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Credit: Davie & Chiyo

Local sisters craft dulcet, one-of-a-kind clutch purses that keep their shape beautifully

I love the clutch purse. It exudes classic feminine sophistication, with a dose of glamour to boot.

But I haven't always loved the experience of using one. In the case of many clutches, the tradeoff for the elegant look is the lack of capacity. Trying to stuff everything you need for a fun night out into a tiny clutch can stymie even a Tetris expert. Even when I do manage to cram in most of the essentials, it usually results in unsightly bulges that distort the shape of the purse. My husband knows this struggle well, or rather, his pants pockets do—that is where I end up depositing my lip gloss, mascara, gum and other sundry items that won’t fit in the clutch.


 


See for yourself


Davie & Chiyo will be exhibiting at Spend on Trend, the Imaginairum fashion show and the One of a Kind show.

 

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Final Product


Imagine my delight when I first held a Davie & Chiyo clutch in my hands. These gorgeous purses not only come in various beautiful patterns and designs (the popular bow collection has been known to elicit gasps of delight), but they're also practical.

You can throw in a wallet, cellphone, compact, lipstick and keys, and it will retain its elegant shape without looking bulky. In fact, the purses—usually with either cotton or silk exteriors—are soft and supple to the touch, giving a great feel that is as luxurious as they look.

Davie & Chiyo is the labour of love of local sisters Himi and Fumi Bull. It began as a pasttime for Himi, who is also a stay-at-home mother of two. But her sister Fumi, a business graduate, saw a much greater potential in Himi's talent and quickly helped to turn it into a flourishing home-based business. While Himi is in charge of production, Fumi takes care of the business operations; and the dynamic duo make all the decisions together, from design direction to material sourcing.
 

How a clutch is made


Not exactly crafty myself, I was really excited to have the chance to witness firsthand how a Davie & Chiyo clutch is made.

As Himi was setting up the sewing machine and the materials in her living room, I started remarking on the firm structure and substantial feel of the purses. The sisters laughed.

"That tooks us a long time to figure out," Himi said. "We went through many trials to get it just right."

She began to sew the exterior shell, and I asked her to elaborate. Himi recounted how they initially ran into some technical difficulties in finding the right combination of lining materials and preventing the outmost layer of fabric from being wrinkled when sewn. Unfazed, they launched into tireless research and numerous trials before settling on a special formulation of lining layers and fabric proportions that satified their perfectionist standards. The result speaks for itself.

"I don't know if this is the 'right' way to do it, but we found this way and it works," Himi said.

Setting aside the finished shell, Himi proceeded to work on the interior lining with the ease and grace of an artist who wears her craft like a second skin, deftly manoeuvring around the kinks of her at-times tempermental sewing machine with good humour. It is an old one that used to belong to their mom—and a hardy one too, having survived an incident when Himi’s adorable three-year-old managed to cut the cord with his mom's sewing scissors. (The magic fix? Good old duct tape.)


 

Secret to their success


As I continued to chat with the sisters, it became clear that the success of Davie & Chiyo is not only due to the sisters’ hands-on creativity, commitment and resourcefulness, but also their versatility. While they do keep their eyes open to current trends, they rely more heavily on feedback from friends and customers. They are quick to adapt to consumer responses and can produce a new design very quickly. Which is why they also excel in custom orders, which flood in regularly—especially from excided brides-to-be.

Before I knew it, the purse had taken shape nicely. It was time to attach the signature brass frame to the purse. The sisters shared an interesting tidbit about the frame: the kiss-lock clasp they use is a standing feature of the oldest form of purse making in Japan. Himi and Fumi are Japanese-Canadian (their label is named after their parents Michiyo and David), and this infusion of homage to their heritage is a special touch.

And here's another aspect that distinguishes the craftsmanship of a Davie & Chiyo purse. When attaching the frame to the purse, Himi does not simply glue it as is the case with many clutches out there. After the glue goes on, she finishes by using the jakki, a clamp-like angled tool, to press jude string all along the inside of the frame, firmly securing it to the shell. "You cannot pry these apart," Himi proclaimed with confidence.

Et voila. The discrete pieces from fifteen minutes ago had magically transformed in front of my eyes into a beautiful clutch, with nary a thread out of place. And because of Himi's precise measurement, only a miniscule amount of fabric was discarded (a snippet, literally).

Davie & Chiyo clutches are available through their site and on Etsy.com. In their collection, you will also find unique clutches that utilize upcycled fabric such as a colourful skirt or a kimono. By the way, Himi and Fumi are expecting a shipment of vintage kimonos from Japan soon, so be sure to check back regularly for new designs!