With the local production, attention to textiles, and a mindset of creating a sense community, Canadian brand Atelier B continues to grow and the actions towards sustainability are ones we can positively be a part of too.
Since launching in 2009, Atelier B has become a leading brand in sustainable Canadian design. Friends Anne-Marie and Catharine began making simple organic garments from their apartment, evolving their philosophy of slowness and long-lasting quality into full collections of women’s, men’s (both often unisex) and children’s wear.
Their studio and boutique in Montreal’s Mile End was opened in 2011 and in June this year they opened a second boutique in the bustle of Old Montreal. An exhibition space is attached, showcasing small curated exhibitions that highlight some of the architectural influences and natural toned colour palettes behind the clothes.
HOLR caught up with co-founder Anne-Marie at the Old Montreal boutique to chat about developing an authentically sustainable brand and the community spirit that encourages us to move forward.
HOLR: The Atelier B label as grown a lot since its origins of two friends in an apartment. What were your initial goals?
We started the project almost ten years ago. We were designers so we were like ‘let’s make our own things and we started taking pictures’. At the time, we were only working with two types of organic cotton knits-one jersey and one fleece. It really was the starting point to have sustainable fabrics and production in Montreal and focus on a more design approach.
HOLR: What’s the starting point when it comes to your design process?
It’s really the textiles that are the starting point and to make very simple designs that value the textile. We are very interested in the garments, the techniques, the making, and all the craft behind it, and we are mostly inspired by graphic design, architecture, and photography.
HOLR: Are there any particular guidelines or codes that you always follow when it comes to your collections?
We try to make things that are simple enough that they will last for many years so sometimes we don’t do things that we think will be out of fashion too soon. (Sometimes we remove things that we feel are not durable enough because we want to make sure our customers will invest in a piece that will last and will be easier to match with a previous collection). We already feel guilty about making new clothes so it has to be durable and made with love. We love to have the feedback from our customers to make sure they feel empowered when they wear our outfits.
HOLR: Could you talk about the function of your Mile End studio. Are most of your products made there?
We make all of our samples there and the wax jackets and small batch production like the kids line. We also make all of the special orders for customers because you can choose one of our designs and one of our fabrics and have it made especially for you. If it is too large quantities to make them in house, we have help by seamstresses in Montreal. I think the furthest is 8km from the workshop so everything is very close. All of the other work like accounting and communication is done in the Mile End space.
HOLR: With the new store and gallery launched, what are your plans in terms of expansion?
We want to give more space to the workshops that we are offering as well as sewing workshops and all the craft techniques that we want to teach. We feel like all of these techniques that we have in the studio should be shared and we feel that it’s a sustainable way as well to make people learn to do it themselves and how to repair their clothing so they lasts longer. Definitely the workshops will be a bigger part of our time for the up-coming year. We also want to ensure that none of our Atelier B garments ends up in landfill so will soon be making an announcement about how a second life can be given to customers’ worn clothes.
HOLR: What are your views on the current approaches (or lack of) to sustainability in the fashion industry and how do think the topic should be addressed?
For Catherine and I, our approach is in taking action! We try to offer solutions and be a model in the best enterprise practices. Instead of criticizing, we improve things we have control on. On a personal level, the way we spend or own money is also a politic act. We invest in local economy and sustainable products that will last or buy second hand.
HOLR: What role do you feel handcrafted/ local labels such as Atelier B play in shifting the way people dress and how do you hope to expand the audience so shopping sustainably like this becomes more of a norm?
Our clientele is way more sensitive and conscious to sustainability than when we started 10 years ago. Our first mantra was to offer something very appealing to almost trick them into buying sustainable designs but now they are the ones asking about our sourcing, our production processes, and we love that. Sustainability is part of the conversation now which is great and we feel that, by offering beautiful, well made, comfortable items that empower our customers, we help convince the ones that are not already sensitive to durability.
Keep up with the brand on their website at www.atelier-b.ca
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