In the heart of Brooklyn, local artisans are bent over tables attaching nickel plated brass to the leather of Canvas & Hyde purses. It’s a beautiful sight, though it’s one that’s hard to come by anymore. With new age machines replacing the skilled hands that put many fashion items together years ago, the craftsmanship of fine leather goods has taken on a whole new tradition. Yet thanks to Lisa Pongrass, it hasn’t been totally replaced.
With a vested interest in bringing ‘American-made quality’ accessories back into existence, Pongrass, an Aussie native, set up shop in a place that’s essentially ‘lost the skills for producing luxury items’ in 2016. Since then, she’s been designing and producing what’s become a majorly successful brand of classic leather bags.
Canvas & Hyde has expanded its production into New York and Florence, Italy, and is now available in 23 boutiques. Pongrass relies on the expert workmanship of Italian tanneries in the making of her bags and sources hides from an environmentally conscious tannery in Brazil. Though in a time where concerns about how the fashion industry contributes to global warming through textile waste and unethical treatment of animals, (among other things), Pongrass is hoping consumers will recognize the benefit of using real leather materials over synthetics.
“Sustainability is something so important to me, but I’m a bit confused by it to be honest,” says Pongrass. “Its a bit like using the term organic. Animals are being used by humans for other purposes already, like in the food industry. Not using the byproduct would be wasteful.”
Fact is, ‘faux’ and ‘pleather’ fashion items are made out of non-recyclable materials and further spread micro plastics into oceans. When it comes to measuring the environmental impact of leather, the spread of toxic chemicals used to tan animal skins is one of the most taxing factors. Though tanned leather can still completely decompose in 25 to 50 years time.
“I think it’s good practice to use the entirety of the animal,” Pongrass says. “Plus, our bags are built to last a lifetime thanks to the materials we use and the way in which they’re crafted, unlike the trend-driven fashion of the moment.”
Pongrass’ philosophy can be debated by those against the use of toxic tanning practices and animal products in industries like fashion for all its worth, though the price of every Canvas & Hyde bag is something that can’t be. Involved in every aspect of the business, Pongrass has respected the time-honoured tradition of creating beautiful leather bags by renewing an art form and enlisting the help of labourers that are ‘too expensive’ for larger companies to afford. She’s also helped to centralize the manufacturing of leather goods and has kept sustainability and animal welfare at the top of her checklist when it comes to production.
In other words, a Canvas & Hyde bag is a style investment, as Pongrass believes any timeless piece should be. She said it best herself: “We like to call them the ‘Anti-It Bags’…”
Get yours at Canvas & Hyde.