Cast-off leather reimagined by Ora Bags

Past-life obsession meets handmade luxe with Vancouver's Ora Bags.

Credit: Michelle Ford

Michelle Ford

Fashion design and storytelling are woven together in purses from rescued and re-imagined leather cast-offs

You can’t look at a purple leather jacket with wide lapels without wondering who wore that once-edgy design back in 1982, says Randi Obenauer, designer and owner of Ora Bags.

“When I see unique pieces, it’s important for me to imagine the character of the person.”

The thrill of the treasure hunt—finding leather cast-offs like skirts and jackets—and the obsession with quality craftsmanship and detailing, have helped launch the rising star into the limelight.

A fine arts grad from Thompson Rivers University, Obenauer says that as an artist, her first love is fabric, but quality and construction are critical, too. A stint getting a certificate in automotive upholstery and industrial sewing gave her the craftsmanship skills to turn recycled leather into luxe purses.

[+] info:

Ora Bags

available at Nouvelle Nouvelle,

Eugene Choo and El Kartel in Vancouver.

At last count, Obenauer had hand-made her 180th one-of-a-kind recycled leather purse.

“Every one is different. I’m never going to find that jacket again. That’s important to me,” she says, noting that she’s “itching” to reach the milestone of having made 200 bags.

And then what? Obenauer, who describes herself as passionate about shopping vintage and using fabric as a medium, is looking forward to creating her own line of clothing under a different label later down the road.

But first up is the launch of her latest collection: a recycled leather bagpack-style bag retaining the pockets and zippers of rescued skirts and pants.