Striking in simplicity

Pudu Designs

Sydney Aquino, the creative mind behind Pudu Designs, explains the twin passions for ethics and elegance driving her celebrated handbag brand

“I believe that a handbag is a powerful accessory in boosting confidence and transforming a woman into the best version of herself.” So says Sydney Aquino, 22, Chief Creative Officer of Pudu Designs, the company she set up in Toronto which has risen rapidly, as seen in magazines such as Condé Nast Traveller and Vanity Fair. Pudu has an ethos: to create simple, versatile, elegant accessories that strive for ecological sustainability in their manufacture. Its namesake is taken from that of the world’s smallest deer, currently under threat of extinction.

Pudu carries both leather and vegan leather handbags. “Leather is still a very popular material in luxury products,” explains Sydney. “However, we also see the other side – using these non-leather products would be the best scenario for the earth.”

For the leather products, Pudu uses vegetable tanning, rather than typically harsh chemicals. As for the vegan range, these are mostly polyurethane-based, but Sydney has been developing a new line principally using apple peel, again with sustainability in mind. Having also acquired a law degree, Sydney is determined to develop the ethical component of Pudu: “Better methodology, better materials.”

Despite Pudu sourcing design ideas internationally, Sydney strives to find the consistency underlying very different design heritages. Hence the deceptively rich simplicity of Pudu products, which are never nondescript, never over-ornate but simply striking. “It’s very important for us to be clean-cut, versatile,” says Sydney. “For dressing up or dressing down, whether it’s for going to the grocer’s or to a business meeting.”

Sydney discovered her instinctive knack for design ideas while in her teens. “I’ve always had a love for fashion, and handbags in particular,” she says. “My friends used to say I was able to pick out bags that matched their style, which they would never have picked out themselves.”

Having lived in Shoreditch, London, for a short period, Sydney was able to absorb the diversity and multiculturalism of the city, as well as its multiple trends and “super-high” fashion sense. However, she is proud of her Filipino and Canadian dual heritage, which is why she has chosen to base her company in Toronto. “Toronto is an increasingly diverse, open, progressive city,” she says. “It’s my home.”