By Craig Patterson
Montreal-based SSENSE, the “global fashion platform known for its directional retail mix and original content”, has formally announced that it will open a flagship concept in Montreal this week that it says will reimagine the convention of retail. The five level space opens to the public on Thursday, May 3, and it will be unlike anything in Canada.
The five-level Montreal SSENSE is located in Old Montreal at 418 Saint-Sulpice in a renovated heritage building spanning 13,000 square feet. Milan-based David Chipperfield Architects has been responsible for designing the space, which features a heritage facade and concrete interior — it’s the first building in Canada to be designed by the Italian firm.
Located adjacent to the city's iconic Notre-Dame basilica, SSENSE is housed in what the company describes as “an in-situ concrete structure — a building-within-a-building — where the concrete architecture is transparently expressed and explicitly exposed while preserving the original historic facade”.
The unique building acts as a way to bridge SSENSE’s online and brick-and-mortar operations by “creating a seamless interface from online to offline.” The Montreal space will use an appointment-based personal shopping model facilitated through its proprietary interface (montreal.ssense.com) as well as a stylist app to allow for over 20,000 products available on ssense.com to be entirely accessible for clients to try on within 24 hours of scheduling an appointment on the website.
Fashion platform SSENSE, known for its mix of luxury, streetwear, and avant-garde labels, was founded in 2003 by three brothers — Rami Atallah, Firas Atallah, and Bassel Atallah — and the online platform currently serves 136 countries, operating in English, French and Japanese. The website generates an average of 53 million monthly page views while achieving high double digit annual growth since its inception.
Co-founder and CEO Rami Atallah said, “SSENSE MONTRÉAL is the physical manifestation of everything we stand for at SSENSE. It is backed by 15 years of insights gathered on both ssense.com and our previous retail location and I am confident we have established a blueprint for retail in the future. E-commerce enables scale but is suboptimal in important ways, especially fostering human connection. A seamless integration with physical spaces fills the gaps in the customer experience. I am so proud to launch SSENSE MONTRÉAL, a space for our community and a space for Montréal."
Two of the building’s five levels are dedicated to hosting personal shopping appointments in a space featuring eight spacious fitting rooms. SSENSE stylists will be available for consultation via appointment, and merchandise bookings will be facilitated through the website. The remainder of the space is dedicated to cultural space, as well as a top-floor 34-seat café that offers “a relaxed yet inventive culinary experience,” with a constantly-changing market-fresh menu developed by noted Montreal-based restaurateurs Jason Morris and Kabir Kapoor. A glass ceiling over the café spans its entirety, offering an unobstructed view of the sky above. A small book store is also located on the top level.
According to SSENSE, the space has a unique functionality, featuring a 60 cm grid system embedded throughout the structure that “acts as the framework and placement of a hidden convertible socket system for all mechanical, functional, and technical elements”. The grid system “enables flexibility and agility, adapting to the change of pace and simultaneous activities occurring in the space at any given time,” according to a press release.
A Vertical Lift Module will be utilized for delivering and storing appointment orders — the technology is typically used to optimize industrial space and improve warehouse management and in the case of the Montreal SSENSE, the technology will provide “inconspicuous muscle for front of house activity”.
Various activities will periodically animate the building with a range of ‘site-specific projects’ that will draw visitors to the space for events and activities. The inaugural project, called Arca / Tormenta for Prada & SSENSE, is described as “a site-specific performance-cum-installation commissioned by Prada and SSENSE. Exploring the integration of splintered self-states, Tormenta is framed in three distinct and interdependent rituals that converge to exercise the permeable connective tissue separating the once-repressed and the manifest, the embodied; a strengthening of the thin film between self love and self harm”. The public installation will be available to view through June 3, following a live performance in the space on April 26 which was available as a lifestream online. The rather unusual presentation, which we watched live last week, can be viewed here: tormenta.ssense.com, and is described as having “a voyeuristic, multi-camera perspective”.
As part of the Prada-iniative, an exclusive four-piece Prada capsule collection, in collaboration with Arca, is available at SSENSE MONTRÉAL and online at ssense.com. Prices range between US $295 and US $745.
It’s clear that SSENSE in Montreal will become a focal point for projects from some of the world’s trendiest and well-known designers and brands. The company says that some of its upcoming programming will include original projects by: Virgil Abloh, Moncler, Wales Bonner, DIS, Berlin Community Radio, Heron Preston, Kwaidan Editions, Vejas Kruszewski, and Amnesia Scanner. The store may also act as a tourist attraction for Montreal, given SSENSE’s global profile.
[Video above is via SSENSE]