Historically Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, west of Montreals downtown core, has never been a destination neighborhood for directional retail, but Magasin General Bruxe is changing that. Open since October 2011, the store is making headlines for its worldly mix of independent designers and modern classics. Twin co-founders Oli and Mer Van Roost certainly were no strangers to good design. Prior to opening the store, they made a name for themselves as founders of Rekognize Agency, the full-service design and sales agency representing such brands as Comune, Clae, Lifetime Collective, Makia, and Brixton on Canadas East Coast. Though the showroom closed shortly after the store opened, the brothers continue to design accessories for a number of action-sports brands including ONeill, Orage, Lifetime Collective, Burton and DC Life. Recently Oli took some time out to chat about the store, his organic approach to retail and wardrobe staples.
Oli, tell us about the neighborhood.
There is a great mix of people in the neighborhood, lots of students, lots of musicians and artists, and lots of young families. There are a lot of cafes, breakfast joints and small restaurants; its very mom and pop. We are also very accessible so its easy to get to and from anywhere in Montreal.
Why did you open the store?
We've always wanted to open a store in our neighborhood. The philosophy is the same for the store as for the brand. We feel that fashion, beauty, home and object design should be bought and sold together in a nice atmosphere. We wanted a store that caters to all aspects of the creative class in Montreal. Our store is curated by taste, not by brand or price point, and certainly not by hype; this is something that has been lacking in Montreal for a long time. At the same time we wanted to showcase the unbelievably talented Montreal designers alongside international brands.
And what of the design?
We wanted the store to fit the neighborhood. The store is surrounded by duplexes and apartment buildings built 100 to 120 years ago, mainly brick construction and a lot of charm. So we wanted to stay within that zone. We bought a 120-year-old barn from a nearby farm town and tore it down for the wood. All of our racking, counters and shelving come from that barn. We then striped the cement off the walls to restore the antique brick underneath and removed the linoleum tiling off the floor to uncover the original honeycomb marble floor. The rest of the decor is a mix of 19th-century antiques with industrial antiques. The store is very comfortable and inviting.
What were some of the goals you set for yourself?
Our main goal after creating a comfortable inviting space was to fill the store with the right mix of clothing, accessories and design items which would be unique while at the same time, would answer to a broad range of customers. One of the major challenges we encountered was how to fit more stock on the floor without overcrowding the space. We are often alone in the store, so apart from Bruxe products and a few exceptions all the product is on the floor, including shoes.
How did you fix this issue?
We fixed this problem one corner at a time. Because of the nature of our design mix, its easy to change parts of the store and create new sections within the store, so when we receive a new product category we can adapt. The store is constantly changing.
Who is your typical customer?
Our typical customer is a 25-40 year old professional who appreciates good design, good quality and classic timeless style. We aim to serve the creative class, people who appreciate design over brand hype. With all our design items and unique accessories we are also becoming a destination for gifts so this attracts all kinds of customers.
What are your 3 current bestselling items/styles?
The 3 best sellers right now are women's Oxfords by Bloch, colored denim (J Brand, Blank NYC, Hudson) and jumpers (Eve Gravel, Bodybag, Lifetime).
What trends are you betting on for F/W 12?
For Fall 12, were betting on more color and mixed patterns.
Name 3-5 brands you're looking most forward to seeing at the S/S 13 shows?
What are 3 things every man or woman should own?
Every man should own a pair of dress shoes, a suit and a trench coat.
Every woman should own a little black dress, classic pumps and a trench coat.