Right after Piper and Skye’s soft launch in New York City, co-founders Joanna MacDonald and Shawn Fulton got married.
But that was two months ago and the Wychwood area newlyweds are beaming after celebrating their Toronto launch, Oct. 5 at Yorkville Village.
Fulton joked he couldn’t remember the August wedding date, but the duo has been busy with the launch.
“It’s a funny story, but we rented the hotel and swanky place. We had 30 family and friends (in New York),” he said while enjoying the urban vibes spun by DJ Francis McQueen in Yorkville Village. “I went upstairs in between our launch and dinner, and I told her, she said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We moved the tables and chairs, I borrowed my mom’s ring.”
Now that they’re married, it’s only natural they work as a team. Fulton comes from a marketing background, and he left the Canada Post to help MacDonald pursue her dream.
“She got to the point where she was ready to launch and she said I need a marketer and I said, ‘I’m one of those’,” he admitted. “Rather than hire someone, we decided to team together.”
Yorkville Village was the perfect place to jump into the Toronto scene as it promotes local artisans by earmarking space for pop-up shops. Piper and Skye will be in residence from Oct. 5 to 15. The handbags are made of a by-product from Amazon fish, Arapaima, that is used for the food industry. They also work with a tannery that uses a low-chemical, low-chromium process to leave a smaller carbon footprint. Sustainability is a priority of MacDonald’s, she said.
The plan is to start off slowly in boutique shops and through online sales. The bags themselves are marketed for both men and women.
A highlight for MacDonald and Fulton was their manufacturer, Ara Melkonian, who drove up from New York to attend the Toronto launch.
He had his embossing machine at the ready to emblazon the Piper and Skye name on leather goods. The 53-year-old has been honing his craft for 40 years.
Melkonian showed his passion in the big smile he wore on his face but expressed concern with the dwindling numbers of workers in this industry.
“After me, I don’t know how many people are going to be manufacturing. There used to be 400 manufacturers. Now there’s 15 or 20,” he said. “Their kids are not coming to manufacturing.”
That kind of craftsmanship is becoming a rarity, but Melkonian said he was happy to be in Toronto for the duo. As for the name he was embossing, Piper and Skye, MacDonald paid tribute to her background. The family is from the Isle of Skye, which is off the main coast of Scotland, in between Stornoway and Fort William.
The pipes come from the ubiquitous instrument played in the Highlands.