Without doubt this is the most remote spot to which our series of inspiring Montreal entrepreneurs has taken us. Marc-Antoine Joncas and Laurence Girouard, the talent behind the Woolfell bags company, share a house/studio on the Lachine canal. It’s a hundred-year-old house where ships’ crews used to spend the night before taking to the water again,” explains Marc-Antoine while climbing the stairs that lead to the mini-studio.
Woolfell designs and manufactures bags that are made of high-quality materials. The approach Marc-Antoine and Laurence have taken puts a premium on functionality and seeks to eliminate anything that’s superfluous. “We study the behaviour of the people who use our products, their use of each pocket and zipper. Is this part necessary? Can it be improved?” Laurence shows us their latest model. “Basically, we make bags that we’d like to have ourselves. Who needs 46 pockets?” The basement studio smells of tools and leather. To get there one has to descend a wooden ladder.
Their story is interesting as neither of the two partners has any particular training in this profession. “We pored over books, looked at machines and we explored. Obviously it was hard work putting the first bags together, but we quickly learned everything by ourselves.” The bags are made with real leather. Their latest creation, for example, has a strap made of horse leather, in honour of the year of the horse. “Leather is curious in that it has a history to it that you have to take into account. If the animal had a scar, for example, you can’t make it disappear,” explains Laurence.
Two floors up in their house/studio/boat you can find a mini-studio with natural light from a skylight. That’s where each new creation is photographed and put online to sell on their website. “We’re really self-sufficient here. Sometimes we work 15 hour days to meet orders and we manage to avoid being distracted by the outside world,” explains Laurence, making some space on the bed to sit down.
The people at Woolfell do things their own way in their own time. Through the passion they have for their work they explore and experiment. And that’s why we’re proud to introduce you to them here.
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