TORONTO — Canada’s diverse pool of emerging artisanal talent is the headline attraction at La Maison Simons’ new online market destination, Fabrique1840.

Launching in North America today, this pilot retail “community” spearheaded by the 178-year-old department store chain from Quebec City showcases home decor, modern art, stationery and fashion accessories created by 50 artists based in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

The inaugural roster of designers — which includes Vancouver’s luxury baby blanket and teething jewelry brand Loulou Lollipop; Toronto’s Bookhou furniture and textile makers Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth, and the popular Montreal lighting studio Lambert et Fils — all hope to use Fabrique1840 to grow their businesses beyond their current reach.

“What we are doing here is laying the foundation for a next-generation eco-system that can help artisans build their competence in e-commerce to succeed in today’s retail landscape,” said Simons’ coowner and president, Peter Simons.

“Fabrique1840 is not a market plan. It’s not a platform. It’s a community built around the idea of artisans thriving and not being encumbered or indentured by certain aspects of today’s new economy,” Simons told WWD.

Fabrique1840 also represents Simons’ entry into the world of third-party logistics, where it can use its entrepreneurial capabilities to help start-ups execute the e-commerce and inventory elements of their businesses. Indeed, that capacity will escalate with the 2020 launch of Simons’ new robotic distribution center in Quebec City.

“Moving forward, we can give artisans their own data and let them pour it out in a fluid way. We can let them do pop-ups in our physical store locations. But all this is really about responsibility and opportunity,” said Simons — qualities that have characterized the privately owned, Quebec-based outfits since it first sprang to life in 1840 as a dry goods store founded by Scottish immigrant John Simons.

Since then, five generations of family have been involved in what has become a large-scale hybrid known for carrying mid- to high-end-priced private labels and luxury brands for women and men, as well as soft home goods for the kitchen, bath and bedroom. Indeed, thanks to the formula Simons operates in 15 stores across Canada, with plans to boost that count to 17 by 2019.

But right now, Fabrique1840 has given Simons the opportunity to grow and guide new talent, as well as return shoppers to a more local, transparent and intentional consumption of goods. That, according to Simons, fits with today’s more responsibly minded fashion zeitgeist.

“We want Fabrique1840 to become a go-to destination for today’s artisanal community. That goal resonates with our younger customers,” said Simons. “They want to see the story behind our products. It’s a subtle shift. But they’re leaving fast-fashion and trading up for more meaningful alternatives like the ones this new eco-system of ours can deliver.”

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