jokes Alison Booth, co-founder of Toronto-based 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 something 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.
READ MORE: Canadian designers dish on their fall collections
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!”
Check out some of Brunswick Co.’s designs below!