Sonya Lee: This Canadian designer on hydrating your leather bag

Photograph by Briggs Ogloff

Sonya Lee’s Stephanie Sonya Ibbitson shares her top tips for preserving leather, the importance of using sustainable materials and finding inspiration from the women around her.

Without sounding too cliché, Stephanie Sonya Ibbitson’s life has led to the creation of her accessories brand Sonya Lee. “I gathered my skills from childhood, and everything came to this,” the designer says via video chat. “I was really crafty when I was a kid, and I have dyslexia, so I struggled in school. I felt like the only way to be successful was to create something from my hands. Her obsession with handbags and her mother’s clothes encouraged Ibbitson to add sewing to her other creative pursuits. When she decided to pursue studies in industrial design at OCAD in Toronto, the rest was up to her. to the story.

Photograph by Briggs Ogloff

Launched in 2014, Sonya Lee has come to define modern minimalism. Easy-to-wear styles and updated contemporary classics have become mainstays of the brand and led to its steady rise in the consciousness of the Canadian public. And while it looks good, Sonya Lee also looks good. Each piece is made in Vancouver and uses leftover leather from the food industry to create less waste. “It’s important that we use whatever we consume because if we don’t use that leather it will go to waste,” Ibbitson shares. “That’s why all my bags are guaranteed for life. I want each one to last forever because that’s the best way to deal with consumerism.

But when it comes to the actual design process, the Toronto-born, now Vancouver-based talent takes inspiration from the women around her. “I don’t design for their physical form or their personal aesthetic. It’s more about the energy they give off and who they are as a woman. Ibbitson cites one of her new bags, “Sujatha,” as an example. “It’s based on one of my mothers. She has such a calm mind, but she also has incredible depth and intelligence. Keeping this in mind [I created a bag where] the silhouette looks really simple, but it was the most intricate pattern I’ve ever done. It took me a long time to figure out how to put all these different pieces together to make it look like one seamless bag.

Sonya Lee
Photograph courtesy of Sonya Lee

FASHION spoke with Ibbitson about her most-worn handbag, her tips for caring for leather and five products she’s enjoying right now.

How would you describe your brand’s style in three words?

High, refined and powerful.

What is it about your brand that would surprise people?

I make all the parts by hand.

What is your most worn handbag?

Sonya Lee
Photograph by Briggs Ogloff

The “half-Annie” [from Sonya Lee]. It’s a versatile little bag, so I’m inspired to carry less when I go out, which is good. For an evening look, I wear it over the shoulder, then during the day, I attach the shoulder strap and wear it for shopping.

Which piece from your new collection is particularly close to your heart?

The ‘Esther’ bag! I designed this piece for myself. Due to the uncertainty we’ve all been through, I think the lesson I’ve learned is that I want to conceive as today is my last day on the planet and go completely without worrying about what what others might do. think. And ‘Esther’ really reflects that.

How would you describe the style of Vancouver?

Outdoors, relaxed and weather dependent.

What’s your best leather care tip?

Sonya Lee
Photograph by Briggs Ogloff

My number one tip for preserving leather is to keep it out of really dry and wet places. And then my other piece of advice is to not over complicate things. You don’t need a lot of products to take care of your leather piece. Think of it like you think of your skincare; you can clean it with warm water and a bit of dish soap, then once it’s dry I apply unscented CeraVe moisturizer or olive oil. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Favorite and least favorite trend?

Favorite: Silver jewelry and hardware.

I like less: the low-rise pants.

What are you watching or reading right now?

After two years I finally finished Cormac McCarthy The passage. I’m a huge fan of his; it’s just taken me a ridiculously long time to read books lately because my eyes are so tired at the end of the day. And then, embarrassingly, I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills from the first season. It’s so different to me, but my friend put me in it.

What are five objects that bring you joy right now?

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