Homegrown Business: Elizabeth Hardy of Espe Vegan Handbags

Espe, a Canadian brand known for its dedication to cruelty-free fashion, has become a standout in the sustainable accessory scene with its beautiful collection of vegan handbags. With a focus on ethical and eco-friendly choices, Espe has managed to marry fashion and compassion seamlessly. These handbags are not only stylish and modern but also reflect the brand’s commitment to avoiding materials derived from animals.

Homegrown Business: Elizabeth Hardy of Espe Vegan Handbags

What is your business called and what does it do?

Espe is a Canadian fashion brand with a simple mission to create thoughtfully designed, cruelty-free, PETA approved vegan handbags and accessories. Our seasonal collections are unique and each piece is fashionable, functional, affordable and timeless.

What made you want to do this work?

My entire career working in fashion led me to Espe. After 25 years as a CEO of an international fashion brand, I decided it was time to start something of my own. Espe was born from my lifelong love affair with fashion and my lifelong love of animals. Creating a fashion brand that was all about fun, function and style and NOT about harming animals was a dream — and that dream became Espe.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

Looking around I noticed vegan handbag brands were quite plain and a bit boring. I wanted to design vegan bags that were about colour and fun! Our signature styles are adorned with whimsical floral designs that bring life and excitement to your everyday wardrobe. Our customers love these whimsical designs and have been known to collect the newest design each season.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

Our bags have no age boundaries and are designed by following my fashion heart. Women of all ages can find a design that speaks to them. We have on-trend styles that our younger customers love and vintage inspired styles designed for a more seasoned woman. All Espe bags have one thing in common — they are guaranteed to stand out in a crowd and keep you organized!

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We are predominantly a wholesale business. We support locally owned independent stores that are the heart of their community. We also sell directly to our customers through our website.

Where in the city can we find your profession?

We are carried by many independent retailers right here in Toronto: El Pipil on the Danforth, De Catarina in the Manulife Center and Anything Goes Accessories found in the St. Lawrence Market – and many more stockists which can be found on the store locator on our website.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Is vegan leather really more sustainable than real leather?

Actually, it is. The Higgs Material Sustainability Index Score, which measures environmental impact of materials used in fashion from cradle to grave, shows that cow leather has an impact of approximately 3 times greater than standard PU which is made from fossil fuels. If you want to choose an option that is better for animals, the planet and people — choose vegan.

What is the best part about what you do?

The best part is that I own Espe. I have worked for other people my entire life and now I am able to use all of the tools I have acquired to build something that is a true reflection of my core values and my creative vision.

The biggest challenge of owning a business is being ultimately responsible for everything. If anything goes wrong I am left holding the bag so to speak. .. no pun intended 🙂

Where can we follow you?

On our website, Instagram and Facebook.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another local business that you love?

Ember Wellness. An amazing all natural beauty company. Their sculpt and glow serum bar is the best! You will thank me once you try it!


About Emilea Semancik 100 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods