Bref is a boutique, a gallery, and an event space that offers a unique journey and shopping experience to lovers of art and design. Based in Montreal, Bref brings together every month, under a specific theme, exclusive pieces made by emerging artists and brands, both on the local and international scene. What Bref offers is always ephemeral; the Mile End shop is constantly evolving, as well as other venues that are occupied temporarily for pop-ups.
Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
Three years ago, when we started working on the concept of Bref, we observed that Montreal lacked an innovative venue that allowed emerging creators to present their work. There are many inspiring concepts on the Montreal scene, but most work in silos. The galleries on one side, the event spaces of another, then the shops. We wanted to put all this together in one place.
For us, the Mile End neighborhood, where we are located, represented the essence of our concept. It is an artistic neighborhood, known for its streets where we find several inspiring concepts. There is a neighborhood life at all hours of the day with many coffee places, restaurants, fun shops, bars, etc. For us it was exactly the soul we wanted to give to Bref.
Where did you get the name for the store?
Bref is a constantly evolving gallery shop based on ephemeral themes that last between 6 and 8 weeks. Over the months, different themes are set up in the space and we gather for the occasion a series of emerging creators to discover, in link with the subject of the exhibition.
Bref means brief, for the ephemeral and short-lived component of what is presented in our space. Each time, the curious have only a few weeks to come to discover the exhibition.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
The heart of our concept has not changed since its launch. Our mission, stronger than ever, is always the same: accompany creators from here and elsewhere in their emergence on the Montreal market.
On the other hand, the market is changing. Independent production, limited series, emergence is more and more encouraged and recognized. Several spaces renew their concept to adapt who they are to the era of time. So to keep the innovation of our space, we must also continue to think and to push further our concept. For example, we have proposed two pop-up shops in the last few months to make our themes travel. One in Boston and the other in another area in Montreal for the Station F-MR pilot project.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
We took the challenge of renewing our space and our selection over the months. So it is a perpetual challenge that we love to take up: constantly present themes that are relevant and stimulating for the public.
Subsequently, our great challenge in 2019 is to propose a new web platform to better make our themes live. So that no matter where one lives, you can understand and live the exhibitions and buy the objects. We want Bref to travel!
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
We did not necessarily have experiences with stores before launching Bref. Maude has a background in architecture and space design, and Cynthia in branding in the field of retail. This is where we draw our experience from. On the other hand, before launching Bref, we tested the concept with a 3 week pop-up shop called November, in the same neighborhood as Bref. Just like at Bref, we presented a series of emerging creators and events were organized every week to constantly create rhythm in the space. From there, key conclusions could be took in consideration for the launch of Bref.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
At the end of January we present a theme, FIKA, inspired by the Scandinavian and Nordic countries. For the occasion, we present a series of photographs realized by the duo Un cercle.
Especially attracted by lonely lands, Iceland seems like an obvious choice for them. The series is the result of four trips to Iceland, during different seasons. Particularly sensitive to environmental and animal causes, the duo strives, through its work, to communicate about relationship between man and nature.
What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?
Here is the resume of the current theme:
The cult moment of the day,
inspired by the philosophy
of Scandinavian and Nordic countries.
To sip, savor, and share,
with family, colleagues or friends.
When time stops,
Or the art of taking your time.
Through inspiring spaces,
with clean lines,
with elegant graphics, and
It’s fika time!
[the Swedish coffee-break]
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
For each theme, we go in search of objects and creations still not presented at the public. We are working with new artists, brands unknown to the Montreal market, new collections and series specially designed for us, etc. So undiscovered gems, we have them often!
What’s been a consistent best seller?
Two of our exclusive products: our giant calendar and our beer glasses made, at each exhibition, with different illustrators!
What’s your process for selecting + curating the objects in your shop?
We do not have a special process for setting up our themes. We first establish a flexible annual calendar based on our inspirations, trends, and social movements. Then, according to different channels, we go in search of creators who allow us to make the next exhibitions live. Via social media, via the portfolios we receive, via trips we make, etc. Everything inspires us!
Once the selection is complete, we reflect on the setting up of this theme, its journey, its scenography and the best way to present the objects and creators that will be involved.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
In continuation of what we did last year with our pop-up in Boston and in Montreal at the Station F-MR, we are currently looking at setting up another pop-up shop in a Canadian city. Stay tuned! Otherwise, we want to continue to bring international artists to Montreal and creating a new web platform.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
What’s been one of the most fulfilling aspects in opening your store?
First the meetings. At each expo, we have the most enriching meetings that make us see new aspects of creation and push us to continue doing what we do. It’s so inspiring.
And also to see how Bref allows designers, artists, new brands to shine. It lets them know what they are doing and where they are. And there is nothing more rewarding than being told by a creator participating in one of our exhibitions, that since he was introduced to Bref, his network has grown, his work is recognized by more people, and that we contributed to this emergence.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
We spend our time planning, thinking, hesitating. But just get started: learn, spin, and run.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?
Surround yourself, try your ideas, you’ll see! At worst, it does not work. You will find a better idea later!
Visit Bref at 261 Bernard Street West Montreal, Qc, Canada H2V 1T5