Catherine and I both share the same interest: we love every detail about making clothing. We love the sewing machines and hearing their hum fill the workshop all day long. The heavy scissors and precision tools, the steel weights that hold our fabric in place while we cut out patterns. The old wooden rulers and metal tool boxes we’ve slowly been collecting over the years. We’re passionate about every part of sewing.
When Catherine started out in fashion design, she worked for companies that had their collections made in Asia. She spent her days in front of a screen, handling measurements, technical specifications and assembly details. This lack of contact with the materials, fabrics and machines is probably one of the things that helped our atelier b project get off the ground so quickly. Early on we talked about what we’d call the label, and how we wanted it to have the word “workshop” in the name, so that we’d remember, no matter how much time passed, that’s where we wanted to be: in a workshop.
Sometimes it happens that we spend the whole day in front of a computer, but the workshop is always right there next to us. If we want to take a break from accounting or pattern making, we can just sit down at one of the machines. Honestly, simply being in that space is often enough for me. Just this morning, I got to the workshop and Manon was already sitting in front of the sewing machine, the comforting smell of cotton warmed by the iron wafting through the air. I feel at home here.
When we decided to open a brick and mortar shop in 2011, it was a given that we wanted to invite the people we clothe into our workspace. We wanted to share the sounds and smells, let them see our tools and allow them to partake in the processes so they would be less abstract. So you could ask us questions and we’d have everything in front of us to answer them better. We do have a little rope that separates the boutique from the workshop so that we don’t have any adventurers disorganizing our work in progress (Yes! It has happened before), but we’re always happy to take people on an impromptu guided tour. And through the gaps in the shelves you can see what’s going on in the back as you browse the boutique. During the week the workshop’s buzzing with activity, and on Saturdays and Sundays the pieces that have been started wait patiently, at pause between cutting and assembly.
The big cutting table that runs from the front of the shop to the back of the workshop is also perfect for teaching classes. Like at a family gathering, we all sit together and share a moment. In the middle of the table, there’s our sewing material, cookies, cups and flowers. It’s here that we wax, sew, and chat with you about garment care and test patterns with you.
And since the workshop is right on-site, we can also alter your purchases. Pant hems, alterations, repairs: everything happens right here. For a year now, we’ve also started offering the possibility of ordering a made to order garment that will be sewn in our workshop. You choose a pattern and fabric, and we make the piece just for you. It’s another advantage of having the workshop right in the boutique, and all these exchanges with you make the space that much more alive. Your voices mix with the hum of the machines, and your ideas make their way into our collections.
Here is a sound clip of our favorite machine, recorded in 2010 in our first workshop located in Verdun: