Did you know that 91 Magazine is now stocked across the pond in the US and Canada?! We are thrilled to forging connections with the creative community on the other side of the Atlantic and across the globe. 91 contributor Hannah Clugston gets to know the fabulous independent scene in Montreal, Canada with local photographer Valeria Bismar guiding the way and snapping the pics…
The largest city in Canada's Québec province, Montreal’s blend of French and English heritage makes for a vibrant city like no other where food is carefully prepared to be enjoyed slowly in stylish interiors and chic stores evolve in keeping with current trends. Named after Mount Royal – the three peaked hill in the centre of the city – and flanked by two rivers, Montreal is an intriguing place to explore with independent cafés and studios aplenty for the thriving creative scene. Every other shop, gallery or bar is multi-functional, serving up creative masterclasses against a backdrop of design-led products and delicious pastries.
We take a little tour of the best places to visit in the city…
Apparently, a “parvis” is a place where communities gather after worship, and – although there is a church nearby – Café Parvis refers to the gathering of the local neighbourhood, either over a delicious meal or in the co-working space upstairs. Based in the historic fur district of Montreal, the café boasts a unique view over the back end of downtown and atmospheric, stripped down interiors with exposed plaster and wooden floorboards. The menu includes a range of small dishes, but the highlight is the selection of pizzas with slightly off-piste ingredients such as duck and squid.
With shops in Montreal and Toronto, VdeV is a haven of botanical prints, muted soft furnishings and quietly patterned ceramics. Natural tones contrast beautifully with industrial materials to make for an enviable collection of homewares. The range is expansive, including everything from handbags to crockery, lighting, furniture, cushions and more. It is the carefully curated styling that pulls everything together, providing visitors with ample inspiration when creating their own well considered interiors at home.
Named after the ethics they hold dear, BKind (be kind) sells a collection of natural skincare and eco accessories. On a mission to “be kind” to the world – and the people and animals that inhabit it – Bkind design and craft their products in Québec, utilising recyclable packaging, donating money to animal welfare and couriering products on bike. The skincare range, which includes creams, sponges, masks, scrubs, bars, balms and nail polishes, is based around key natural ingredients. Witch hazel, shea butter, aloe vera, sunflower seed oil, lavender buds and other plant-based wonders are blended to produce a stunningly fragranced range that is both gentle and luxurious. Each item is packaged in beautiful illustrations, ensuring the remedies look as good on the shelf as they do on the skin.
One visit to Bref is likely to be entirely different to the next. A gallery, shop and event space based in the heart of Montreal, Bref evolves over the seasons to reflect current design trends. Founders Cynthia Moreau and Maude St-Louis wanted to develop a space to promote local and international artists, rejecting a static showcase and creating a dialogue between objects and the public instead. Previous display themes include animals, architecture, botany, colour and Scandinavian design. The Bref boutique, which is also available online, features vibrant graphic prints, playful ceramics and exclusive collaborations with other creatives.
Boasting the catchy tag line “Louise has the bread to go with your butter!”, Boulangerie Louise is the sort of local bakery that you can smell streets away. Open early and late, the bakery is primed to serve the local community all day long – whether that is during the breakfast rush hour or later on when there’s a spot of post-work grocery shopping. Loaves, baguettes and croissants are served fresh every day in the Petite Italie area of Montréal from a minimalist, concrete-walled café with a spot of light art that fittingly reads “chaud, chaud, chaud”.
Petit Lapin Pâtisserie
When Viviane Nguyen discovered her 10-month-old son had numerous food allergies she knew it was going to be near impossible to find him a cake for his first birthday. So, Nguyen decided to develop a cake herself that was delicious and free from gluten, egg, nuts, dairy and soy. The good news is, not only did her son enjoy that cake, but so did the residents of Montreal and Nguyen has since founded two patisseries in the city. Regardless of dietary restrictions, anyone with a sweet tooth can enjoy pastel coloured macarons, delicately decorated cupcakes and chocolate coated cream puffs at Petit Lapin. And, the Bernard Avenue location features a candy coloured café that can serve as the perfect afternoon tea spot or a kid’s birthday party location.
Spotless cinematic styling is Pastel Rita’s calling card. In Montréal’s artistic Mile End neighbourhood, this café-come-factory is a blend of contrasting colourways, slick polished furnishings and giant windows. Co-owned by Véronique Orban de Xivry, the founder of leather-goods label Bouquet, Pastel Rita is home to the artisans that carefully craft the Bouquet products. Diners can watch the production line whilst enjoying avocado on toast or a shrimp salad. Although the interior is razor sharp, the vibe is very relaxed, and locals pop in for coffee and business meetings in the daytime and cocktails and live music in the evening.
A visit to Tommy is like a trip to mum’s kitchen but with expert baristas on hand. With two locations in Montréal, Tommy’s interiors are laid back and homely with plenty of hanging plants, wooden furnishings and eclectic pieces of art and bric-a-brac. Into this relaxed setting, team Tommy serve every type of coffee (hot, cold, green), various juices and a plethora of cocktails. It’s not all about the caffeine fix though, there’s a lengthy menu offering up brunch, omelettes, sandwiches, salads and health bowls. If you’re still not convinced, it seems that Antoni from Queer Eye is a fan.
La Dependance is really three places under one roof; Kiosk is a boutique, Alcove is a workshop space, whilst the Living Room is a café. In establishing a beautiful, calming space, the owners have curated an atmosphere that encourages creativity and the sharing of ideas. As the name infers, La Dependance is all about enabling designers to collaborate and create in response to the aesthetics and flavours on display at the café. There are workshops to help generate ideas too, participants can currently sign up to “The 5 golden rules of Scandinavian style” or “Who does what in design? Three professions to discover.”
The stationary at the Baltic Club is the stuff of dreams. The pastel colours, painterly illustrations and metallic shades are what freelancers see when they close their eyes and imagine what their home office could look like. This explains why in just five short years, founders Mélanie Ouellette and Brice Salmon have established multiple shops in Montreal, selling their unique range of greeting cards, stationary, desk accessories and prints. With Brice on business management and product development, and Mélanie on illustration and creative direction, the Baltic Club seeks to spark inspiration through simple design. The duo also hosts a number of workshops and coaching sessions to assist other creatives in the city.
Named after the hallway at home where you find a little bit of everything, Vestibule is a carefully curated selection of fashion, homeware, skincare and jewellery. Founder Audrey Morissette is fond of simple, classic design that is both feminine and timeless. Her shop on Mile End is immaculately styled, showcasing subtly patterned dresses and minimalist accessories against warming wooden floors and peachy painted walls. The chic collection that effortlessly manages to unite vases with sunglasses and garden accessories, is arranged on pastel coloured plinths and shelves creating the sensation of walking into a welcoming house. A recent addition to the store is Audrey’s sustainable fashion range which is top quality for longevity and is all made locally. To find out more check out our current e-zine, available by subscribing to our mailing list.