Montréal Design as Seen by Leda Montereali & Pierre St-Jacques
She's Leda Montereali, a visual arts graduate originally from Rome. Leda has a diminutive build and is as perky as Italian espresso. He's Pierre St-Jacques. All smiles and composure, he comes from Québec's Outaouais region—“a Hull guy,” he laughs. Pierre worked for over 30 years as a photojournalist, documenting landscapes for publications like National Geographic and taking snapshots for books, travel magazines and travel guides. Together, they created Leda & St.Jacques, one of the most influential and respected photography duos in Canadian fashion and advertising. They are inseparable and hilarious, and their close bond is immediately apparent. Based out of Montréal for the past 17 years, they've always worked hand-in-hand and intend to continue creating with the teams they love.
How would you define Montréal's vibe?
Leda: Very eclectic, rich and poor at the same time; a chaotic, multicultural, unique place. Everything is mixed together.
Pierre: Montréal is a cosmopolitan city, and the influences from other places expand our views and horizons.
How would you define Montréal’s sense of design?
Pierre: In a few words: innovation, energy and openness to the world.
Leda: And creativity.
What location, institution or building most embodies Montréal design for you?
Leda: Habitat 67! The architect was given free rein to design the building, which rarely happens with projects of such magnitude.
Pierre: Yes, this was the first project to go off the beaten path. I’d also add souk@sat, as it's one of the few places in Montréal where you can see a large number of designers exhibiting their work and leaving their mark. The problem with souk is that I always get more gifts for myself than for other people (laughs).
What Montréal creation do you find truly inspiring?
Leda: souk@sat, because it's an event that promotes Montréal artists and educates people about local design. If a place like that didn't exist, I don't know where they'd be able to express themselves.
Pierre: The Phi Centre, a unique multidisciplinary centre in Montréal where you can discover artists with very avant-garde styles. I like that you're more than just a spectator there. You're almost a part of the work itself.
Why is it important to you to support local design?
Leda: Because it defines the culture and identity of a city, a country and a people. If there are no artists, there's no culture and no identity. There's nothing. I think we don't do enough for artists. We need more money and more initiatives.
Pierre: Creators and designers are ambassadors; they're a reflection of who we are. We're not only supporting them, we're also preserving our identity.
In what way would you say your style is typically Montréal?
Leda: In Montréal, you can do anything. People help each other out, you can get by, you don't need to fear anything, and you can try anything. Anything is possible if you work hard and put in energy.
Pierre: I agree.
How does Montréal inform your work and creative expression?
Leda: Montréal is a very free city. There are no constraints. You can do anything you want creatively, even on a commercial level. But you have to work hard and establish yourself. Respect comes naturally with time.
Where do you go in Montréal for a coffee?
Leda: I love going to the Ritz. I know it's super chic, but I don't care—I love it. We just went there this morning, it was perfect. The service is good, the atmosphere is great, it's comfortable and luxurious and we always enjoy ourselves there.
Pierre: Club Social on Saint-Viateur. It feels like being in a little European village where old Italian men are playing cards, sports fans are watching a soccer match on TV and artists are lining up for their coffee. The kids, the dogs... It's very cheerful.
Leda: Two very different extremes (laughs).
Leda: Toqué (laughs). They're a restaurant that supports local farmers. Everything is local. The food tastes great and is a feast for the eyes, plus the service is excellent. I don't go there often, but I'm glad each time I go. It's perfect for lunch. I also love Milos.
Pierre: I really like Portuguese restaurants for their home cooking and affordability.
Leda: I don't drink alcohol, but I love taking afternoon tea with scones and sweets between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Ritz.
Pierre: Pullman. It's like a second home to me and I have lots of friends there.
Pierre: Me too. As a matter of fact, both of those boutiques were designed by architects Saucier + Perrotte. Their design is modern and welcoming.
For hanging out?
Leda: Nuns’ Island. To visit the markets along the river with Dolce [Editor's note: Dolce is the name of their Royal Poodle]. You're in Montréal, but you're also in nature.
Pierre: Same thing. I'd also add Sainte-Hélène Island, Parc Jean-Drapeau and even the Old Port. The river has a lot to do with it.
Leda: You're right next to downtown, yet surrounded by nature. It's incredible!
What’s your favourite neighbourhood?
Pierre: Old Montréal or Nuns’ Island.
Leda: Old Montréal is magical. It reminds me of Europe: the beautiful architecture, the ambiance, the high-quality materials, the spirit of the place, the beautiful entrances and details.
Tell us about a hidden spot you’re going to regret sharing with us.
Leda: What's yours, Pierre?
Pierre: The forest on Nuns’ Island.
Leda: Yeah, I like that too. It's so pretty!
You have a design-obsessed friend coming to Montréal. Where do you send them?
Pierre: To the middle of the river, in front of one of the best views in Montréal, Habitat 67. Being in that spot is like being on board a ship.
Leda: That's because you can see the whole city. The view and the background are magnificent.
This post has been presented in collaboration with Souk@SAT, avid supporters of Montreal design.
Laure Juilliard, blogger
Laure is a writer, community manager and the founder of the blog Une Parisienne à Montréal. She’s also an epicurean globetrotter who’s always on the hunt for innovative concepts and must-try restaurants. In 2016, she co-founded Slow Journeys, a webzine that focuses on ecotourism and design.