First off, how did you get started in your journey?
Growing up I always saw myself doing an exchange trip or a semester abroad, but it ended up that I didn’t go to uni altogether and, having one of my best friends who lives in Berlin and who hyped me to make a move, in my mid-20s I applied for a working visa and hopped on a plane. I stayed in Germany a year and during my time there, I gravitated toward spaces where the creative types seemed to meet and hang out. Not that I wouldn’t normally do this back home but being in a new country where I didn’t have much of a social circle definitely forced me to meet new people and, naturally, I’ve linked up with those that I shared the same interests with. And without realising it at the time, I was getting to know some of the designers I now carry at the shop.
“Montreal, in general, is way cheaper to rent and live in than say, London or Paris, which makes it more convenient to start your own thing and be creative.” – Françoise Élie
Was there a point during your time in Berlin when you knew you’d go on to create a space for emerging designers?
If I had to pinpoint a defining moment where I knew I’d go on to launch Effe is when I got to meet Olof Runmaker who runs the label Atelier Runmaker. On a night out we were chatting away about nothing much and at some point, he showed me his work. At that moment I could tell we would see each other again. Not long after we went for a coffee and that day and meet-up was basically the first time I ever voiced I wanted to open a shop back home. Right away he convinced me that such a concept store had its place. Then on a trip to London, I met Marie Lueder through a mutual friend, and Felix Karl from the collective trio behind Mainline:RUS/Fr.CA/DE, who were all just as keen on the idea. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, really.
Are there advantages to having a store in Montreal?
The city, in general, is way cheaper to rent and live in than say, London or Paris, which makes it more convenient to start your own thing and be creative. And as much as it might not seem as appealing as the fashion capitals, it’s a great place to be actually. The lifestyle’s relaxed and people tend to be laidback yet nonetheless there’s a vibrant, close-knit creative community.
As much as Montreal has its perks, what’s your thought on the city’s support system for emerging talents?
Well, that’s the thing. In Montreal there’s not much support compared to other cities in Europe where fashion is considered like an actual industry, not just a hobby. There’s not a lack of talent in fashion, but a lack of funding and few to no career prospects in design positions. Aspiring designers are pretty much left on their own and with no real solid institutions to back them up, they tend to leave elsewhere when they start gaining recognition.
“The thing with designers and especially the emerging ones is that often their work is so representative of their peculiar sense of identity, so personal that it’s not sure how the general consumer will react to it.” – Françoise Élie
So in a way are you trying to fill a gap with Effe?
To me Effe goes beyond being just another clothing shop; it’s a window for the emerging art scene. The thing with designers and especially the emerging ones is that often their work is so representative of their peculiar sense of identity, so personal that it’s not sure how the general consumer will react to it. Yet this is what I find most moving about the brands that I carry. They are each in their own way unapologetic about what they do and I do genuinely believe in their work.
How did you go about initiating contact with the designers that you now carry? And what has been their reaction?
Besides the ones I’ve met in Europe through networking or by going to showrooms, much of the work to bring a diverse roster of designers together was done online by email or social media. I also got in touch with locals such as Ben Lafaille, Ella Simone, and Gérald Lajoie, to name a few. Most of the reactions I got were good, obviously, since they had accepted to be part of Effe. Yet what I found odd is that we also ended up getting along really well. I think it’s because when I link up with someone, I want them to know that they can design and do what they want, they can work at their own pace, and that it’s fine by me. I need just the same, actually. It’s been a year now since I opened the doors and I’m yet to release a website, I still don’t have packaging and haven’t figured out if I want one, my logo is a scribble, etc… But that’s me. If I haven’t thought things through properly or when something doesn’t feel right, I won’t make any hasty decisions. And the last thing I want is for someone I work with to feel rushed or that they have to adapt to the current market trends and what mainstream customers may want. I understand what their vision is and I think they do understand mine, too.