The Montreal Studio Conquering the World of Lighting Design

Rachel Bussin leads us from room to room of the expansive, multi-levelled industrial space with her golden doodle, Bernie, following at her heels. Possessing an air of indisputable cool, Bussin, lead designer at Lambert & Fils, takes us through the studio’s various ecosystems; from the calm focus of the assembly room floor, decorated with lush green houseplants and colourful tools, to the stark white space tucked away in the basement, manned by three boisterous dudes blasting metal and yelling a warm “salut!”, it becomes increasingly clear that the award-winning, collaborative lighting design studio has found a way to promote individually while rejecting egocentricity: a rarity in the world of art and design.

Known for their sleek yet poetic lights, Lambert & Fils is a studio on an impressive rise. Founded by Samuel Lambert back in 2010, the company is fresh off a trip to Milan for Salone del Mobile’s Euroluce, wherein they were one of only three Canadian studios showcasing their designs to a European audience. Their goal? To put Canadian, and specifically Québecois lighting design on the map.

“Design is not ingrained in our culture here. Many people don’t understand design or know what design is, whereas in Europe people know who designed their chair. Here, it’s a crazy concept,” says Bussin, recounting the trip. “In Italy right now there’s a big problem with designers not being able to find jobs. The industry is really different over there. There’s a lot of lighting and furniture manufacturers who will then hire individual designers, but at Lambert & Fils, we manufacture and design everything ourselves. Sam [Lambert] has created an opportunity to design and manufacture at the same time.”

While the studio has grown from twelve to over forty-five employees in the last three years alone, the company is still firmly planted on Montreal ground. Their collections, which carry the names of Montreal streets like Beaubien and Clark, combine form and functionality with an undeniable sense of style and purpose. When it comes to the ten principles of design –with design being “as little design as possible” – Lambert & Fils check off all the boxes. You can find samples of their Dot collection at SSENSE, their Beaubien collection at Jatoba, their Clark collection at Frank & Oak, Kampai Garden, and more. To Bussin, part of the fun of these special projects is customizing a lamp to suit the individual needs of vastly different spaces and clients.

“When we were designing the Laurent collection, part of the goal was to create a light that could be highly customizable. We can change the form, we can change the finish to look like a different light.” Part of the company’s success can be attributed to this principle of creating objects that appeal to a broad audience while being inherently customizable. And while the handful of lead designers tasked with building the Lambert & Fils brand alongside Samuel Lambert all come from different backgrounds and possess different aesthetic sensibilities, they work together to figure out how their own, individual skills sets can thread together to create the best product possible.

“We have a mutual respect for each other’s aesthetic. It’s not all about our personal mark, but trying to understand what kind of lighting people want to have in their homes; trying to create a design that the consumer will enjoy.”

Lambert & Fils are currently in the process of streamlining their assembly workflow as they prepare to take on a massive, yet-to-be-announced project that will launch them further into the international sphere. While Bussin jokes that this phase of the expansion isn’t “exciting or sexy,” it will allow the company to grow even more, while keeping their trademark aesthetic and sense of respectful collaboration in check.

Beginning as a part-time assembler and moving up through the ranks to lead designer, Bussin’s love for the city led her to where she is now: on the cusp of something huge for the world of Montreal design. “Myself and lot of other people saw potential in Lambert & Fils from very early on. It’s been a crazy journey.”

by COURTNEY BAIRD-LEW / Photos by PHILIP TABAH

This article is part of Issue 1: Illumination