We recently sat down with Jonah Leslie, owner and artistic director of Héritage/Inheritance Shoppe, and discussed growing up in the Plateau, romantic escapades in Brazil, surrealist window displays, tree-climbing, and curating in Bangkok. We also got a peek at his 7 essentials. Stay tuned for our upcoming feature on Jonah’s new shop Ibiki, opening in late November.
One thing I’ve noticed living in Montreal is that people always ask, “Where are you from?” because everyone seems to be from elsewhere.
Funny you say that because when I’m asked the question and I respond that I’m from right down the block, people often expect me to be from somewhere else. I grew up on the Plateau, just North of Parc LaFontaine. When I started high school, my mom and step-dad bought a house in the country in a place called Oka, a little town bordering a First Nations reservation. I lived between Oka and my dad’s apartment in the Plateau. Then I came back to Montreal full-time to study. And I’ve been in this area my whole life.
You seem somewhat international. When did you start traveling?
Some kids go to camp, but I would tour with my dad. Both my parents are contemporary dancers. My dad tours extensively and travels about 6-7 months out of the year, especially in the summer. He would take me with him on tour and we’d usually visit Europe, and some of the US and western Canada.
Where did you go on your first trip after college?
After college, I was DJ’ing, promoting and hosting parties. I saved my money and my first trip right out of school was to Brazil. I went with no big plan other than, “I’m going to go somewhere I’ve never been before with nothing in my bag, just to see the world.” I had about 4 months to spend there. I had a little bit of a romantic escapade with a girl while I was there and we left it open-ended when I left. When the next year came around, I’d saved my money and I was ready to get a plane ticket. When I got in touch with her, she said that she was seeing somebody. Alright, I guess I’m not going to Brazil.
Instead of Brazil, where did you end up traveling?
I decided on Asia. While I was there, I went to some markets and met some designers in the industry in Bangkok. I was really inspired by what was going on. There’s a big market culture in Asia. It’s an atmosphere that is much more conducive to upstarting. You don’t have to invest in a big space, and as a designer, you don’t have to make hundreds of the same piece to make it financially viable. Production is easier and more affordable– that coupled with being able to sell on the street or in a market makes it a lot easier for young designers. You can go to one stall and spend $50 and leave with 5 pieces. You can really curate without much money.
What happened after Bangkok?
I contacted some friends of mine who own Space FB and asked them if they would let me sell some merchandise in front of their shop during the summer street sales. So for the next two and a half years, I went back [to Bangkok] around three times a year and I would spend a significant portion of my time there. On the way back, I would also visit Tokyo and Hong Kong. Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo were the main cities that I was curating within.
How did Old Gold Boutique start?
A few years later, I opened Old Gold Boutique on Mont-Royal. It was a very small space. My main motivation for getting the store was to create a space; a space where I could create whatever I wanted, a completely curated environment. The approach wasn’t at all coming from a retail perspective. I didn’t even have a sign outside. I used the window display as a vitrine and I would make wacky installations, which often had nothing to do with clothes. It was known to have crazy window displays.
Any examples of crazy displays?
A lot of them were very surrealist– I had a very surrealist angle to the whole aesthetic of Old Gold. My main reference was a child’s dream, which is pretty surrealist to begin with. I also incorporated elements of Belgian-African colonialism.
[laughs] There were a lot of rich tones and woods, yet with a very European approach. And then a bunch of safari animals thrown in– zebras, giraffes. Again, no signage outside the window. It was really just word of mouth, or people who were curious and wondered “what the hell is this place?” as they walked by.
How did you end up opening Héritage/Inheritance?
My lease was running up at Old Gold, and the space was getting too small for the amount of business I was getting. The day I came back from a trip and was going to start looking [for a new space] , I found this space. Within twenty minutes of meeting the owner, we shook on it. It was exactly what I wanted: big windows, high ceiling, concrete floors.
The stars were aligned, as they say. It was a lot bigger than what I was looking for, but the owner somehow trusted me. But I knew that I would need to buy some time– I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted with this space from the beginning. I would have to open and take a few seasons to try a few different things with the buying and merchandising. As opposed to my small store though, my space here opened up the possibility to work with amazing brands that I wasn’t able to before, mostly because of buying minimums.
I needed some time to perfect this space, with the merchandising, as well as the interior. It’s been a work in progress. This chandelier went up sometime last winter. That was a crazy thing. The electrician was too big to do it, so I had to install it myself. I was balancing on a piece of wood over the two flights of stairs. He was telling me which wire goes where, standing on this wobbly plank.
That sounds horrible!
I’m good at climbing stuff. I was always good at climbing trees. I recently saved a cat out of a tree. My friend called me at 1am on a Saturday night: “I left my place and my roommate’s cat just ran out and ran into the tree. We’ve been out here for an hour. Should we call the fire department? What should we do?” So I told them, “Sit tight, I’m on my way.” I climbed up the tree and got the cat. I felt quite heroic.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Shop Feature on Héritage/Inheritance, where we talk with Jonah about curating, the garment industry, and the philosophy behind Héritage.
One of Jonah’s favourite publications, Apartamento is a magazine centered around everyday life and interiors.
2. APC backpack
Functional, stylish backpack from French label APC.
2. MALIN+GOETZ, Vitamin E face moisturizer and eucalyptus deodorant
alcohol + aluminum free deodorant with eucalyptus and residue-free moisturizer with vitamin E and B5 with absorbent fatty acids.
4. Black Aidan pant, Velour by Nostalgi
The perfect black pair of pants.
5. YMC collar-tab shirt
Beautiful oxford shirt with a unique collar-tab detail that holds the collar up.
6. Sisii shoes
The perfect pair of shoes from Japanese label Sisii.
7. Our Legacy black sweater (Sweden)
“If I’m buying a basic, staple piece, the first colour I will buy is black.”
A huge thank you to Jonah for allowing us to invade his space. Stay tuned for the full shop feature later this week!
Héritage Inheritance Shoppe
4357 Boulevard Saint Laurent
Find the boutique on Facebook.