The Bywa Story

Your average person, upon finding out about the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in all it’s exploitive horror, doesn’t pick up a second hand sewing machine and teach themselves how to sew in an attempt to change the world. But Gwen Cornish is no ordinary person, and that’s just what she did.

99% of things purchased today will be in a landfill within 6 months. Those were the words that resonated through the screen in 2007 as Gwen sat watching The Story of Stuff with her youth group. And that’s when it came to her. What if you could take other people’s cast offs and rework them? What if you could turn junk into something beautiful?

So, that was that. Gwen found an old 1940’s drafting textbook online and began teaching herself the art of pattern drafting. Pattern drafting turned into dresses, jackets, and eventually (and thank goodness for us) bags. Her drive to transform the old and discarded into new and unique designs led her to experimenting with styles, textures, and fabrics she’d otherwise ignored. While scavenging buttons from old uniforms and repurposing 70s disco pants, Gwen found a treasure trove of discarded goods, from busted Christmas light wire, remnants from laminate underlay, even plastic grocery bags. And so, Bywa was born.

Our Philosophy

Bywa, meaning “to live” in the ancient Celtic tongue, believes in beauty, sustainability and justice for the world we live in. We believe that in learning to live creatively, the whole world benefits. When you choose bywa, you are choosing to create a sustainable future for the planet through recycled and reworked materials. You are choosing to swim upstream and invest in growing local community through small business. You are choosing to celebrate your uniqueness and individuality through one-of-a-kind designs blessed with creativity and careful attention. When you choose bywa, you choose to live creatively and carry change.

Meet the Team

Gwen Cornish

Gwen Cornish

Owner/Master Designer

Owner, creator, and mastermind behind the Bywa brand, Gwen has been designing her own accessories since 2007. You can find her in the studio cradling her sewing machine like the baby it is. Gwen is famous for her “Gwemisms” which you can read more about on the blog.

Likes: cheese even though it doesn’t always like her.

Dislikes: feet.

Joslyn Peters

Joslyn Peters

Studio Elf

Works with Bywa because, according to Gwen, she’s “anal…in a good way”. Joslyn does so much, from deconstructing leather jackets to acting as the studio DJ. She finds prepping precisely portioned pieces pleasurable. We don’t know where we’d be without her!

Likes: talking to trees

Dislikes: raisins

Rianna VandeKamp

Rianna VandeKamp

Market Babe

You’ll find Rianna selling our wares at some of the many markets we attend. Sometimes she steals Gwen’s phone and takes pictures. She regularly checks up on Gwen in her studio and makes sure each bag gets its own glam shot.

Likes: Vintage Volkswagon Bugs

Dislikes: people who water their lawns in the summer. I mean really, what’s that about?!

Victor Cornish

Victor Cornish

Woodwork Wizard/Superman

Victor is the Original Superman, and Bywa wouldn’t be what it is today without him. Everything in our studio from the cutting table and shelves to the organizing drawers and our display stands, has been lovingly made by Vic. Oh ya, and he’s Gwen’s dad.

Likes: Gardening

Dislikes: Slugs. And moles too.

The Bywa Family

Some family is blood, some family you choose, and some you’re stuck with because they just won’t leave. The Bywa family is thankfully made up of all of these and there is no way Bywa could run without them; they play an essential role in keeping Gwen sane and forcing her out of her garudio (studio/garage).

Val and the Monkey

Ivan and Gwen

80's frames

Family Dinner

Naomi and Gwen


Fire circle


The Boys

Nic and the Pipes

Mom and Dad