One of the greatest challenges of being an artisan, apart from being original, is finding the perfect space to showcase your designs. For Mathieu Mudie and Rachel Fortin, also known as Rachel F., this task wasn’t easy, but thanks to a little traveling and a lot of researching, they were able to come up with a concept that seems to be gaining popularity in the city.
Their very first boutique, Lowell, is a carefully curated space that combines the clean minimalist aspect of an upscale store, with the old industrial feel of a vintage boutique. Thoughtfully located on Saint-Laurent, corner St-Viateur, Lowell is more than a simple store– it’s a contemporary idea born from the love of longstanding traditions.
We had a chance to sit down with Mathieu, the store owner (and Rachel’s business and life partner), to discuss their store, local history and the importance of encouraging local brands and businesses.
What inspired the aesthetic of the store?
Mathieu: It’s really based on what we like. We travel a lot and we’ve been inspired by the many stores we’ve seen overseas. Once we found the space, we built everything ourselves. We made all the racks, all the shelves, everything from A to Z. Our store manager, Julien, also helped a lot with the decoration and finding all the vintage objects that are in it. We fell in love with the idea of selling everything in store, even the furniture. It allows a nice rotation in the store, we never get bored and we get to showcase some of the amazing objects we find while shopping for vintages furs and leathers. I think that Lowell came together because we wanted to recreate the perfect environment to sell Rachel’s brand but we knew that we wanted it to be more than that.
What’s the story behind the name Lowell?
Mathieu: We were looking for a name that wasn’t Rachel F. since we wanted the boutique to be something on it’s own. We mixed things that we like, lines and brands that we already knew, or recently discovered and ended up building great relationships with. We wanted to bring all these people in our space and create our own little community.
Lowell was the name of a town in Massachusetts that was very productive in the textile industry, back in the day. I mean, we could’ve gone for something a little closer to home, Montreal also had its place in the development of the textile industry in North America. We chose Lowell because there was a large French Canadian community that migrated there after Montreal’s textile industry started declining and they lost their jobs. There was a French neighbourhood in Lowell; Jack Kérouac was also from Lowell. It was that relationship with the American east coast; the mix of the French and the English; the exchange between Canada and the States, which interested us. Also, and this is actually really random, Rachel’s great-grandmother and mine were both born in Lowell. We discovered it once we started brainstorming for the store’s name and it added a personal signification to the whole concept.
The partnership between Lowell and Rachel F. has built a name for itself in Montreal’s fur industry, or at least what’s left of it. How hard is it to renew a material with such history?
Mathieu: We have this very long history with fur in Canada. It’s been part of our culture and development since forever. But there was a breakpoint. The old way of working with fur, of presenting it to the clients, died. The industry and the way people consumed changed drastically at that time. Most of the furriers of Montréal lost their jobs or had to move somewhere else. Not that long ago, they were all located behind The Bay and there were fur faults across the whole city.
It’s only recently that we’re starting to see more and more people being interested in fur. I think it has a lot to do with this generation’s interest in recycling and thrifting. Now, we see fur being repaired, modernized and accessorized. I believe Harricana had a role in all that change. With their concept, they were able to really bring fur back to current taste. We’ve also been doing this for a long time, it’s been ten years already, and we notice that there is a little effervescence surrounding the recycling of this material. For us, it’s all about modernizing it, while maintaining its quality.
Name 3 places that inspire you on Saint-Laurent?
Mathieu: The girls behind Atelier B. are good friend of ours and we love what they do. I think I can even say that the opening of their boutique inspired us. I mean, we really like their style and it showed us that there was a place for that type of store in the neighbourhood and encouraged us to go on with our project. There’s also Unicorn, an amazing boutique who carries awesome brands for quite a while now. They were one of the precursors around here. Finally, there’s Les Étoffes. It’s interesting because those stores all have a different range. Atelier B. is an atelier/boutique, Unicorn is been around for a while and carries a lot of local brands and Les Étoffes, has a well thought editorial direction that’s very refreshing. These are the three poles that inspired us and made us want to introduce our own little world to the small community they had already created in the neighbourhood. Local stores and brands are slowly taking over the main with new original concepts and it’s a huge form of inspiration for any artisan or designer trying to find its place in our business.
Any recent «coup de coeur» for a brand in store?
Mathieu: It’s really hard to say since we personally chose all the brands in store and we obviously think that they’re all very remarkable. Out of the blue like this, I’d say Walk Over, a men’s footwear company from the United States that’s been around for quite some time now, since the 18th century if I’m not mistaking. We were looking for shoes, both for men and women, but it’s really hard to find locally crafted shoe brands. I ended up buying a pair of shoes from them and it was literally the best pair of shoes I ever owned. They are extremely comfortable; you don’t need to break them in. They’re also hand stitched and, this is why these shoes are so outstanding, if you use up the sole you can send them back and get it replaced. This doubles the life of the shoes and makes it a quality product with a top-notch customer’s service; you don’t find that type of dedication anymore.
Visit Lowell to experience the boutique for yourself!