Local Love: Montreal designer Partoem makes origami-inspired, vegetable-tanned handbags

Always a sucker for a gorgeous bag, we couldn’t help but fall for Partoem. Based out of Montreal, the label is the work of up-and-coming designer, Madeleine Beaulieu. After nabbing her masters in industrial design, Beaulieu gained plenty of experience working for Canadian accessories brands before stepping out on her own, oh, back in 2017.

Despite having been on the market for a mere wink, Partoem is already making waves thanks to its minimalist aesthetic, use of beautiful vegetable tanned leathers and — best of all — unique construction methods. (Think you needed stitches and glue to craft a bag? Wrong.) We spoke to the designer about trends, why veg leather is better and, yes, gluelessness.

All of your pieces are handmade in Montreal — was this always a must for your label? Keeping the production local is very important to me, and has been part the plan since the very beginning. I have always supported the buy local movement, and I am now so proud to be a part of this special community.

What is so special about vegetable tanned leather? I chose genuine leather for its exceptional material properties. It is strong, durable and becomes even more beautiful and unique with age. Vegetable tanning is the most natural and eco-friendly tanning process. I was lucky enough to visit the Italian tanneries from which my leather is sourced. It’s an incredible process.

Partoem’s 2017 line

How did you decide to go with such a strong but limited palette — black, burgundy and a classic red — for your current collection? I love colour, but I generally adhere to the less is more philosophy. Black, burgundy and red are classic leather colours with gradual levels of intensity, catering to different taste and needs. They can be adapted for all year round wear, and will never go out of style. New limited edition colours will gradually be introduced (I currently have my eye on a pink) but Partoem at its core is timeless and this is reflected in the palette.

You discreetly emboss the serial number of each bag on its front — why is this an important design detail to you? It is a small but very meaningful additional step in the production. The serial number is meant to reflect the level of attention given to, and the individuality of, each particular piece. It tells a story about the day it was made, and develops a deeper connection between the owner and the product.

Your bags are assembled using origami-inspired techniques — when did you first discover this method? I discovered the no glue, no stitch technique of leather assembly over seven years ago. In 2011 I was working at a 115-year-old Montreal leather manufacturer, Arrow Manufacturing, later renamed to Fullum & Holt, where I was introduced to a self-assembly men’s wallet. It was a basic flat leather pattern which required only a few simple folds and interlocking manipulations to become a functioning wallet. I was immediately inspired.

With endless fashion trends being trotted out, how much do you allow them to sway your design direction? I believe it is important to be aware of trends to know what kind of statement you are making with your work, but as a designer you shouldn’t feel required to follow the current trend. For me design is about finding the right balance between being innovative and timeless at the same time.

Partoem will be setting up camp at this weekend’s INLAND, a Canadian fashion marketplace running April 27-28 at 134 Peter St. 

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