For Randi Obenauer, Ora was a natural choice of name for her handmade leather bags. Ora, pronounced as aura, is the energy around a body. It also is the name of a river she came across in Costa Rica while on holiday. Truly an artist, Obenauer's passion and love for fine art can be seen in her creative hand made pieces.
After graduating from high school, Obenauer completed a two-year fine-arts diploma at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, studied automotive upholstery at Kwantlen University College and then entered Helen LeFeaux to study fashion design where she graduated at the top of her class. To channel her creativity one day, she decided to make to make a leather bag for herself and her sister out of the leather scraps left over from upholstery work. The overwhelmingly positive feedback received convinced her to launch Ora - a line of bags, backpacks and pouches all hand made from start to finish in Vancouver.
Ora is stylish, minimalistic, soft, practical, full of character and did I mention the leather is incredibly the soft? They were initially made out of recycled leather - gleaned from non-profit thrift stores or by donation - through a process of deconstructing and reconstructing. While some pieces are now made from new leather, it's the stories told about the donated vintage leather when it's handed to her that really excites Obenauer. "An elderly gentleman had a jacket he wanted to give me from the 1960's. It was a beautiful gold tan leather, incredibly worn but full of character. I made a bag from it which was commissioned and given as a gift. It's moments like these that allow a designer to have fun during the process and make you appreciate the final outcome"
Every creation in the line is unique - often incorporating distinctive design lines that make them instantly recognizable - and radiates a sense of Obenauer's touch. This quality can only be found when the designer is also the creator. She shares, ""Each bag I make has a part of me in it. I truly enjoy the creative hands-on experience of making every one. I take a lot of pride in my craftsmanship. They are tough and well made, not just aesthetically beautiful." The final product is carefully thought out before deconstruction of the vintage leather takes place to take advantage of any detailing that can be incorporated. Not only are the bags stylish, but they are functional. One example is the unisex bicycle bag. They ooze practicality and yet look sleek and modern.
Ora was just the beginning for this expressive artist. Three years ago Obenauer became the womenswear designer at Voleurz, a position that has allowed her to travel to Hong Kong, Indonesia and parts of North America. Working with both Ora and Voleurz has offered creative freedom and variety, but she is ready for more. The designer just finished her first custom wedding dress, is hoping to launch a limited edition womenswear collection of her own and would like to expand the Ora brand across Canada, America and Europe.
Randi Obenauer is ever evolving as an artist, so there is no telling what other new directions she will pursue in the future. To see the Ora collection go to www.orabags.com or stop by in person at Nouvelle Nouvelle in Gastown. For Voleurz, go to http://voleurz.com/.