Monte & Coe
Somewhere between H&M and the high end designer bag brands, the founders (Matt, Ron, Andrew and Nicholas) found an underserved niche in the duffle bag market. “There were no good quality and aesthetically pleasing duffle bags that wouldn’t cost you an arm or a leg!” Matt tells us. “We saw the disparity in the market and sought to create something that we thought would give people a chance to invest in a high quality item that is well made but without the designer price tag,” Mark explains. That’s when the idea to produce these handcrafted, Canadian bags was born.
The need for these bags to give consumers more variety was not the only inspiration behind the idea. The founders took a lot of inspiration from their own lives as well. Knowing each other for 12 years, Matt, Ron, Andrew and Nicholas all shared similar creative visions and passions. They all grew up in European households, which is reflected within the products they have put out. “When you grow up in a European household, value is placed on the way you present yourself. If you look back at photos of our grandparents and our aunts and uncles, and even our parents as children, they’re always very well-dressed, well groomed, their shoes were always shining, etc,” Matt expresses. Their European upbringing transcends through their brand, keeping things simple and clean with integral hardworking products.
While finding a need in a market was the first step for the group, they had to overcome many obstacles before they could reach success. The first issue they encountered was creating a problem that stands out. Matt states, “In a homogenous world, people continue to search for products that help them stand out.” As a solution the group decided their differential factor would be how and where the product was made. Handcrafting the bags make them unique because most large bag producers use machine manufactures to assemble their products. Secondly, using Canada as the home for their production also sets them apart from other labels.
They also wanted to put focus into the material used for their products. “We aim to create the perfect blend of innovative design, with timeless style, all without compromising quality. Our raw materials represent a beautiful aesthetic appeal with uncompromised durability,” Matt suggests. Each handcrafted bag is made with Italian wool and vegetable tanned leather. These materials not only make the duffle bag unique, but also increases versatility.
Of course every business has its ups a downs, but its important never to give up. The men behind Monte & Coe definitely agree. “I think the biggest lesson we learned is how to manage the emotional roll coaster of being an entrepreneur. Keeping your head down and powering through,” Matt advises. There are many times this group has even began to question their own business and products. However, the group used each other and persevered through the tough points.
Another thing the partners learned is to use passion to guide their innovation. “Find a void in the market, but make sure it’s something you can be passionate about.” Read books and listen to podcasts of people that have experience in the area that you are going to work in. Find something you have a genuine interest for and run with it. “I think it’s a lot more exciting to build a business around something you love and something that symbolizes who you are. Aside from being the most fulfilling, it keeps you emotionally invested in what you’re doing.”
Expansion is key in the design industry. While Monte & Coe will continue to create innovative duffle bags, their ultimate goal is to enter retail stores all over the world. Even with expanding, the crew still strives to create products that please their customers and maintain the high quality standard they initially set. “We have so many ideas for the way we want to expand the product line, so hopefully we’ll not only be known for the quality of our Canadian made products, but for the breadth of styles we offer. ”
As the company continues to grow, the group hopes to increase their market strategies as well. They want to use social media, as that is a huge part of today’s culture. Social media will allow Monte & Coe to have a bigger platform to reach larger audiences.
What about manufacturing, how do you make sure the execution of the product is how you need to have it each time?
At the cornerstone of our brand is the handmade craftsmanship of every piece we create. We chose to locally manufacture here in Toronto, rather than going off share to India or China. That way, we could oversee and control every step of the manufacturing process. We leverage the expertise of our local artisans to produce quality that is second to none.
I noticed each bag has some great detail on the inside, can you tell me the design story on that?
We like to think of our bags as personalities; people may dress similarly or get similar haircuts, but everyone has their own personality. We really do carry that concept into the way we design. Though our bag on the outside is comprised of a very clean and minimal exterior, the interior is what we think of as a personality. Sometimes it’s bright, and sometimes it’s patterned. It’s the part of the product that each of our customers can identify with.