When I was at home last weekend I was busy putting together some new content for the blog. While my boyfriend and I were out strolling the streets of Victoria and taking photographs (Dave is an amazing photographer) we stumbled upon Jovee Handcrafted boutique in Fan Tan Alley. I wanted to highlight some local shops for Christmas shopping in Victoria, Tofino and Ucluelet because I believe it's important to support local businesses. When I first walked by the boutique it was closed and I was so bummed since I wasn't going to be home for another four weeks. However, after walking around some more and getting some pastries at my favourite Italian bakery La Tana in Fan Tan Alley, Alexis had opened up shop.
Jovee Handcrafted boutique is located in the beautiful and eclectic Fan Tan Alley in Victoria, BC. I've visited her shop a few times over the summer, always lusting after her beautiful leather goods. This time I worked up the courage to ask her if she would be interested in doing an interview with me and luckily she was! Alexis greets her customers from her studio above the shop where you can find her sewing made to order pieces or her current collection. Her Instagram shows up to date projects she's busily working on and gives you an idea of how amazing her pieces are. Check her out on Instagram: @lexouup
Read on to get to know Jovee Handcrafted designer Alexis Kastner a little more.
Where are you from originally? And how did you end up on the West Coast?
I'm originally from Toronto. I came out to the West Coast on a whim! My best friend was finishing up summer classes at UVic and he suggested I come out to visit for a holiday. At that time I only had two weeks left on my lease and hadn't found a new place in Toronto to live. So I decided to pay up my apartment. I sold a bunch of furniture and hired a moving company and moved myself to Victoria! I had never even been to visit. 13 years later and I am still here!
Did you always want to get into design?
I have always been creative and made things. From jewelry, to clothing. Pretty much anything I have wanted to own I have tried to make! Even furniture!
Where do you find your inspiration?
That is a hard question! I mean most of what I make, I make because I want it! I'll be in the shower or on a run and all of sudden I will be cutting and sewing leather in my head! I actually go through all the motions of building a bag even before I have the leather in my hands. So I guess you could say I am always inspired, I find inspiration all around me.
Do you work alone or with a team?
I am a one woman band! I am a hard boss on myself and I honestly wouldn't want to inflict that on anyone else (lol.)
Do you design for both men and women?
I do both! I am heavily weighted in women's pieces, however, I always carry accessories like wallets and keyfobs that anyone can use or wear. I do a lot of custom orders for men's bags as well.
Do you do a lot of custom designs?
At least 60% of my business is custom orders. I love it! There is nothing better than making something for someone that they have been looking for everywhere and can't find.
Do you have a favourite piece you have made?
My bucket backpack! It is tried and true. I have used mine everyday for years! It has been in the ocean at least three times, on the back of many motorcycle rides. I have even broken a bottle of red wine in it. (I then proceeded to take it in the shower with me to wash it out.) It goes from day to night because although it is very durable it's not sporty, but it holds everything! I even use it as an overnight bag.
What materials do you work with mainly?
New-old-stock leather (NOS.) I buy leather that has been sitting for years. I never buy from factories because I firmly believe in not asking for more than what already exists. It also means that chances are I cannot get that leather again, which means that most of my pieces are one or two of a kind.
Where does the name, Jovee Handcrafted come from?
That is a funny question. It is because I LOVE tassels! My friends used to make fun of me and call everything that I owned with tassels on them: "Jovee." Like: "Hey Lex, don't forget your Jovee bag!" They were making fun of me because Jovee equals cheesy 80's music, which equal tassels. So in the end I guess I turned a negative into a positive and named my line after it!
Where can we find your designs?
I have a sweet little brick and mortar in the courtyard of Fan Tan Alley where you can always fine me and my wares. As well, Instagram is where I tend to make a fool of myself! I post everything as I make it and a lot of the time it doesn't even hit the floor before someone has messaged me on Instagram who wants to buy it. You can also find my pieces at Little Gold on Johnson Street, Nomad on Government Street and Black Dog Barber Shop in Ucluelet. I am also currently working on few secret projects with some local businesses that will be available soon!
Stay tuned on Alexis Kastner's Instagram for more about those secret projects: @lexyouup Thanks to Alexis for providing all the images for this interview.