In today’s world of brand conglomerates, it is rare to find a fashion company that fully owns the factories that make its products—let alone the factories that make its products’ materials. So Danish shoe brand Ecco is something of a unicorn, except that it’s real (sorry, kids).
Founded by Karl Toosbuy, Ecco employs a leather-first philosophy: style and comfort matter, of course, but those qualities all circle back to the material. By owning and managing every step of the process from leather tanneries to production factories, it ensures quality, ethically-made items that also meet important environmental standards. Ecco tanneries don’t only supply to their owner, either—the brand works with big-name luxury fashion companies and even makes leather for Apple Watch straps and iPhone cases. But Ecco has also expanded into its own accessories line, forged with its signature quality leather and an eye for functionality.
“This is a relatively new business that we are starting to grow,” says Lindsay Nicolai, Ecco’s managing director of accessories. She is standing inside Ecco’s South Granville location, which has become the first in North America to host the brand’s accessories shop-in-shop. The women’s collection of simple but graceful bags and purses dot the right-hand wall and floor display, showcasing the pebbled, soft, and natural leathers that make up this season’s offering. Nicolai walks through the creations, pointing out everything from a very on-trend backpack to a perfect work tote and a draw-string purse. “I’m lucky in that I have a great team of experts,” she says of her design staff. She mentions Claudia Kim, a more recent addition to the team, who worked previously at brands including Alexander Wang and Givenchy. “She can think, ‘How do we make this new and fresh and relevant, but in a way that is still Ecco and not something else?’” says Nicolai, who flew in from Ecco’s Switzerland office just for the launch of the shop-in-shop. “I take a lot of credit today for the work they’ve done, but the team is living and breathing this every day.”
Nicolai was born in Ontario, and began her 15-year (so far) stint with Ecco at its Toronto office. Her background is in brand building and marketing, and her business savvy shows as she speaks about Vancouver’s unique position in the market, crediting its evolution, and its mix of tourists and core consumers, as being why it was chosen as the first Western location for Ecco accessories. “Not Toronto, not Montreal,” she says. “Vancouver.” That’s what we like to hear.
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