Haha! Well let’s sit and have a beer. It’s sunny, I want to be drinking beer! … So when did I start leatherwork? When I graduated cegep, I went to Concordia to study Business. And I was like, “Okay that’s what you do, something smart”. Anything fun and creative is just a hobby. I finished the program, I got my Bachelor’s. It was really hard. I wasn’t motivated at all, I was the student who would ghost and go to class and get out. Which is the worst because university is about meeting people.
I started working for a leather goods company called Fullum & Holt. They’ve been around for over one hundred years and did private label for a bunch of brands like Brooks Brothers, Helmut Lang, Walmart even. As well as their own, Fullum & Holt, which I was managing. My title was Account Executive but I don’t really know what that means.
I had to deal with operations, inventory, sales, customer service, marketing and go to trade shows. The company wasn’t doing well so it was a tough first work experience because your hard work isn’t noticed. It was overshadowed by cash flow and there wasn’t a feeling of team spirit. The company went bankrupt, I went on unemployment, and took time to figure things out.
While I was working there I was curious about manufacturing and craftsmanship and always asked, “What does this machine do?” So I thought, maybe I need to try something completely different. At twenty-six years old I went back to cegep for the leather-working program. In French it’s called, maroquinerie.
I jumped with both feet into a three-year program. Scary! They have eight schools of ‘dying trades’ like glassblowing and lutherie … We started with thirteen people in my program and ended with six. The dropout rate is insane. I learned maroquinerie française.
Very high-end finishing techniques. When I say ‘française’, think Hermès, think Louis Vuitton, it’s all in the details. Whereas American-style leatherwork is more raw edges, thick edges, Western, heritage-looking. Some of the teachers I had worked for these great French brands so they’ve seen it all.
Sure! Most of the terms I know, I know in French. Montage allemand is a German type of construction. I’ll show you a prototype… See how it looks like it’s coming in? There’s also soufflet mexicain which is when you see a briefcase type of construction. An accordion-style. When you start playing with these types of constructions it’s more technical. The classic tote everyone knows is often sewn inside out, a type of construction called piqué-retourné.
It’s pretty cool! I’ve lived in the Mile-End for seven years. I was on rue Clark before with my sister and childhood friend who is almost like a sister, it was my first apartment. And now I’ve been on rue Bernard for almost three years. The storefront was vacant for months. I kept walking past it and for the whole last summer (2016) it was empty. I had my workshop in a spare bedroom in my apartment at the time.
One day I woke up tired of having my workshop in my house — it was messy, leather scraps everywhere, it’s hard for me to work from home, I get distracted … so I reached out to the landlord with how much I could offer. It wasn’t a lot of money. He said no. And I was like, “Okay! Just trying!” The summer goes by and I notice it’s still empty so I got in touch and offered him even less than the first time. I had no plan whatsoever. I’m a student, I’m broke. The day after he wrote back and said, “Okay”. I signed the lease the next day.
For me the biggest thing was, you can’t wait for the perfect idea to arrive. I didn’t have an idea, I didn’t know what I wanted or what to do. But I thought it was better to do something and break the day-to-day, the equilibrium, and do something spontaneous. It’s better to do that than to wait for something to happen. Just do it.
Yeah, I think so. I guess brave or stupid, I’m not sure which! I like taking risks and if it doesn’t work it’s not the end of the world. I tell everyone, a few thousand dollars in debt isn’t like starting a tech company and being millions of dollars in debt. You can always recover from it. Debt doesn’t scare me. I guess that’s bad and good. I’m not afraid.
I was alone at the start and I ran into a girl who had completed the same program as me and I thought, “hmmm … I like you, I like your style …” I could really see it working. So I asked if she wanted to do this with me. She was on board and helped me get it off the ground. She influenced me in a good way because I didn’t want to start a brand, I wanted to have fun in a workshop and experiment. But she said no, let’s build a brand around it. We started together and she had other opportunities so we separated, and now I am on my own.
It’s a lot for one person. But there are a lot of positive aspects to it. Not having to run every idea by the other person, especially when you’re both creative. It got to a point where we’d have to run every Instagram post by each other which is a waste of energy. But a partnership definitely splits the weight. Having someone to rely on. It’s tough to be alone but nice to make creative decisions by your own instinct. Like hanging a giant paper origami in the window! It has been so grey out, I want some colour!
I loooooove colour. But no one buys colour. That’s a bit tricky. There isn’t a huge luxury market in Montréal, which is my market. I don’t have an online shop yet, it’s in the works. Everyone wants to pay $300 for a bag and everyone wants the bag to never go out of style. So automatically — black. I’ve tried to incorporate colourful linings so that you get a pop of colour or something that makes it fun.
Pink and blue are my favourite this season. Because I do so much custom stuff at the moment, what I want doesn’t really matter. I design custom pieces and totes with people and I try to give as much freedom as I can to the customer.
Finding a name is the hardest thing, ever. First we brainstormed leather terms. In French, the top layer of a leather hide is called la fleur, so we went in a floral direction. We tried all the names of flowers, latin names of flowers, everything. I think it was a friend of my old partner who came up with Bouquet. We wanted it to be English and French at the same time.
And it just worked. Bouquets are beautiful, our bags are beautiful. You hold a bouquet, you hold a bag. You give a bouquet to someone you love, you gift a Bouquet bag. And the letters look good.
Yes! People were like, “Did you call it Bouquet because of Tammy?” I was like, maybe one day if this takes off and we aren’t in this space anymore, we’re online or whatnot, it could become part of our story.
She knows everything about me. I have the store, I live above with one of my best friends, and another one of my best friends lives in the building too. And it’s just the best thing! I wake up in the morning and we chat in bed, me and my neighbour, not Tammy! It’s a great dynamic. Anyway, she went through a breakup and I went through a breakup and you know, guys come and go, and Tammy loves the gossip! I got back together with my boyfriend and Tammy was like, “He changed. He looks better. He’s going to be better. You guys look happy”. Tammy is my eyes. But we are also neighbourhood watch for her.
One night at 2 AM someone was trying to steal from her. My neighbour went down and yelled at a guy and his girlfriend trying to take Tammy’s flowers, “Those are Tammy’s flowers! Do you want to pay for them?! Put them back!” Everyone looks out for each other. And Tammy is my inspiration. She works all the time and often sleeps on the bench outside. I don’t think anyone needs flowers at 4 in the morning.
You end up working much more than any nine to five. You’re always working. Sometimes I get overwhelmed but then I see Tammy. She was up all night over Mother’s Day weekend preparing bouquets and worked like a mad woman all day and back at it the day after.
The only advice she has ever given me is that you don’t need a man and that you have to work hard. When I opened she gave me a really nice tree and said it had good energy. The tree died. There’s not a lot of light in here. I was like, “Bad energy?” … But she’s great! She’s inspiring.
Lots of things from estate sales, mostly near and around Cape Cod. Things from rich Americans! Is that weird? To have things from dead people? Imagine walking into this beautiful Cape Cod mansion and there’s all of this memorabilia and antiques and objects and it’s cheap, cheap, cheap! You walk into someone’s life. It’s a bit morbid, but my boyfriend and I really love it.
One time we rented a car, a red Fiat convertible. We didn’t plan to buy anything but got so much stuff, so many frames and mirrors, bursting out of the car! It was a puzzle down to the very last vintage pencil sharpener. Thank God they didn’t pull us over to search the car at the border!
Recently, Le Butterblume. I love sitting at the counter, alone. Well, my boyfriend can be there, fine! But sitting there alone and getting lost, watching them make food because the kitchen is open. Everything they make is thought of. The other day I sat there for fifteen minutes watching the chef make pasta dough two meters long. It was fascinating!
When the sun comes out, Café Olimpico. It’s a classic. The sun on that patio is amazing. My store (haha!) that’s where I am all the time. I start my day with Benoit at Le Dépanneur Café. Phyllo Bar Melina’s is great. Joanna (the owner) is my favourite person. Her energy is contagious and the spanakopita is amazing!
Mile-End Fruiterie too. Bob (the owner) has known me since I was a kid. I grew up in NDG and he had a fruiterie down the street where I grew up. He closed up and you grow up and lose touch. I moved to the Mile-End into my own place, go to pick up groceries, and realize it’s Bob! And he’s like, “How’s your mom?”