Words by Julia Eskins
Photos by Aleyah Solomon
Walking into Mackage’s showroom feels like stepping into coat heaven. Even on a warm day, the parkas hanging seem to beckon us into a down-filled daydream. These are the kind of coats you never want to take off, the kind of coats that make you wish for winter.
Known for their signature v-shaped collars, flattering fits and arrow-adorned handbags, Mackage has built a cult following of luxury outerwear enthusiasts around the world. So much so that even people in warm climates wear the iconic jackets just to make a statement. But even with the brand’s international success, the duo behind it has kept their Montreal roots— living, loving and working in the city where they started it all.
As soon as designers Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan sit down and start chatting, it becomes clear that they grew up together. The elementary school friends have no qualms about interrupting or poking fun at each other. Evidently, their spunky dynamic works. Together, the two creative forces launched Mackage in 1999 and have hit more milestones than they ever could have imagined. With new stores opening across Canada, their flagship in New York City still going strong and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Blake Lively and Madonna among their clientele, Mackage shows no signs of slowing down.
We caught up with the designers in the city they call home to chat about their love/hate relationship with cold weather, favourite places in Montreal and how Mackage has revolutionized winter fashion.
Julia Eskins: You both constantly travel. How does visiting new places inspire you?
Elisa Dahan: People-watching everywhere inspires us. In different parts of the world, people dress and layer differently, which ignites ideas.
Eran Elfassy: Our Europe trips are always inspiring, and also Asia. Wherever we go, we notice how people wear their coats. In colder places, you wear your coat to protect you. In warmer places, a jacket is more for fashion.
Elisa: It’s so funny, someone just tagged me in a post that said, ‘Don’t you hate when you’re hot and someone says, ‘Well, why don’t you take your jacket off?’ And you’re like, ‘No, this is my outfit.’ Of course they tagged me because it’s so appropriate! It’s funny because it’s true: sometimes, your jacket is your outfit.
Julia: I’m sure you’ve accumulated quite a few coats over the years. Just how many do you each have in your closet?
Elisa: I actually have a serious problem. I just moved into a new house and found it really difficult to part with my old coats. I don’t always wear them but my closet is an archive. I have about 10 wardrobe boxes that are just coats that I’m not currently wearing, which is crazy. I’m a bit of a collector.
Eran: I have a lot, but I usually always take the samples because I like to try on our jackets before we even produce them. I have about three closets full of coats but I always wear the same ones.
Julia: Well, it makes sense. You probably have memories attached to some of them.
Elisa: That’s the thing. One of them I would never wear now because we’re so much more knowledgeable today in terms of fit, detail and finishing. But I’ve kept it because it’s the coat that helped us open our market to the U.S. I wouldn’t wear it today, but I can’t let it go. It’s almost like, can I just frame it or something?
Julia: Seeing as your home is Montreal, how does the city influence your design aesthetic?
Eran: The weather of Montreal inspires us because we have so many different seasons. But we get inspired everywhere; like going to Tokyo in the middle of winter and realizing we packed the wrong coats!
Elisa: Montreal also inspires us to excel on perfection and quality. Montrealers are difficult customers but they’re very loyal if they love something. This has pushed us to where we are today because we’re so motivated by our clientele.
Julia: Speaking of Montreal weather, has having a coat brand changed your opinion on winter?
Elisa: I like fall because I love layering! I don’t like winter and honestly, I think that’s what made us want to create beautiful coats: to give people something that they feel happy wearing. If we have to deal with winter, let’s look good while doing it.
Julia: In terms of your daily life in Montreal, where in the city do you love to go when you’re not working?
Eran: I’ve got a few spots that I go to all the time but I like to try a new place once or twice a week. I go to two sushi places often: one is Park and the other one is RYU. I like the drinks and I have friends there, so I go often. I also love coffee. On Saturday morning, I go for a run and then right afterwards I like to try out a new café. I just downloaded an app for that, Adbeus, which helps you find new coffee places in your city.
Elisa: Lately, I’ve been going to Escondite more often. The vibe is so good and I love the décor. It feels very new, unlike any other restaurant in Montreal.
Eran: There are a lot of places opening up in unexpected areas of the city, so the restaurant in itself becomes a destination. Escondite is a destination.
Julia: If you weren’t designers, what would you be doing?
Eran: I would probably be an architect.
Elisa: I think I would be doing something that involves the arts somehow.
Eran: You would be an event planner…
Elisa: Well, lately, I’ve been really passionate about art and it’s making me want to paint… as if I have time! I bought all the supplies but it’s been six months and I still haven’t opened them. I think that I would have to be doing something creative, where I can use my hands. He says I would be an event planner because I really do love doing events. But if I were an event planner, it would have to be for people who have unlimited budgets!
Julia: Mackage has conquered coats and handbags. What’s next?
Eran: Shoes. Like the boots that you don’t want to take off...
Elisa: Ok, stop giving away all of our secrets!
Julia: Well, if Mackage did do footwear, there would be an expectation that it would be amazing. Walking around the city, it’s common to see several people in Mackage coats. What do you think is the key to becoming a lasting brand?
Eran: Everyday, one of our jobs is to think about the next coat that will spark a revolution. In the past, we’ve thought about how to make a new down coat that was different from the Michelin man coats that everyone else was doing. And now, I want a warm coat but I want it to be extremely light at the same time. We keep on pushing the boundaries and thinking about how we can improve, season after season.
Elisa: I think it’s about finding and perfecting something that works. At the end of the day, the brands that have made it have a signature look. Chanel is known for their quilted bags, and we have our Mackage collar. You don’t have to look at the label. When you see it, you know it’s us. ■
*Originally seen in Here & There Magazine's Montreal Issue released July 2016
Here & There Magazine is a digital publication covering art, design and fashion in cities around the world. Photographed and written through the eyes of two travellers with a passion for storytelling, Here & There features creative people, spaces and moments that reflect each destination’s distinctive aesthetic.