Montréal Design as Seen by Harry Drakopoulos
Harry Drakopoulos is synonymous with Off The Hook, in more ways than one. Mainly because that’s the name of his stores: part owner of the city’s two OTH store, he takes care of operations, marketing initiatives, management and expansions. He’s been a proud Montrealer his whole life, and expresses that daily in his stores by carrying lots of Montréal brands – especially at the newest offshoot in Hotel William Gray, where the focus is to introduce local design to an international clientele. These days Off The Hook is on the cusp of launching their inaugural OTH collection, a range of basics for men we can expect out by March 2018. We sat down to catch a glimpse of the Montréal design scene, seen through Harry’s eyes.
How does Montréal inform your work and creative expression?
Montréal is still affordable, you can still do things. When I started I was 23 years old. I don’t think I could have done that in Toronto with no investment. It was still very affordable back then, and though it’s getting more expensive, it’s still possible to do so much. You just have to make a good product for people to cling onto.
Why is it important to you to support local design?
For us supporting local design is securing continuity in our scene. The original Off The Hook store on Sainte-Catherine Street has become an institution for the last 18 years, and from the very start we’ve always been a cultural hub in Montréal. We do a lot of art shows, music launches, video launches, we support a lot of local talent that comes out of school and doesn’t necessarily have the finance to do what they want to do. We’ve realized in the last couple of years that we’re doing good, we have a platform, we have an audience, we have the know-how and when creators come out of school and they have talent, they fit our DNA, we’ll pick them up and ask “Hey, what do you want to do?” If stores and restaurants don’t give these platforms to people within the city, we’ll become a cultural desert.
What institution best represents Montréal design to you?
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In the last couple of years they’ve really stepped up with the new pavilion. There’s something amazing happening there, and I feel like the city is doing cool things with Sherbrooke, with the flags for the 375th anniversary and the permanent installations, not to mention McTavish – I feel that area is going to set the standard for the rest of the city to upgrade.
What’s a place you find particularly inspiring in the city?
Every time I feel uninspired, it may be clichéd, but I take a walk all the way to the top of Mount Royal and I look at the city at night. I find when I’m up there it just puts things in perspective and resets me. CIBC Tower, Place Ville Marie, Rue de la Gauchetière… I love looking down Peel Street and seeing how it goes right down to the river. I love being there at the crack of dawn; you feel like you’re on top of the world.
In what way would you say your style is typically Montréal?
I’m a typical Montrealer in that I always have a scarf and mitts. And waterproof shoes with a little grip just in case it starts to snow in the middle of May! You leave in the morning it’s 9 degrees, during the day it’s 32 and at night it’s hailing.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood?
Villeray. I like walking, and what’s funny is that we moved there when my wife got pregnant, and it’s as if everyone is either pregnant or pushing two kids in a carriage.
Where do you go in Montreal for a coffee?
Definitely Le Serpent.
When you feel like shopping?
To pass the time?
I love walking down Saint-Laurent, Saint-Hubert, Saint-Denis and through Jarry Park.
Tell us about a hidden spot you’re going to regret sharing with us.
There’s two spots. First, a typical Greek gyro place that’s just as good as the ones in Greece: it’s called Elatos, on Jarry in Parc Ex. But when they’re busy they run out at 6 pm, so you’ve gotta go early! Otherwise there’s Décarie Hot Dog, a great greasy spoon. I’ve been going there since I have a licence.
You have a design-obsessed friend coming to Montréal. Where do you send them?
Griffintown and Saint-Henri. Go see the stores and the little restaurants, like Barley, the cereal bar that just opened up. There’s great design vibe going on down there. Adamo, Campanelli’s, Loïc, Tuck Shop, Arthur’s, Vin Papillon, Bird Bar, Foiegwa, the hidden bars… my god there’s tons to see.
This post has been presented in collaboration with Souk@SAT, avid supporters of Montréal design.
Isa Tousignant, blogger
Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal’s ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.