Piper & Skye Luxury Handbag Designer Joanna MacDonald Chats With Real Style

Photo: piperandskye on Instagram 

As a Toronto-based accessory label which focuses on luxury handbags, Piper Skye claims to use a combination of fish skins, suedes and leathers. Earlier this Fall 2017/Winter 2018 season, Real Style had an opportunity to speak to designer and founder Joanna MacDonald at the Piper Skye pop-up in Yorkville Village. Here’s everything that MacDonald had to say about finding her creative energy, her experiences creating with responsibly sourced materials and much more. 

Real Style: Can you tell us a little about your creative inspiration?

Joanna: Basically, it was the materials that I love, which are suede, leather and exotic skins. And that’s what we did, we created bags with exotic skins, and leather and suede, in different variations on each bag. So each bag has a different combination from all those materials, but we really wanted to source them from responsible suppliers. We found a supplier for the fish skin, and it’s a food source in South America, so the skin is a byproduct. I am confident that we have responsible suppliers. We put other new materials, so we are doing embossed leather that looks like snake, so snake embossed leather. We insist that we have suppliers that we feel like they are family. We have gotten to know them, we want to know where our products are from, we have gone to visit them, we want to assess them and we want to know the process in which they tan the skins and the leathers. 

Real Style: How has your experience been like working with these sustainable sources ?

Joanna: It’s been good. There is certification for the fish skin, so you have to get a cited license, which we have gotten. It’s been actually pretty seamless.

Real Style: What are your biggest challenges working with responsibly sourced materials?

Joanna: We initially ship stuff back and forth from New York, where the bags are made, to Toronto. And it was always samples, not for sale. So, the last shipment that we did was commercial and it was for sale. So we have gone through a lot of learning lessons in the past few days to try and get the product here for us in time for our launch. Our team in New York is amazing, and my manufacturer is amazing. He is so proud of his work, he is a true artisan, he does it by hand, by himself.

Real Style: We noticed that Piper Skye has launched an Acts of Kindness initiative that coexists with the brand, what is your inspiration behind that?

Joanna: With my family and my grandparents, it’s always been acts of kindness. I come from a family that is very humble, and very generous, and very kind, and very caring, and it was just the way I was raised. So I wanted to incorporate that into our brand, somehow, even if it doesn’t really go with the bags. It is kind of just our fibre, so it’s more of just the fibre  of our brand. There are different ways to say it, but it is really just to be good to other people and do nice things. And that’s really what we are about and it’s kind of the fibre and the heart and soul of our brand. We want to do responsible luxury, but we also want to do acts of kindness. 

Real Style: What are your general thought on some of the season’s trends when it comes to handbags?

Joanna: I am not a huge trend follower, that much, and I am not a huge logo person. We do not have any logos on the outside of our bags, we are very subtle, and we kind of pride ourselves on that. I also have designed every bag in terms of bags that I would want to have in my life. So, it is kind of selfish in that way, I’ve designed them for me, because I feel like these are the bags that I need, like the tote bag for laptops and meetings, the crossbody for every day and the clutch for evenings. I’ve designed it basically for the bags that I need in my life, so that’s kind of my inspiration.