We had the good fortune of connecting with Mélanie Ellezam and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mélanie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I wanted to create a supply chain that has a positive impact on people and the environment. Entrepreneurship and the textile industry are in me – it’s inevitable. Using business for good – as an engine of change – is something that I find extremely stimulating. There is the cold here that we have to deal with. It was also a way of softening the ordeal that is for me winter with the happiness that brings me the work of designing a functional garment.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
By deciding to make a coat that would withstand Canadian winters, I immersed myself in a year of intense research to understand the origin and impact of materials. I wanted a warm, breathable, but also really waterproof insulated garment – because, let’s face it, our winters are changing, and icy rainstorms are more and more frequent. I wanted to make an informed choice between natural fibres and recycled polymers. Understand the origin of the different insulators, the production stages of down and animal furs. Trapping, breeding, meat by-products… I just wanted to bring together the most ecological and ethical materials. What appeared clear to me is that any form of industrial breeding is to be avoided, that trapping must remain truly artisanal and on a small scale and that avoiding polymers – whatever their form and origin remain much more ecological – at the end of life of the finished product but also during the manufacturing process of the raw material. Then, the plastic hardly decomposes and can harm the fauna, whether it is rigid, flexible or in the form of insulating foams… When the culture of organic cotton sequesters greenhouse gases – it remains a living and fertilizing material. We use organic cotton traditionally treated in Scotland and have opted for an innovative ecological vegan wax made from olive by-products and castor oil. The only down that does not require harming or killing a bird is the precious eiderdown. The eider is a migratory wild duck that nests in the cold regions of the northern hemisphere. The eider duck bald the vascularized portion of its breast to cover its eggs and protect them with its down. The regulated harvest of a portion of this down – in the nests – is a circular economy that contributes to the protection of habitats and promotes biodiversity. The rarest, warmest and lightest down in the world, eiderdown, is mostly known in Germany and Japan and comes mainly from Iceland. Here in Quebec, we have about 20% of the world’s annual harvest. It is this down that Olmsted uses. A naturally renewable material that supports a local economy with extremely positive repercussions. This is why our market segment is called positive luxury or conscious luxury. To complete this amalgamation of carefully chosen materials, we opted for the sturdy Swiss-made zippers – heavy gauge and made of nickel-free metal. Key details in the coats’ design are taught for Montreal’s harsh winters – oversized insulated hood and pockets to name a few. Olmsted coats are made to order in our workshop located at the footstep of the Mont-Royal, in Montreal. The company’s name is a reverence to the landscape architect and great conservationist, Frederick Law Olmsted – to whom we owe the design of our cherished Mount Royal Park, Central Park in New York and the preservation of countless beloved natural spaces in America.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Le Mont-Royal is my favourite place in Montreal. I go there almost every day. I go through phases where I have a favourite path, and I always do the same again; the different pathways have a very diverse atmosphere. These days, I go up to the Provost stream in the cemetery, I pass by Leonard Cohen’s grave, and at the back, there is a small wooden ladder to cross the fens and get to the stream. Apparently, several streams crossed Montreal before. I am a big fan of Outremont Park for the morning, noon, evening picnics and the Kennedy swimming pool in the summer. I have a big weakness for Laurier Street since the Olmsted workshop is located there. It is a wide sunny street that allows you to descend from Mont-Royal through Outremont to the Mile End. La Buvette is still the place that I prefer in the neighbourhood for a casual -festive night out with good wine. I have an attachment to this place for several reasons (the fries, among others). Going up the boulevard saint Laurent, I love Le Lawrence, The sparrow, Le cinema moderne, the Castella showroom whom I like to admire with my nose glued to the window – this space is also Lambert et fils showroom. Then, on a Van Horne, crossing the skate park under the railway line, there is the Boxerman – a place that I love on the velvet benches in winter and one of the only terraces to soak in the sun until the very end of a summer night.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Charles Hubert Déry, taught me so much and inspired me with his own conservation mission. What he and his family are doing with the Societe d’aménagment et de protection de l’île-Aux-Pommes is unique. Charles Hubert gave me the courage to dare to work with eiderdown, an extremely luxurious material whose history and harvesting method are fascinating. For Charle-Hubert (we call him Charles Eider), everything is possible – he welcomes the ups and downs of a start-up business with the greatest of serenity. He is this person who finds solutions with sincere consideration for all stakeholders, the overall scope of a project and its repercussions. https://ile-aux-pommes.org My big brother Samuel Lambert has one of those dreamy businesses. He creates the most beautiful – and functional objects in an enviable working environment. Lambert et fils is an admirable company in several respects. Being in Samuel’s footsteps is undeniably confronting on a personal and professional level; he sets the bar high and challenges us to surpass ourselves – without ever doing it to the detriment of others – always in a spirit of ‘mutual aid. Uplift others with oneself; This is what he manages to do with his genius, his strong hands and his giant heart. https://lambertetfils.com
Photo 1 /@timgeorgeson Photos 1 to 6 / @ds_sanchez Photos 7 & 10 / @timgeorgeson