Ethical Canada: DUVAL
Supporting ethical brands that provide well-paying, safe work to underprivileged communities is close to my heart. Their commitment to responsible practices is incredibly needed in a world where most brands exploit instead of empower. But I also am a firm supporter of local makers who run their business and create their products themselves, all by hand. Instead of a factory, a studio. Instead of countless employees, their own two hands. Not only do you know right away that the products aren't made in a sweatshop*, but you're supporting an individual or a small team of people who are doing what they love and are often very skilled at what they do. Items are produced in limited quantities and tend to be of a better quality than items purchased from fast-fashion brands. The experts say that buying local helps the economy, too.
One such maker who is an expert at her craft and creates the most beautiful, well-made products is Esther of DUVAL. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Esther hand-makes each purse, tote, and belt with real leather and thoughtful design. Not only that, but 10% of DUVAL's net profits are donated to charity (!!).
I had the privilege of being gifted one of her bags in exchange for a review, and it quickly became my new favourite. I don't say this lightly; I have become fairly picky about purses over the years, since I have to carry an Epi-Pen with me in addition to my wallet, phone, keys, etc. I know that tote bags are an option, but I've always been more of a shoulder or cross-body purse kind of girl, at least for daily wear. Epi-Pens are an awkward shape, and it's tough to find a purse that’s large enough to hold everything I carry with me day to day, but small enough to still be elegant and light.
This purse holds everything, and then some. And it still manages to be a delicate, feminine shape.
This is the Meraki Cross-Body purse in pebbled leather with gold chain. It's the perfect size and shape for an everyday purse, but the gold details and luxurious black leather finish mean it transitions seamlessly to a night out. The chain is comfortable enough to wear for hours of walking around, and the leather is sturdy and easy to clean. It retails for $250 CAD (and since she's a Canadian brand, you're not paying any USD exchange rate – yay!).
Consider with me, for a moment, all of the brand-name purses that sell for upwards of $1000 and far beyond. Their designs may be iconic, but many of them are unethically made, and we're paying for the brand name more than the quality of the item. That money goes towards supporting a large, profit-hungry business, while broadcasting the size of one's wallet more than a subtle attention to style and quality.
In contrast, Esther's purses are all made by her. Our money is going towards an individual person, as she supports herself through her craft. We are benefitting the economy, and buying something made thoughtfully in small batches that is versatile and elegant, and should last years.
I would take that over a $20 H&M purse or a $2000 Chanel purse any day.
Photos by Suzanne Nolan
*I should mention, though, that even though a brand's items may not have been sewn in a sweatshop, a maker may sometimes use materials that did not come from ethical sources. In today's market, it can be a challenge to ensure a 100% ethical supply chain, even for the makers themselves. As much as I wish this was a flawless system, I still appreciate brands that guarantee ethical production at their own factories, even if the sourcing of materials is not perfect.