As we began planning our S/S ’16 collection photo shoot at the Edmonton International Airport, the first thing that jumped to our minds was the styling (after the shoes, of course). Apart from finding a few treasures at vintage shops like Swish, we wanted to use suitcases that we felt matched the Poppy Barley brand: thoughtfully designed, functional, made with beautiful materials. Our co-founder, Kendall, immediately suggested we reach out to Ebby Rane, a line of luxury luggage designed in Toronto. Here, from law to startup biz to InStyle, Ebby Rane founder Sonja Salmon shares her story.
As told to Poppy Barley
Prior to founding Ebby Rane, I practiced as a lawyer and enjoyed a wonderful corporate career as a part of the senior management team at a global financial institution. I started my career as a young lawyer on Bay Street and subsequently moved onto to become in-house legal counsel at a large Canadian bank. Eventually, that led to an exciting time working overseas and leading large diversified multi-disciplinary teams. It was all great training for what I am doing now.
Ebby Rane was an idea that was first conceived about six years ago. I had been travelling extensively for work and always found that I was frustrated by the luggage options that were available for businesswomen. I didn’t feel that there was anything on the market that was sophisticated, refined and thoughtfully designed for the way that women travelled. I remember asking a number of my friends about their luggage options and came to realize that there was truly a gap in the market. Luggage tended to be either masculine or leisure oriented with bright colours and patterns. No one was designing luggage and travel accessories for business and professional woman.
My “aha” moment came in New York City when I held a focus group to share the vision board for Ebby Rane and to obtain feedback on the very first prototype. Looking back, I have to laugh because I asked professional and business women—with extremely senior roles and very important jobs—to visualize with me what it would be like to pack a Quartermaster. I must mention that they were looking at the first prototype that was made out of plywood! It’s a wonder that anyone gave me the time of day! But, I had the most amazing experience that day. I shared my passion for building a brand that transformed the vision and philosophy for Ebby Rane. I felt strongly that the Quartermaster could be a personal valet for women globally—and I still do today. I left New York City with unanimous support and my first committed customers! On that trip home, I knew I had to take the leap.
Initially, the very first Quartermaster concept started out as a wish list for the luggage I secretly wanted myself. I remember wishing that I had a pair of coordinated shoe sleeves, a vanity case, a case for my jewellery and a special bag for my undergarments. The heritage inspiration came from that Victorian era when women travelled with exquisite wardrobes, carefully transported in trunks. The Quartermaster was designed to be a travelling trunk, but reimagined for today’s very modern traveller.
I knew nothing about luggage other than what I knew as a consumer before I entered this industry. To date, I would have to look back and say that my naivety is probably one of the reasons I’m here today! I was largely uninformed about how many things worked and so I tackled the design, the production process and the brand from a very clean and unencumbered standpoint. I had a very consumer-focus standpoint to starting the business and ultimately I think this has been a tremendous asset.
There have been many challenges in starting a business and having a vision. Particularly, being a global company with some complexity to our production certainly has challenges. We are committed to the highest quality and that requires a very different management of the company. There will always be different perspectives on how any entrepreneur navigates the waters of running a business and building customer loyalty. I think one of the most important attributes to entrepreneurship is discovering your fortitude and that internal drive that propels you forward, in spite of obstacles that crop up.
I expect to see continued growth for Ebby Rane in North America and in the international arena. We have found that women pack exactly the same across cultures and across languages. There is something incredibly unifying among women when it comes to travelling. I’ve never met a woman who wants her shoes to touch her underwear! We naturally want our jewellery to be safely protected just as we wish to have a bag for our laundry or a wet bag for our swimwear. As such, these things have actually assisted us in building a global client base which has been very important to our growth strategy.
PACKING TIPS FROM EBBY RANE
Join the movement – Commit to a Carry-on.
Join the growing number of travellers who use carry-on for travel whenever possible. Select a good quality carry-on and enjoy the benefits…. Less fees, more time (no lines and waiting at the baggage carousal) and greater security for your personal items.
Pack with the 2 + POP rule.
Build a highly versatile wardrobe when packing a carry-on using the 2 + POP rule. Select clothing in two major neutrals (example: black & white, navy & tan, grey & brown). Add a POP of colour through accessories such as jewellery and scarves to look fresh and to maximize wardrobe options.
Make the Investment.
Invest in travel-sized dispensers and personal tools. For example, purchase a mini flat iron, travel perfume dispensers and light weight compressible travel running shoes The investment pays off every time. (My go-to item is the Travelo perfume dispenser that allows me to take my favourite daytime and night-time fragrances in tiny test- tube sized atomizers. Available at Shoppers Drug Mart).
Fresh for Arrival.
On long-haul trips, slip on some compression socks on the plane to keep legs looking fresh on arrival and to improve circulation. Add extra eye cream at take off to avoid puffiness and dark circles. Slip on some sunglasses or a cashmere eye mask.
Enjoy an in-room Spa.
Mix hair conditioner (usually in your hotel bathroom) with a few packages of granulated sugar from the coffee station for a quick in-room exfoliation in the shower.
The key to being an efficient and professional traveller is embracing some new paradigms:
- Buy what you can at your destination (toothpaste/toothbrush/deodorant) and carry what you cannot get (favorite pantyhose, special hair product).
- Use the laundry service for longer trips (5+ days). Use the hotel laundering service rather than move up from a carry-on to a checked bag. It is often more economical than you think and if you follow the other tips on packing, you will never be out of options.