To propose high-end design at a reasonable price all the while helping local artisan creators across the planet achieve their goal is the challenge that So Original has made its battle cry in a brand-new gallery boutique newly set up in the Rockland shopping center in Montreal (arriving in the center, November 2015 they moved to a new
3500 sq ft location last June). Proposing hundreds of handmade fashion accessories, each exposed like a work of art that it is places SO original with the big boy brands. The boutique is without a doubt the ideal place to find beautiful exclusive gifts that cannot be found anywhere else—just in time for the holidays.
Continuous discovery of world-inspired creations
Since May 2013, SO Original offers fashion accessories for those with a social conscience. Founded by Marie-Claude Coulombe, globetrotter and passionate about ethical fashion, SO Original offers over 3000 products, handmade with loving care by artisans from around the world. 42 countries visited to naming but a few Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mali, Sri Lanka, Egypt. “With SO Original, I want consumers to discover the know-how of artisans equitably paid. These artisans work with unique raw materials and offer high-end accessories at an affordable price, explains Marie-Claude, owner and founder. These unique fashion accessories contribute directly to the vitality of local economies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East”, she says.
They knew from the start that they could support these creations and help to preserve an ancestral know-how stemming from remote rural villages. They decided to encourage local artisanal production by financing designers and artisans in a fair manner using fair trade principles and helping them with logistics and challenges they faced. The wandering spirit is always seeking new perspectives says Marie-Claude. This direction and vision is what she has decided to apply in regard to SO originals’ artistic expansion. With this insight in mind, each creation is displayed in the store according to its esthetic and precise qualities. The objects, jewellery and fashion accessories which are presented are all handmade with techniques and raw materials inscribed ion the stories of the communities that produce them. Our vision emphasizes sustainable ecology and high end quality. I choose all of the products with this thought in mind. They have to be durable, beautiful and most of all they have to do good in the world.
Emphasize exclusive creations in a unique gallery boutique
To discover the boutique SO Original is a little like walking into an open-air museum. It is a site that brings up large expanses where our eye is captivated by the beauty of multiple elements made from noble materials and whose colours and forms are very expressive. The boutique’s design signed Marie-Claude was thought out of a desire to create an invitation to travel and discovery. SO Originals creations are found as little treasures that we would have brought back with us from a far away exploration…
The aerial volume of space at the boutique, along with the whiteness of the walls and lighting, the exotic parquet flooring, and the presence of river stones all along the perimeter of the walls evokes a dreamlike immensity. The environment immerses the visitor in a free state of weightlessness and freedom conducive to helping discover new experiences. “To travel is to open oneself up to discover how others in this world live, work, and play. We learn what it really means to be human, and our place in this big world”, she says.
The visual aspect plays an important role as it contributes to showcasing each object in its originality and beauty when it comes to fashion accessories and design. To purchase from SO is to experience a new way of consuming, at the opposite end of the big cookie cutter chain production of consumption.”There are dozens of new articles that come in every week”, explains Marie-Claude. These creations are quickly sold and are often never seen again as they are exclusive items produced in very small batches. “To come to the boutique and to support our project is to buy and support a mode of creation that supports human values that we are proud to expose on ourselves or in our homes.”
Uncover wearable stories!
SO Original: the wanderers-chic!
In the boutique gallery, one can find SO originals’ own creations; unique and inspiring.
You find unique items coming from rural villages and imported directly by SO. Plus, there are the collaboration products that are produced in villages but designed by SO as a way to promote employment in underprivileged countries. SO also collaborates with known designers that are sought out based on the quality of their work and their social conscience to produce unique items. “SO Original has been the first in Canada in regard to this area and has created many in roads and associations to help promote its vision and share some of its wonderful discoveries weather it is the talent of an artisan, the potential of a trend maker so has the instinct to discover and know how to identify the potential. From our business’s collaborations up to the creation of new products”, explains Marie-Claude who travels three months a year to discover new products.
A few selections
To uncover all of the products, SO Original’s store sources from 40 countries (Canada, Bolivia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, France, Lao, Mali, Madagascar, Mexico, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Ski Lanka, to name but a few of them).
Here is a selection of some of the products that one can find in store
1/SO Original selections:
Zebu Horn Collection: timeless jewellery designed in Montreal in zebu horn, cut and polished by women in Madagascar.
Glass Bead Collection: glass beads made of recycled glass bottles by handicapped artisans in Tanzania. Jewellery is designed and assembled in Quebec. A share of the profits returns to local associations.
Hope Bracelet: Jewellery made with recycled paper pearls originating from fair trade craftsmanship in Tanzania. Leather laces with recycled paper jewellery designed and assembled in Montreal. The profits go towards an orphanage in Tanzania.
Collection of ebony jewellery: made of ebony pearls recycled and sculpted by hand. Ebony is a precious wood used since the beginning of times in the African continent. An ancient silver pearl from Egypt and three jewelled pompoms, detachable and interchangeable. Allows you to customize this jewellery and the profits generated allow local children to attend school.
Silk Collection: scarves and wraps made of fair trade silk in beautiful colours. Handwoven on traditional looms. (OBGL Lao)
2/Selection of imported creations:
Ethiopian Collection: beautiful copper and silver jewellery made with bullet casings and artillery pieces.
Mali Collection: multicoloured bracelets made with the rubber of recycled flip-flops. The profits allow local children to purchase pens and paper for school
Ghana Basket Collection: storage baskets, laundry baskets, decorative baskets, all African baskets are proudly hand woven by creative artisans.
Japan: Sculpted and hand painted by hand by an internationally renowned doll maker.
Kenyan Collection: water resistant and multicoloured animals. They are made with recycled rubber by Kenyan designers. These unique pieces aide to clean up oceans from pollutants.
Tanzania Collection: animal figurines made of recycled metal by a social enterprise which employs more than 30 men and women artisans.
Silk Collection: pretty silk handbag/wallets woven by thirty or so families living in isolated villages 2 hours from Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
Collection Sabina Sakosh, contemporary handbags and holders brightly coloured made with recycled paper and plastic
3/Selection of collaborators with known designers:
Marie-France Carrière: jewellery made in Quebec by a renowned French jewellery designer assisted by mentally challenged workers. (Montreal)
Batucada :supple jewellery made with a hypoallergenic natural gum composed of 80% bio soya which moulds itself on the body. For Christmas: new collection in silver tons. (France-China)
“So Dog” Nina Heyer Collection: leather dog collars encrusted with semi-precious stones. (Thailand)
Nina Heyer, Collection “So Dog”: Nina loves dogs and has built of collection of handmade leather dog necklaces, embedded with pearls and semi-precious stones. (Thailand)
Nina Heyer Handbag Collection: for day and night in unique colours and materials. Beautiful high quality bags sold at reasonable prices. Full-grain leather made by communities of artisans in Thailand.
Gevole: Timeless jewellery, elegant and made with pebbles and coloured ceramic beads. The beads are cooked at very high temperatures and mounted on inox, leather or plastic threads. Streamlined designs and lively colours. (France)
Ernesto de Barcelona Collection: accessories, tableware, key holders and decorative objects designed in Spain and made in the Philippines. Made from resin, aluminum and recycled wood according to an ecological process. He has started an employment program for local artisans. (Spain-Philippines)
Design for kids
The joy of educating our children through the discovery of products that resemble them, handmade objects that mirror drawing soar images that children have in their heads—coloured, funny, imaginative and spontaneous. From the Ernesto the Barcelona shark book ends t, the multicoloured elephant head made with glass beads from Swaziland, the stylized ocean sole lion made from recycled flip flops and the supple jewelry from Batucada. A multitude of objects all presented in the SO original boutique gallery which draws the curiosity of children while teaching them that we can hand make beautiful products while taking care of our fragile planet and the people that live on it.
Throughout the enterprise and the boutique gallery, SO Original
These unique fashion accessories contribute directly to the vitality of local economies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Each creation carries a unique and inspiring story. Through our product selection, SO showcases and helps their clients to connect with talented designers and artisans from all over the world. Fashion feels better when it carries an optimistic and meaningful human story and leaves a positive social impact.
Visit the store to feel, see, smell, and be immersed in the positive vibrations impossible to find on the market.
Rockland Center, 3rd floor, Entrance Turquoise (between Gap and The Bay).
If you are not in Montreal, you can always shop online. Visit the site regularly as new items are added daily.