By Rhys Mahannah
Claire Carreras never thought it’d be this challenging to find a new bag.
Her old one had worn out. It was too small, and it clashed with her style. So, with three prerequisites in mind, she went shopping. Her new bag needed to be cost-effective, fashionable, and cruelty-free – a product with the look and feel of leather, but without the obligatory animal victim.
The search was a failure. “I like my accessories to say something about me and who I am, including my moral and ethical sensibilities, but I couldn’t find anything,” Carreras says.
So, like any well-attuned entrepreneur, she saw opportunity in disappointment. In September 2018, she launched White Rhino Bags, a line of vegan, cruelty-free bags and accessories.
“I don’t buy anything made with animal products or byproducts,” explains Carreras. “So I thought about how I could offer such a choice to others. This is the result.”
Speaking with Carreras, it’s easy to see how the company – not her first – is a culmination of particular life experiences and self-reflection.
Her passion for animals and animal welfare began in childhood, when she lived in rural South America. She had pets and loved them dearly, but volunteering at a veterinary clinic revealed to her another, grimmer reality.
“I saw lots of the misfortunes that animals fall into when they’re unwanted and neglected,” Carreras says. “In Canada, much of this stuff is behind closed doors, but there, it was obvious and immediate. You can’t unsee that.”
Her experience with clothes occurred a little later, when she was in her early twenties. She’d moved from Squamish to Vancouver to pursue, with reasonable success, modelling, acting, and stand-up comedy. Then her mother encouraged her to consider fashion.
The duo started a wholesale clothing business. They were invited to Vancouver Fashion Week and later they’d open a brick-and-mortar location, called The Secret Store. It would be one of the best periods of Carreras’ life.
Then, tragedy struck – her mother passed away suddenly, she separated with her husband, and she developed a severe chronic nerve injury that threatened her creative outlets, including music and fashion.
But Carreras would prove resilient. Today, she’s doing well, and her business, though only months old, has seen a positive response.
Her most recent win, though? Last month, she announced that White Rhino Bags had partnered with World Animal Protection US, a non-profit dedicated to animal welfare worldwide.
“To have a business that allows me to support an organization like this, something that means so much to me,” Carreras says. “It’s a dream come true.”ad, Shopping, sponsored