Portfolio: Lisa Savoia, creator of fashion-forward, eco-friendly handbags
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Lisa Savoia designs fashion-forward handbags with her favourite
celebrities in mind. No, not the Kardashians of the world. Savoia's favourite icons are women battling cancer. The owner and designer behind Savoia Handbags, Savoia was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago.
When her treatment was over, Savoia, who lives east of Aurora, returned to work doing sales and marketing in the fashion industry. But, cancer gone, she still didn't feel like her old self again. “It was really tough for me to work full time that first year,” she says.
Six years ago, a friend showed her a recycled handbag she had brought home from a vacation. Eventually that bag inspired Savoia to leave her full-time job and create her own quality line of recycled handbags and accessories. In the fall of 2011, Savoia Handbags became her full-time passion.
“Coming through cancer I started to be more conscious of the products I was using and the environment that way,” says Savoia. That awareness gave birth to an eco-friendly mindset that is at the core of her handbag designs.
Savoia's elegant one-of-a-kind handbags are handwoven from recycled materials such as food packaging, candy wrappers, pop can tabs and seat belts that didn't pass inspection. While the food wrappers have never been used, they are misprints and, at one time, would have been destined for landfill. “They used to be tossed, but now they're in high demand,” notes Savoia.
With everything from tote bags to coin purses, leather straps to vegan options, Savoia says there is a bag for everyone. If there isn't, she'll make you one. Individual and corporate customers can order bags customized with photos, logos or any other image you can dream up. Savoia gives partial proceeds from her pink ribbon bag to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The bags can also be used for group fundraisers. “I can create a bag for anything or anyone,” says Savoia. Silver and gold evening bags, for example, speak of wedding season. “The bags make a great bridesmaid gift,” she says. “And you can have them customized to match the dresses. They're so versatile, from fancy evening bags to bags for kids.”
Savoia prides herself on creating accessories that are out of the ordinary. “People buy my bags because they want to give somebody something different,” she says. And her favourite gift to give is hope.
“I've designed bags for women going through breast cancer. I put images of things they like on it or their initials,” she says. “That to me is more powerful than a celebrity wearing my bag. I really feel the celebrities are the woman in treatment and survivors who have worn my bags.”
Savoia recalls giving one bag to a young woman being treated for cancer. “I put a card inside that said, ‘This bag is designed for a beautiful young lady named Molly for her strength and bravery,'” she says. “She was so happy, it was like she got an award from the government. My business became so different, so personal. That's when I knew I was doing what I'm supposed to be doing.”
Savoia Handbags are available in stores (including kids' options at Old Time Confections at Upper Canada Mall), golf courses, at events and online at savoiahandbags.com.

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