Q&A: Erin Templeton, Designer and Boutique Owner

Vancouver indie designer and vintage boutique owner Erin Templeton talks bags, leather, design and zippers.

Credit: Jason de la Cruz

Erin Templeton makes her famous bags from recycled and new leather.

Discover Vancouver designer Erin Templeton’s recycled leather bags and $5 vintage rack. And don’t miss her famous sample sale in November!


I walk by Erin Templeton’s store every morning on my way to work, and it always makes me wish I was crafty enough to make something with my name on the label. But then again, maybe that’s why there are designers like Erin.


Erin Templeton


511 Carrall St, Vancouver

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She’s been covered in prestigious US and Canadian magazines and many online blogs. And her famous sample sales consistently make Granville’s pages for top shopping events.


The store is fascinating, her energy inspiring and her vintage dress and nightgown selections rare—making this Chinatown-based designer perfect for featuring in The Goods blog. With Erin’s next sample sale, as well as the Gastown Shop Hop, coming up in November, I wanted to pop in and chat about her leather work, her design process and the sharply culled vintage collection that adorns her racks.


Erin Templeton Store front

Located just east of the Chinatown gates, Erin Templeton took over the lease on the storefront/studio space several years ago from the Italian tailors who’d been there for decades.


About Erin Templeton

As a backgrounder, in case you don’t know about Erin Templeton’s work, and have a few hunies ($$$) to dish out, her one-of-a-kind bags are it. The leather is made mostly of recycled materials: Erin uses pants, jackets and anything made of leather that she sees as bag material to create her designs. She has 10 different bag styles to choose from (my favourites are the Tote and the Palooka) and also makes accessories and one-of-a-kind sandals and flip flops.


The best part? You can also rummage through her racks and rows of vintage dresses, 1940s slips and shirts (some of which are only $5!). Erin is a wealth of knowledge as to the history of yesteryear fashion and will likely be able to tell you something about each vintage piece she sells that will only make you love it more.


As for Erin, she is eccentric, beautiful and really fun to talk to. She went to school to learn how to be a shoemaker at Cordwainer’s College in London, UK, and then ended up at Used on Granville picking rags for them.


Erin Templeton Vancouver Gastown Recycled Leather Bags vintage

Erin Templeton’s bags are much lauded by the fashion press for their classic style and sturdy construction.


Granville: What’s the most interesting thing that maybe people don’t know about?

Erin Templeton: The owners of the previous store gave me zippers… they left me 20,000 zippers. Some of them were so old that they were those Lightning zippers. And now the pocket on the inside of each bag I make has one of those zippers.


Erin Templeton

Erin (left) can be found hard at work seven days a week in her studio space, which opens out to the boutique and provides shoppers with a view of her works in process.


How do you pick the leather/styles for your designs?

For the recycled bags, I have pocket styles I keep for certain styles of bags; I have preferred weights and types of leathers. I start hoarding [the recycled leather] and keep similar colours together, so they have the same tone and feel. Just because it’s recycled, it doesn’t mean [it should be] slapped together.


Work wise, it’s a lot easier to [work with] new leather. And new leathers are usually the ones i can’t resist. Most of the time it’s a dye lot, and then [the dye lot] changes and i don’t feel as in love with the leather anymore. That happens; some i always love. I use [new leather] because certain colours are not available in recycled and certain styles aren’t possible in recycled.


I don’t know what the scientific equation is [in deciding what to make] but I look at something and know that this series of bags is going to be in this tone of colour. I go through everything and know where it’s going to go, and I just cut it up.


I haven’t had the opportunity to teach someone else how to do it.


Erin Templeton Recycled Leather Bags Vancouver

Find Erin’s original bag designs and accessories amongst the racks of vintage treasures, including high end scarves, at Erin Templeton boutique.


Why bags?

I guess I thought it was easier to sell a bag.

Where do you get your leather?

I have lots of connections, wholesale, private sales. I’m lucky because I’m the specific girl. This is my thing. That’s why I have all this 1940s lingerie. I’ve been collecting it for years and I’ve re-mended it.


bags, leather and vintage erin templeton

Erin Templeton sells bags and belts made of new and recycled leather out of her own shop on Carrall Street in Vancouver as well as in boutiques across North America.


What’s your take on all the press you’ve received?

It’s always nice to get press. I always try to think of people doing the work, like taking a picture and doing collages. It’s nice for them too to give people like me a shot. I don’t know, I never thought about myself as being a designer as much… but I guess I am a designer. But I just wanted to be self-employed and didn’t want to work for anyone else. That was the only thought process I had. How am I going to get this far? And then this far?


Erin Templeton

In addition to Erin’s designs, the boutique specializes in rare vintage finds.


What’s the story with the $5 rack?

The rack is just stuff that hasn’t been selling well. Instead of trashing it or donating it, I give it a chance to sell for $5. I also do a vintage sale once a year. We’ll do a sample sale sometime in early to mid-November and then once again in the spring.


erin templeton

Dawn (left) is one of several casual employees working in Erin’s studio; she also enlists the help of three or four interns at any given time (“… they come and go,” she says).


What’s your favourite place to shop?

I liked Legends before it closed. But I don’t really like to shop because everything I like is $300 or so. I can’t afford it.


Who is the typical Erin Templeton customer?

That’s the great thing, it’s really different. Women mostly, 25–35 and then 45, 55 and then 65… so it doesn’t matter. I do have girls that like the certain vintage styles, but now that I have the store that’s what I recognize. If I can make the bags as simple, timeless and functional as I can, the practical people who like simple things buy them.


erin templeton

To the left, Erin’s favourite design, the Hobo bag, hangs on display.

What’s your favourite bag?

My favourite is the Hobo bag. I owe it my life. I keep making it. I hate giving that one to someone else. I sew a lot of the bags and all of the bags are finished by me in one way or another. I finish it in a stupid way, that’s why. But I guess it makes it harder to rip off.


Thanks, Erin!


Erin Templeton sample sale and Shop Hop

Check Erin Templeton’s site regularly for updates on her upcoming sample sale in November or sign up to receive an email invite and notice.


Also, the store will be open late on November 4 in conjunction with Shop Hop, a biannual shopping event during which Gastown shops keep their doors open for special late hours (and often special sales) as shoppers browse, nibble on snacks, sip wine and get to know the area’s wealth of independent boutiques. Erin Templeton isn’t officially listed on the bill, but she’ll be welcoming shoppers that evening until 9 p.m.