Brendon Friesen and Nate Bezoplenko make beautifully-detailed, functional canvas and leather bags, but you’d never know it unless you’re friends with them.
“We basically use Instagram to get feedback, and that’s as much marketing as we do right now,” says Friesen. “We’re struggling with branding, and even locking down a name for our stuff.”
All photos by: Josh Dookhie
Always one to take on a bunch of hobbies and “do them half assed,” Friesen needed a backpack for school, so he decided to make himself one. He’d always been into sewing – he was one of the guys who took sewing class in High School – so the backpack was a project he could handle. From that backpack, ideas started to form, and he made a conscious decision to take it seriously, put a lot of work into sewing, and see what happens.
That “see what happens attitude” has yielded classic looking waxed canvas and leather bags that appeal to those who like stylish, functional, no-frills items.
That attitude has also meant the pair eschewed a focus on marketing and sales in favour of taking time on their product, really working at being the best they can at what they do.
“I really want to hone the craft and do it justice,” says Friesen. “People who get into things for the money end up burning out and hating it, and we have no desire to put out a bunch of crappy stuff.”
Friends for around four years, Bezoplenko started to get really involved this past year.
“Nate had always been someone I could bounce ideas off of; he has good design sense and thinks outside of the box,” says Friesen. “He’s a risk taker, and has an eye for colour.”
The pair work well together, each bringing something different to the table.
“Brendon’s (Friesen) into details and I see the bigger picture,” says Bezoplenko. “We both like being creative.”
While finding suitable materials locally – waxed canvas and good quality leather – has been a challenge, finding sewing machines has been a breeze.
“Winnipeg has a rich history in garment manufacturing,” says Friesen. “The first machine I got was from a guy who makes tents. He was this big dude who almost cried giving up his machine. Come to think of it, all the guys I buy machines from are tough dudes.” With a growing number of machines, the pair had to move their operation out of their basement. Around a year ago they were offered space in the Exchange Community Church.
“The church is supposed to be part of the community, and they wanted people working and doing things to foster a feeling of creativity and inclusiveness,” says Friesen.
Being a part of the church has been great for the pair, as it’s helped them stay grounded and realize that having the community be part of their story is really important to them.
“It’s great because we can have people stop by and watch us work, and they can feel like ‘yeah, I saw where this was made,’ and have a sense of ownership in it,” says Bezoplenko.
The pair will be relocating to Thom Bargen a new coffee shop/creative space set to open on Sherbrook around the beginning of December, where they’ll be both making and selling their bags.
While leaving their home for the past year will be tough, the move is a positive and natural progression; the right thing at the right time. It’s forcing the pair to think about things they maybe could have put off indefinitely – like a name and website– and it’s showing them just how supportive their friends can be.
“I think people believe in us more than we believe in ourselves,” jokes Friesen.
“It really seems like people want others to do creative things in this city, and they want to be able to say ‘yeah, that’s from Winnipeg,’” adds Bezoplenko.
Ether way, the pair are excited to build on what they have established, and to sell their bags to Winnipeg at large.
Sara is in a committed relationship with Winnipeg. They fight, and sometimes need to take a break, but they always come back to each other. She doesn’t tweet, but she does have a blog: http://sawtoday.blogspot.ca/