You’ve seen the label all over – an odd numbered code you feel you should understand but don’t quite. Whether it’s on the front of its beautiful chic boutiques here in Montreal and all over the world, or embossed on the side of their gorgeous bags, m0851 is a brand that equals a few things: beauty, expertise, and Montreal…
Few businesses can claim to be as true to their roots, but since 1987, a celebratory 25 years ago, m0851 has not only designed its goods here, it’s fabricated them here too. Today, the luxury leather goods purveyor lives in a gorgeous 15,000 square foot loft in Mile End, where it’s dedicated a third of its space to admin, a third to the stockroom and a third to the atelier.
Despite the brand expanding around the world in the last couple of years – they have stores all over the States, Europe, China and Japan, and plan to double again in the next five years – they refuse to compromise their values and choose cheap international labour. Most of their seamstresses and cutters have been with the company for decades because, as Faye, daughter of founder and designer Frédéric Mamarbachi, says, it’s a family thing.
“We design pretty much everything from A to Z, from our stores to our products. We don’t hire architects, so it’s really Frédéric that creates everything. This office was designed as an open space; there are no walls or barriers or secrets, and in a field that’s so full of hierarchy, here everything and everyone is meshed together. It’s the essence of m0851.”
It’s also essentially Montreal. “Montreal is a free city,” explains Faye. “It doesn’t have the constraints of Europe, with its history, or New York, which is always looking forward and trying to come before the others. What I enjoy about Montreal is that, it’s not trying to be anything else, what it was or what it’s trying to be. We never look to others to figure out what to do – we look at what we did yesterday and try to improve on it for tomorrow. That’s pretty much it.”
The philosophy is apparent as soon as you walk into any m0851 boutique. The label’s flagship store in Montreal is located in the heart of the hopping lower Plateau, on St-Laurent near Milton. It’s a warm space full of steel rods and raw woods (“If we weren’t in the fashion business we’d probably open a woodshop,” laughs Faye). The shelves are stacked with glistening leather goods in a rainbow of hues while the lower levels are filled with hangers featuring delicate cashmere sweaters alongside rugged, utilitarian outerwear (they have amazing rain gear, in case you forgot to bring yours on holiday!).
But where you might expect a certain air from the sales staff of such refined products, you’ll find nothing but grace and charm from an m0851 employee. “We don’t hire based on sales numbers or resumes – we hire out staff based on what they emit, on a feeling. It’s the same way we design our products. We don’t decide intellectually, ‘that’s a well-made bag, therefore it’s nice.’ We always build out collections on a feeling.”
The fall-winter collection for this anniversary year proves what Frédéric says: “25 years is only the beginning”. In addition to its beloved classics – the eternal variety of colours in the Annaline leather bags and jackets (this fall’s hues are cherry, petrol and cognac) – there are new, more rugged leathers that the brand is playing with these days, as well as natural fiber blends. “We’ve got blends of virgin wools, silk and cashmere blends, cottons with different washes, gypsy colours, pastels, grey tones – we’re having a lot of fun with the scarf department,” says Faye with her signature beaming smile.
m0851, 3526 Saint-Laurent, (514) 849-9759
Photos: Coey Kerr