Hidden fashion in The Backroom

Photo by writer
Photo by writer

The Montreal fashion scene may not be as commercial or reputable as Toronto’s, but what we lack in big name brands we gain in local talent and hidden shops known only to those who look.

The Backroom may not be an obvious hotspot attraction for summer tourists, tucked between H&M and Reuben’s Deli three floors above, but it’s just the kind of place local trendsetters search for.

LaSalle College students Rachel Sendi-Mukasa, 22, and Marie Pike, 29, dove into business together last December after interning at Just Worn, a vintage stop they bought from the original owner.

“It was something we felt like we couldn’t pass up at the time,” said Sendi-Mukasa.

Originally three, the full-time students took over the business and the clientele book and made it their own.

“We knew what was working, we knew what was being done right. We were the ones spending the most time with the clients,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “We knew what people wanted, what they were asking for. We were thinking that if we don’t go forward with this, people might just fall off.”

Their recent move to their Ste-Catherine St. location gave them the opportunity to evolve the style of the store from hipster to more of an urban street vintage fashion. The Backroom showcases a mixed collection of vintage wear and accessories, upcycled clothing and designs by local designers no more than two at time.

“In Montreal, most people don’t usually like to [wear] something if they don’t know who it is or what it is, so it takes time,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “We’re taking our time to promote them, to brand them. We’re trying to create awareness for them because it’ll take time for people to be receptive to their brand.”

Sendi-Mukasa and Pike devote time and effort seeking out young talent, researching and attending fashion events like Mews at the Royal Phoenix Bar where they discovered V-Franz.

Vfranz Bernil is a talented fellow LaSalle student; a young designer The Backroom duo hopes to continue working with and help establish his reputation.

While promoting local talent is a main priority for Sendi-Mukasa and her partner, they do want to cater to their client and offer a balanced range of styles.

“We’ll put something like V-Franz that’s a little more alternative urban street with Jolietta who’s a lot more commercial,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “Not everyone is going to like extremely different from the masses.”

At the moment, The Backroom is focusing on unisex pieces, catering to the tomboy female with the confidence to take on the androgynous look. As for men, expect a more fitted style similar to Off The Hook.

Sendi-Mukasa and Pike have been business partners since December 2011 and have managed to build a successful working relationship in such a short amount of time. While Pike is the creative mind behind their blog and takes on the role as the optimist, Sendi-Mukasa uses her marketing education to her advantage and is responsible for their finances and inventory.

“Honestly I’m really impressed with the awareness that we’ve created about the store and the amount of clientele that we’ve managed to get on board in a short amount of time is really hard for a small business,” said Sendi-Mukasa. “There are a lot of cliques, so you have a lot of people who stick to their genres and if you can’t get into that genres, then you won’t get your clientele.”

The Backroom duo is welcoming the new season with their Spring Fling event on April 5.


The Backroom is located on 1118 Ste-Catherine W. St. suite 305.



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