Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal’s ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.
This year marks a special anniversary for Montréal: it’s been 10 years since UNESCO deemed Montréal a City of Design. The honour, which La Belle Ville shares with a handful of cities around the world including Berlin and Kobe, is bestowed to cities that devote a particular amount of energy and resources to design. With incredibly rich architecture, fashion and creative sectors, Montréal generates millions in design-related funds every year, and has discoveries in store for fans of good-looking things of all kinds. 1) Architecture Any architectural tour of Montréal needs to include the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a jewel of a institution founded in 1979. Open to all, the avant-garde museum and research centre is devoted to raising public awareness of the role of architecture and stimulating innovation in design practice. Its archive would be a good place to research the city’s architectural icons before seeing them in the flesh: Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, for example, or Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square, or Phyllis Lambert’s Segal Centre. There’s also Place Ville Marie, Notre-Dame Basilica, the Maison Symphonique and the surrounding Quartier des Spectacles. One of the most iconic structures is of course the Olympic Stadium, which you can… / Read More →
Montréal is famously romantic, and it’s a go-to destination for couples getting engaged or getting married – especially thanks to the amazing exchange rate these days. But this city still has its secrets! For your Montréal marriage, think outside the box and get the local scoop on little-known, memory-making places that will make your special day the most extraordinary of all. Let’s Make History, Baby As one of Canada’s oldest cities, Montréal is neck deep in history. Its most famous neighbourhood is Old Montréal, replete with 18th century European charm – but how about taking it up a notch and tying the knot in a private chateau? The Pierre du Calvet private castle dates back to 1725, but today it’s a luxurious retreat complete with interior garden and gastronomic dining. You can not only hold your reception there, you can actually do the deed in the beautiful little chapel onsite! Other breathtaking spots include Château Ramezay and Château Dufresne, both historic private homes that can take you back in time in the most romantic way. An outstanding spot awaits discovery in the oldest chapel in the city, the Chapelle du Bonsecours (don’t miss the two paintings by famous artist Ozias… / Read More →
With a world-renowned luxury accessories brand and store locations on the globe’s chicest streets under their belt, twins Byron and Dexter Peart of WANT Les Essentiels are figureheads of the Montréal design world. We sat down with them in their beautiful Sherbrooke Street store, the WANT Apothecary (now celebrating 5 years!), on the cusp of their appearance at C2 Montréal, where they’ll be speaking about the importance of longevity, inventiveness and impeccable quality. How long have you been Montrealers? Byron: 21 years, since 1995. We grew up in Ottawa, went to University of Western Ontario in London, and afterwards moved here to build a life and career in fashion and business. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done so far this year? Dexter: The coolest thing by far is we opened our first WANT Les Essentiels store in New York. That was in October last year, but it feels like it’s still brand new! It’s in a residential neighbourhood in the West Village, so not unlike what we’ve done here in Montréal, having WANT Apothecary in Westmount. It’s a really local environment, there are cafes and restaurants and lots of residential homes around, so we’ve been able to tell our story… / Read More →
As founders of one of Montréal’s most successful independent fashion brands, Frank & Oak, Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani clearly have the Midas touch. We sat down with them on the cusp of their appearance at the commerce and creativity convention, C2 Montréal, where they’ll be speaking about community, alternative business practices and the secrets to their success. How long have you been Montrealers? Ratnani: I was born here. Song: I was born in China, and came here when I was 6 ½. I lived for a while in Vancouver, but I was missing Montreal, so I decided to come back. That’s when we decided to start our business here. What is the unique factor in Frank & Oak’s business philosophy that helped your brand soar so successfully? Song: When we first started we saw two things: guys who wanted more out of life, who wanted to create their own identity, and there wasn’t a brand out there for them; and we combined that with the world stage that the internet gave us. So e-commerce and those men are what made Frank & Oak Frank & Oak. How important is a sense of community to the brand? Song: The whole… / Read More →
With the vast Cité des arts du Cirque as its centrepiece, the neighbourhood of Saint-Michel, in the northern end of Montréal, is at the heart of the city’s circus scene—and as the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, the home to TOHU and the site of the annual festival Montréal Complètement Cirque, Montréal truly is the city of circus. In addition to world-class entertainment, Saint-Michel boasts a ton of interesting food and things to explore, despite being off the average tourist’s beaten path. We catch up with Patricia Ruel, director of creation behind the Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA, to discover all the cool stuff we’ve been missing. Cité des arts du Cirque “Cirque du Soleil is part of this complex dedicated to the circus arts, so I spend most of my days there. The programming at TOHU is super interesting. Plus during the summer, during the Montréal Complètement Cirque festival, the area comes alive – the whole esplanade in front of TOHU transforms. They set up a little bistro with a lovely terrasse where the Cirque du Soleil gang often ends up for drinks and a burger after work.” 2345 Jarry Street East Le Petit Coin du Mexique “Luzia is a… / Read More →
Hordes of hungry art lovers will congregate to an exciting new location from April 22 to 24 for Papier16, the 2016 edition of the annual art fair dedicated to works on paper. The “paper” factor was thought up with affordability in mind, to help collectors get the most bang for their buck on a range of work that extends from prints to drawings to photographs to sculptures. It just means no epic bronze statues or stretched canvases the length of a yacht. Though there will be plenty of showstoppers, as always. The glamorous venue this year? Down on the piers of the Old Port, in the cavernous Hangar 16, no less. After the fantastic view of the city we got from the Mile End location last year, this edition promises a view of the very foundation site of the city: with Old Montréal on one side and the St. Lawrence river on the other. Right there on the Clocktower Pier, you’ll be able to get a lungful of sea air while shopping for your expanding art collection. Among the Montréal galleries onsite this year, you’ll find both established and newer players, representing a whole gamut of art styles. Stop by… / Read More →
Looking for pampering? You’re in the right place. Montréal gets a ton of high-fallutin’ international guests every year, whether it’s Jazz Fest musicians, pop superstars, Formula One racers or star hockey players. Hell, even visiting comedians need paraffin mani-pedis! The result? Our service industry is poised to satisfy your every need and make your trip to La Belle Ville the most memorable it can be. Here’s your cheat sheet to the best things in life. SLEEP WELL High-end stays abound in Montréal, for all the reasons mentioned above. From Madonna to Aretha Franklin to Lady Gaga, we’ve hosted all the divas! Exacting guests flock to the gorgeously redesigned Ritz-Carlton Montréal, where you can leave your classically appointed suite and be at La Maison Ogilvy in five minutes flat.
Hôtel Le St. James is probably the city’s most luxurious stay, nestled in a historic Old Montréal building appointed with priceless antiques. Loews Hôtel Vogue, Hôtel Le Crystal and InterContinental Montréal are perfect downtown pied-à-terres, with incredibly comfortable rooms and great bars and restaurants. To be within seconds of the Old Port, you’ll want to stay at either the sleekly contemporary Hotel Gault, Hotel Nelligan (the rooftop terrasse bar is a must),… / Read More →
Ten years ago, UNESCO deemed Montréal a City of Design. Cheers to that! The anniversary is the perfect opportunity to raise a glass to some of places that give this stylish city its tone, starting with this year’s winners of the Grand Prix du Design Montréalais in the food category. We’re talking cafés, restaurants, shops and bakeries that delight not only the taste buds, but also the eyes. What are you waiting for? Go get a taste now! Pâtisserie Petit Lapin – 342 Victoria Avenue Architecture Open Form used paper cupcake wrappers as the inspiration for their design of this sweet Westmount pâtisserie. The space is subdivided into sections with zigzagging flexible partitions made of see-through white polyethylene, which make visual homage to cupcake wrappers while giving the space a chic white-washed look. The play of light on all the surfaces (including the quartz counters) is sheer beauty, and the pastel accents come in to add the touch of fun—like sprinkles on a vanilla birthday cake. Le Richmond Marché Italien – 333 Richmond Street With its exposed wood, brick walls, wrought iron dividers and marble tabletops, this luxurious Italian food market designed by Luc Laroche showcases the food against a sophisticated… / Read More →
Done with your day? Let the fun begin. Montréal may nap from time to time (usually after brunch) but it never sleeps – how could it, with all this going on? Whether you’re looking for quiet drinks with colleagues, a romantic night of dancing or a hot rager that lasts ‘til morning, here’s a guide to the wide range of good times in store once the sun sets. Indie venues to hear live music Want to catch the next Arcade Fire? Montréal is known for its show bars, where for a few bucks (and often for free) you can hear indie acts any day of the week. There’s the famous Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa in Mile End, Divan Orange on the Plateau, Bar Le Ritz PDB in Mile Ex and so many more… find a complete list here. Jazz clubs and lounges to stay low-key The world famous Festival International de Jazz de Montréal isn’t the only time you can hear fantastic jazz and low-key music in the city. Whether you want to sip cocktails to the sound of someone tickling the ivories at Stash Café or Voyageurs Bar Lounge, or lose yourself to the jazzy rhythm at… / Read More →
Uniting over 50 films about art, architecture, dance, design, music and fashion, the annual Festival International du Film sur l’Art – of FIFA – is a colourful shot of culture just in time for the last grey dregs of winter. From March 10 to 20 in cinemas all over the downtown core, you’ll find films from around the world premiering here for the first time – including these five must-sees. Our Gay Wedding: The Musical Directed by Tim Van Someren When same-sex marriage was made legal in England and Wales in March 2014, this British film offered a front row seat at one of the first gay weddings. It was an extraordinary ceremony that united grooms Benjamin Till and Nathan Taylor, who wrote and staged their entire wedding as a musical – with sung vows, sung readings, a singing registrar and ensembles featuring the entire congregation of family, friends and special guests. Even the grooms’ mothers sing a heartfelt duet. Hollywood Censored Directed by Clara & Julia Kuperberg This documentary tells the story of a half-century of censorship in American cinema and the creative ways directors found of getting around restrictive mores. In the early 1930s, films known as “pre-code” openly… / Read More →