Espe began with a simple mission: to create cruelty-free, thoughtfully designed handbags at affordable prices. Their commitment to a cruelty-free world is reflected in every bag made. We sat down with Elizabeth Hardy, the visionary behind the brand to learn about how they’re changing the landscape of sustainable handbags and giving customers the opportunity to shop consciously worldwide.
You have an impressive background in fashion as President and CEO of French Connection here in Canada. What inspired you to go the entrepreneur route?
Owning my own business has been on my vision board since I was a teenager. After over 25 years in the fashion business I knew I had acquired all the skills I needed to make it on my own. Owning a business has inherent risks, but I was at a point in my career where I felt confident to take my expertise and pour it into something of my own. Believing in myself was the key to transition from working for someone to being an entrepreneur.
And why handbags?
What woman doesn’t love handbags! When I was deciding what direction I wanted to take I looked around and saw that the vegan handbags that were currently available were a bit boring for me. I wanted to build a vegan fashion handbag company that was fun and colourful and cruelty-free.
It’s evident that cruelty-free manufacturing is part of your brand ethos. As we are approaching Earth Month, why was it so important to you to make the line out of vegan materials and sustainable?
Being sustainable and cruelty-free is the only way forward. We are all capable of making choices in our lives that will positively impact the environment. I knew that if I was going to add to the world of fashion I wanted to make sure it was giving consumers a cruelty-free choice. I am also a huge animal lover and advocate, so it was a very easy decision to make.
What was your inspiration for this spring’s collection?
The Spring/Summer 2023 collection draws inspiration from my childhood summers –warm hues of sunshine yellows, soft pinks, and sage pepper the collection that also includes two-tone elements that are a nod to a 70’s aesthetic that feels both nostalgic and modern at the same time. There is a playful energy that combines colour, whimsical florals and buckle details that give the collection an elevated vintage vibe.
What are your favourite pieces?
I love pieces that have a vintage vibe. Currently I am loving the Cheri in two tone tan. I recently took the Cheri to NY and it was the perfect size with lots of pockets that kept me very organized! I also love the Trinity – I am really into patchwork at the moment and this bag is the perfect nod to that trend.
What does the rest of 2023 hold for you personally and the brand?
Now that I can safely say COVID is behind us… I am looking forward to more growth here in Canada and in new global markets. We are also creating a men’s capsule collection to complement the ladies bags. Men need cruelty-free choices as well!
Last modified: March 21, 2023