5 Retail Mottos I Learned From Jonah Leslie, Owner Of Ibiki Boutique

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If everyone could love their job as much as Jonah Leslie, the world would be a better place. I met him inside his two-floored boutique to chat about the business and what makes his shop one of the best fashion spots in Montreal.

1. Everybody’s experience is important

You have three types of destinations as a boutique’s buyer: fashion fairs, multi-brand showrooms and in-house showrooms. The last one is the most desirable one, because the buyer is fully immersed into the brand experience. A unique atmosphere and identity that he can transfer to his clientele later on.

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“Fairs are not the best place to have a meeting with a brand owner. It’s packed with people, so you’re constantly interrupted as you try to tell the other person what worked and what didn’t.  Whereas when you enter an in-house showroom – Helmut Lang, which we sell here, has one in New York – you get the whole experience. The furniture, the selection of the products, the people, everything is there to serve the label’s DNA.”

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Are you still dreaming of that perfect pair of jeans? This one by Helmut Lang has a special dart at the knees that makes the fit perfect.

Everybody wins! Jonah’s happy and inspired and we are too when we step into the perfectly curated boutique.

2. The power of a one-stop shopping destination

The first time I came into Ibiki, I looked everywhere too fast and I ended up straining my eye! I’m kidding, but I totally could have. A wide range of carefully selected magazines await for newcomers at the door, delicate jewelry fills vintage wood cabinets, shelves are full of cool sneaks, the softest bamboo lingerie is longing to be bought, home decor props are displayed on the walls, cosmetics are there to be tested and everywhere else are the most beautiful clothes.

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Amongst the high quality publications selected by Jonah, the annual book/magazine It’s Nice That is one of his highlights. Formerly a blog, it gathers everything you need to know about art and design.

Bottom line? I come back for birthdays, holidays and on those regular days, when I want to give myself a nice little something and I think you should too, because face it – you deserve it!

3. Know your brand. By heart.

Just a 5-minute talk with Jonah and you understand what real passion is. He named at least 15 different brands during our interview and he was able to tell me about each one’s origin, founder (I wasn’t surprised to learn that he had met a couple of them), the company’s philosophy, the materials used… He basically knew everything.

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Discovering the background of every item in the store gave them a touching human quality. Unlike fast fashion, it’s nice to take your time and get to know every little detail about that product you’re falling for. Just like you would with someone special.

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Ibiki carries exclusively Comme des Garçons perfumes. Warning to those who love unisex fragrances, you will be hooked.

4. Pick people who master their art

You know what they say: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. It couldn’t be more aligned with Jonah’s vision.

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Sleek leather goods by The Stowe, a company based in Montreal.

“I aim for labels that specialize in one kind of products or for a brand’s division that I believe is of the highest quality. I buy leather bags from The Stowe and cosmetics from Malin + Goetz: go for what a company does best.”

A valuable advice for buyers AND shoppers.

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The exquisitely scented candles by Malin + Goetz.

5. Be different

It pays off to do things differently in an industry that feels saturated. Jonah actually goes to great lengths to achieve that. He travels twice a year to South Korea to find unique garments that he immediately brings home to sell inside his boutique when he returns.

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A special find brought back directly from Seoul.

“In Seoul, people are very aware of trends, but they mix them with their eastern aesthetic, which I’ve always liked. They also have four seasons, just like Montreal, and it’s much more accessible than what you see in Japan for example. They offer subdued designs but paired with interesting textiles and volumes. It just makes sense to go there.”

If you can’t go dig for cool clothing in Seoul yourself, head over to the boutique for some intriguing finds.

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If you’re into sneakers, you’ll be in sneaks heaven at Ibiki. Jonah has access to exclusive Nike designs that can hardly be found anywhere else in Quebec.

 

Ibiki, 4357 St-Laurent, Montreal

All photos by Naomie Tremblay

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