This year marks a decade that we’ve been with you. Ten years since the start of an adventure called atelier b. Every day we learn a little more about what it means to own a small business. We’re aware of how lucky we are that the two of us work so well together, and grateful for all the bright moments amid the emotional roller coasters and the twists and turns. Why does our workshop, a community space, open its doors every morning? So we can spend time together, choose the people we surround ourselves with, and so we can clothe you, as you continue to inspire and motivate us. We come to the workshop each and every day so we can make connections, collaborate, and host events that bring people together. It’s what makes all the stress, compromise, and hard work worth it. We won’t tell you things have always been rosy. There have been steep mountains to climb, times when we felt like we were losing our footing. But every time we make it past another hurtle—thanks to our team, the patience of our families and our supportive clients—we’re reminded of how big the reward is. How we get to keep learning every day, the small wins, the pride we feel... it’s worth all the effort.
The story starts back in 2003, when we were both in cégep, barely out of our teens. A chance meeting, an instant personal and creative connection. The two of us soon became inseparable—you know the story. In 2005, we moved in together and began sharing a workshop where we spent time on personal projects, just for fun, outside work and school. By 2007, without realizing it, we had laid the foundation for what would later become, in 2009, atelier b. Once the ball got rolling things moved quickly, maybe too quickly, and we felt like it was the project leading us and not the other way around. We worked continuously. We set aside our personal lives and tried to control the beast we’d created. Our apartment on 6th Avenue in Verdun overflowed with machines, racks, massive rolls of fabric. We couldn’t invite friends for dinner anymore, but in any case we didn’t have time—we were always working, always to a deadline. We realized that we needed to rethink everything and ask ourselves: why atelier b? Where was the project headed?
In 2011, we decided to open a shop, and moved into a space full of history: an old hat manufacturer run by the same family since 1953. The place needed some love, but, as two girls in their early twenties, in all our naivety and full of energy, we saw its potential. The space was big enough to bring people together, to celebrate, to create. It became our headquarters, and we’ve had so many good times here since. Dozens and dozens of shows, art openings, and launches. And it’s where we’ve had some of our most fulfilling encounters, meeting new and interesting people and making lasting friendships. But most of all what changed for us here was our mindset. When we moved in, we decided every decision we made from then on would be based on how happy it would make us, not on how it would further the business. What we wanted was simple: to walk into our workshop every morning and feel happy to be there. To feel like we were home. And we wanted the project to grow but for there to be room for us to grow too—for us to be able to have families, for instance, teach a class, or travel a little.
The fact that our friendship has remained intact for so many years is astounding. More than that, it has evolved and become stronger. In 2015, Catherine had a little girl named Jeanne, and in 2016, I had Roméo. As you’d expect, our families are very close. And our kids tell anyone who’ll listen that they’re sister and brother. When Roméo was born, Catherine even got a note sent home in Jeanne’s daycare agenda that read “Congratulations on Jeanne’s new baby brother!” Some mornings, the two of them beg to stay home from daycare, so they can spend the day at the workshop. It’s everything we imagined it could be: a welcoming space and a second home. Still today, eight years after the Mile End shop’s opening, we keep our Friday afternoons free, because we always have friends who stop by to say hello—something that we adore. It’s what we truly missed when the workshop was in our apartment. We love that our door is always open, and that we always have visitors!
We haven’t yet had time to celebrate our ten-year anniversary this year as we’d hoped. We’ve been busy with the new boutique in Old Montreal and galerie atelier b, which is just below the new shop. Our Mile End location is unique in that our work space is in full view, and we wanted the second store to be just as special. The new location and its history spoke for themselves; and the art gallery came to be thanks to collaborator Marie-Christine Dubé. This year we’ve been working extra hard. Our small team has doubled in size (hi Annik, Karine, Célia, Pauline, Inès, Marie-Claude, Dao and Manon!) and we’ve reworked a few things that fell by the wayside during our maternity leaves. I’ll write more about motherhood and entrepreneurship soon; it’s something that has changed us and helped us grow, on so many levels. When Catherine and I look at the decade that’s sped by, it’s with bewilderment, shock, a great deal of emotion, and so much happiness. We’ll be celebrating in 2020.
Since atelier b started, the goal has been to rethink clothing design and integrate sustainable practices. Our environmental impact and the treatment of workers define our ways of doing things. And we have a big announcement for the coming year: we think we can do even more to positively impact our ecosystem. For the past few months, we’ve been working on a project that we’re very proud of. We’ll tell you more soon! Thank you so much for all your support over the past ten years. It continues to be a whirlwind of emotions and surprises. From the start, it has been an adventure. And we’re excited to spend another decade with you.
* Thank you to the photographers who captured these moments and allowed me to make these home-made illustrations:
Jean-Michael Seminaro for the gathering at the champ des Possibles and for the launch party of our new identity.
Bruno Guérin for the Milk and Bone show.
Sarah Gilbert for Barry Shinder with all his hats on.
Cindy Boyce for the photo of Jeanne and Romeo and for the photo of the dress atelier b x CDA.
Arounna for Piper with her jumper small workshop b x bookhou.