With their vivid colours and playful, youthful aesthetic, Jeanne Lottie purses certainly stand out in a room full of neutral accessories. Launched in 1985 by founder Jane Ip, the Toronto-based handbag line has been part of the Canadian fashion industry for over 30 years. Easily recognized by the use of pastel brights and floral accents, Ip’s creations are cheerful and girlish, much like the handbag designer herself.
Ip finds her creative inspiration from artists such as Monet and from attending painting classes at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Meanwhile, her brand is headquartered at a charming Yorkville property, painted rosy blush and suitably called The Pink House. With a new garden inspired Spring 2017 collection out and another season upon us, Real Style spoke to the Hong Kong-born and proudly Canadian designer about her passion for accessories. From discovering the art of crafting a handbag to her favourite new trends, here’s what Ip had to share with us about purses and far more.
Real Style: What originally inspired you to start creating handbags?
Jane: I didn’t really have any design background. After graduation [from my MBA program], I went back to Hong Kong and I just happened to know someone who had a factory, producing handbags. I came back from Hong Kong and said to my sister Charlotte “Let’s start a business.” Our dad was a very successful businessman and he always inspired us. He said “Studying is great, education is fantastic and working for someone is good too. But the best is to own your business, because you have more freedom to do what you’re passionate about.”
That’s how we got started. Handbags are so easy; it’s kind of like cooking. You just combine things together. At the beginning, we just carried what the factory was producing. Then we showed their designs to our customers and built clientele. After a season or two, we found that it’s not very viable, because they were not our designs. Then we started to combine things together and we sourced materials, hardware and just created our own. You just pick the colours you like, and you cook a meal! I really think anyone can create a handbag.
Real Style: You’re very involved in the creative process, and also in the selling process of your purses. Tell us more about the Jeanne Lottie customer.
Jane: Every handbag has someone to appreciate it. It’s like an art. There’s always a buyer for art, because it appeals to different people- handbags, too. That’s why the handbags sell the best at the Pink House, because people are here to look for something for themselves. Handbags are the easiest way to showcase your personality and express yourself to others. You can carry any handbag, and it’s a statement.
Real Style: Do you have any favourite handbag trends for Spring 2017?
Jane: I find 2017 is very optimistic. There are a lot of flowers. That’s why our theme for Spring 2017 is you walk into the Garden of Jeanne Lottie, the Pink House. It’s a lot of fun, it’s like things are blooming.
Real Style: You’re known for your usage of bright colours. What are your favourite shades?
Jane: I don’t like black, when I do designs. Whenever I do bags, I love colours. I love to put different things on the bags, and play with accessories, zippers and details. For colours, I like pink and purple.
Real Style: What are your best tips for maintaining a leather or vegan leather handbag?
Jane: I would say 60 per cent of the collection is vegan. For leather handbags, use some hand cream, put some lotion on it, and be careful when you are using it. Also, just have many purses, don’t just carry one! *laughs*
Real Style: When it comes to accessories, trends such as designer monograms are coming back in style. What do you think of this?
Jane: It’s possible that some women don’t really know what they want. So maybe with a brand there, they know that this is a very good designer, whatever she does. “I’m going to carry it and get compliments!”
Real Style: What are some changes that you would like to see in the Canadian fashion industry?
Jane: We really need support from the government and also the people. I think Canadians have to support Canadian designers, instead of going to Europe. We just have to support local [talent], even if the [designs] are not made in Canada.
Photos: Jeanne Lottie