Chicken Soup Purses for the Eco-Conscious Soul
by TRACEY MACCORQUODALE
Erin Templeton grew up "kind of in the woods" in Port Coquitlam and has since traveled the world. She worked as a catalogue model in Tokyo and attended a leather school in London, all while living in an apartment small enough to rival a jail cell. It is there she discovered her love of large scale leather production and went on to win the affection of bag fanatics all around the city. "I really struck on to something here, because these women are crazy for purses!"
Templeton laughs as we sit in her store on Carrall surrounded by cozy looking bags made with recycled leather and locally farmed elk and bison. Stroking the soft leather strap of her popular Gunny Sack, it is easy to understand the peculiar fanfare. "When people find out my last name they go "ooOOOo" and get all excited. They're really sentimental about it. It's nice, because it means you're working towards something appreciated and they don't just consign it. They give it to their friend or their sister. It's precious you know?"
Perhaps it's the fun identities Templeton gives her purses that drive her clients wild. The shoulder bag Good Girl, named for its small and simple design, states "Good girls don't carry a lot of baggage." With punny depictions like that, how could any gal resist? Despite her knack for designing bags, it was a long and somewhat winding road to get to where she is today. "I worked in antique stores and then I got a job as a vintage picker. I treat that as my education. I started teaching myself about fashion by picking vintage."
After dabbling with vintage for a while, Templeton headed off to London. On weekends she would work for a friend to help cover her rent. "I'd never been in a production before and watched people make one hundred of one thing and line them up. It's just like making cookies! I got totally hooked on it." After another year of living abroad, this time in Australia, she returned to Vancouver and got down to business. Renting space from The Modernized Tailors, the owners took her under their wing. "They would check up on me. They would sneak peeks at me. They would scare me. They would help me fix my machines, and show me to their friends like some kind of weird pet. 'Oh look at her she doesn't know what she's doing haha!'" Joking aside, she couldn't express more gratitude for their mentorship. "Incredible people to work with. I was just really, really lucky.."
It's been about ten years now since Templeton began producing hand bags in Vancouver and they are now found around the world - including Australia, New York - and of course in various boutiques in town ( The Block, Dream, Eugene Choo, Room6, Fine Finds and Gravity Pope to name a few). "I definitely want to this do for the rest of my life," she confirms. Anything else? "Tell them Erin just wants to thank everyone for their support all these years. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for all the crazy purse people!"