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Fashion

Whose Reality? Montréalit

Posted by Jer / February 19, 2009

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New MP correspondent Margot En is trying to get through Montreal's winter by thinking about summer things, like t-shirts. She brings us this report about a funky Mile End shirt shop

You might have tried your own silk-screening projects at home, but if your creativity's on hiatus for the winter, go no further than Jenx & Cie., the shop at 51 Bernard O. that carries the Montréalité line of designs and products. You'll find shelves stacked with colourful shirts and baskets of buttons, many with designs of familiar Montreal symbols: the Farine Five Roses sign, the Gibeau Orange Julep, even a sesame seed bagel (you decide whether it's a Fairmount or St-Viateur.)

Back in 2002, David Jenkins (Jenx to many) and Scott Vineberg created Montréalité, with four original designers, 15 designs, and its very own clever name. Looking to his adopted city and the symbols within it for inspiration, Jenx and company debuted the original line of t-shirts in what started as a 2003 Social Capital Partners-funded project to keep kids in school. Though the project only lasted a year, Jenx & Cie. was founded in 2004 as a private enterprise that would take over the Montréalité product line. After a couple years of working out of his home, Jenx's expanding business moved to their current location, and more recently to the wider world of the Internet at montrealite.com.

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One big selling point is that the shirts appeal to both tourists and locals - the "Island" design is appealing whether you've seen the cross at the top of the mountain once or a thousand times. These shirts also appeal to the kid in all of us that gets a kick out of wearing taboo words printed across our chests. They've taken the Quebec art of swearing - basically saying any Catholic church-related word in a rude tone of voice - and marketed it to Anglophones and Francophones alike. It's not surprising that the "Tabarnac" design is their best-selling product. Now all we have to do is wear a "Calisse" shirt to the Vatican and we're set. They're timeless symbols, each with their own history; the creators are interested in what these things in the public space mean to people. Symbol into design, slap it on a t-shirt, and there: art! (And fashionable, too.)

On sunny Sundays at the base of the imposing angel sculpture overlooking (high-fiving?) the Plateau, hundreds of people gather to relax, people-watch, drum, etc. Jenx sees the Angel every day when he leaves his house - that lady is his favourite design. But he also feels that the inscription below the statue is significant to Montreal as a collective of people. It's a quotation from Sir George-Étienne Cariter, and reads: "We are of different races, not for strife, but to work together for the common welfare." Pur laine or pure newbie, it's the duty of all Montrealers to make this place great. Jenx & Cie. does its part by donating a percentage of its profits to Santropol Roulant, a Montreal community organization that brings people across generations and cultures together through food. You could do your part by stopping by Jenx & Cie. - there's currently a huge sale on old designs until the end of February. You might even find some poutine there, too.

all photos from the montréalité website.

Discussion

5 Comments

SeekOdin / February 20, 2009 at 03:20 am
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I bought a really cool blue t-shirt from this make a couple years ago. It was from a store on Mont-Royal east. It says "vive le bec libre" and there's a pair of lips next to it. Really cool.
S. / February 21, 2009 at 06:22 pm
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i think i'm a gonna buy me such a shirt
Steph / February 22, 2009 at 06:13 pm
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Bought the grey Orange Julep t-shirt 2 years ago (probably from same Mont-Royal store as SeekOdin) and took it all over Australia with me.. Still one of my favorite t-shirts, and I don't have many! I totally want the 'poutine' design! Great to see the brand expanding...

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