© SSENSE

Rami, Bassel and Firas Atallah have come a long way. hailing from Damascus, the three brothers moved to Montreal with their family when they were just teens. Barely a decade later, following respective studies in computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and banking, the fraternal trio audaciously launched themselves in retail, setting up the SSENSE store in their adopted hometown in 2003. Sensing a huge opportunity to reach a global audience online at the same time, they then heavily invested in an online presence, weaving in editorial content that provides the merchandise a cultural context, and sets their operations apart from other online platforms.

The latter is taken quite seriously, as 032c magazine’s front man Jörg Koch has been taken on as editor-in-chief. But let’s go back to SSENSE‘s retail activities, shall we? The company’s online presence struck a sensitive chord with fashion-conscious young consumers, resulting in a multi-million dollar turnover year-on-year, but now, the boys once again focus on enhancing the black and mortar stature. A prestigious new flagship store has opened in Montreal’s historic downtown area, occupying a former warehouse built in 1886 by architect Théophile Fahrland.

The building’s interior has been completely redesigned by the Milan office of renowned practice David Chipperfield Architects, capturing SSENSE‘s forward and culturally inclined traits in three-dimensional form. The retail space measures an impressive 13,000 sq.ft. (1,208 sqm.) spread across five floors, featuring a string of understated rooms which are defined by sandblasted black concrete, steel and sophisticated lighting. Given SSENSE‘s alluring online presence, it’s not surprising that the store is conceived as its spatial counterpart, and as such,  it also aims to be an epicentre of activity where creativity, interactions and experiences are at the forefront powered by an underlying injection of technology.

This approach is arguably best reflected by the store’s appointment-based personal shopping model that’s facilitated through a proprietary interface and stylist app — both are custom-built by the company’s very own technology team — allows for over 20,000 products available on the website to be entirely accessible for clients to try on within 24 hours of scheduling an appointment on the website. Mind you, there are two levels and eight spacious fitting rooms available on the premises which are dedicated to hosting personal shopping appointments.

Adding up to the ultimate lifestyle experience is a café on the top floor which seats 34 guests and offers a changing menu of fresh dishes developed by local hospitality entrepreneurs Jason Morris and Kabir Kapoor. This space will also be home to events. And speaking of which, a site-specific performance and installation, dubbed Arca / Tormenta and commissioned by Prada and the retailer, was launched a few days ago, and will be followed by an ambitious programme of other events with cult names from the world of fashion, such as Virgil AblohHeron Preston and Kwaidan Editions. Location: SSENSE, 418 rue St.-Sulpice (Downtown).

© SSENSE