VALÉRIE DARVEAU + OLIVIER CHARLAND

Owners of Ville-Marie, Mile End

“It’s for the ambience…all of our scents we compose them ourselves, we think about a moment, or a souvenir…”  When it comes to describing a candle, the idea of associating its scent with a memory or a specific moment in time is usually few and far between.  As Valérie Darveau described it above, for her and Olivier Charland, their goal has been to develop a line of scented candles that not only smell great, but also evoke an emotional connection once the wick is lit.

The dynamic duo behind the brand Ville-Marie, are a pair of young innovative city dwelling creatives, who also happen to be in a relationship. The two had met back in school at UQAM, while working in a graphic design group making posters at a time when many students banded together- the 2012 Montreal student strike! Valérie who originally hailed from the South Shore and now works in interactive web documentaries for the NFB, fills the company’s role of the main writer. For Olivier, a former resident of the town Trois-Rivières, who currently works for a studio called Vallée Duhamel as a graphic designer, is also the the graphic designer for Ville-Marie. With their education and career experience, the two seemed to have mastered the perfect recipe that balances both of their strengths and maximizes their talents for the brand.

For a lot of artists, creative inspiration can come from anywhere, from a casual walk to a trip to a new city, and for the birth of Ville-Marie it came about through both.  As Olivier explains it, “It all started when we went to Chicago, 2 years ago… and we’re walking the streets, and were like we should do a project together, it could be fun! And we saw the store Diptyque, like candles from France, and we went inside, and we’re like, ‘Ah, its cool candles it’s a nice product and we don’t see that many nice candles…’ but they were so expensive, we were like ‘Ah, we won’t buy that’…so why not make them.”

The idea kept brewing the more they would travel, as Valérie pointed out, “We realized in Chicago, and after we went to L.A. and San Francisco it was like they were more there.  Every shop has their candles, like sometimes its even like they make candles for their shop, and different particular scents for their shops, so yeah we just thought it would be nice cause in Montreal we don’t have this a lot so we thought it would be something. But also we just wanted to do a nice [thing]…”

And so began the trial and error process of candle making, everything from trying to master the right temperatures and colors through to that ideal scent. “to make a candle it’s not hard at first, we tried and it worked, but it didn’t smell.” Olivier continues, “So we made some small batches, and then after that we went to San Francisco and Los Angeles so that was in between, and when we came back we were like, okay lets do this for real, and we started.”

Once the idea began to be put in motion, the next step would be to discover what types of candles they wanted to create and the direction that they wanted to take Ville-Marie. In Olivier’s words, “We wanted to make a storytelling with this, Valérie, she’s a writer and we tried to, with every candle make a little story about it, we don’t want our product to be like scented candles to make the room scent very much, it’s more like the idea of a candle to gather with friends, and we light a candle, [like a] late night thing…” When it came time to capture the memories of their scents, and bottle it up, or rather melt it down into candle form, the team definitely found the right elements. As Valérie describes it,  ‘Black Spruce and Lime’ it was about, like summer at the cottage, like having a drink on the dock, and ‘Ginger and Citrus’ our other scent it’s more like comforting when you’re sick, and your mother makes a little grog … it’s really about moments…it’s the senses that are more related to memory…we won’t ever do something, or a scent like cookie dough, that will not happen! (laughs).. We want to stay natural, and stay subtle”

With the success of creating two scented candles, the reality of Ville-Marie began to unfold.  The brand was officially launched in March 2014, and their candles were soon stocking the shelves of top boutiques throughout the Mile End. The brand also teamed up with the store, La Montréalaise creating two additional scents, “Waverly” and “Champs des Possibles”.  Currently, Ville-Marie has a studio space at the Collectif Montreal where Valérie and Olivier get to design in an environment with other Montreal artists.

Now nestled into a new studio home, the two have been busy working on creating the next scents for Ville-Marie.  Once again Valérie and Olivier found inspiration from one of their trips, this time from a journey to Southwest USA.  “We’re developing two new scents, and in November we will launch.  And we’re really inspired by our trips and we want to name them from national parks or cities that we really like and visited.  For example we have one scent that is inspired by Joshua Tree National Park in California, where they have these trees that don’t grow anywhere else in the world.” says Valérie, and Olivier chimes in, “It looks like a cactus!”  they laugh, and she continues, “Yeah, it’s like a tree cactus.. I don’t know it’s weird but…it didn’t have any particular scent, but just the moment we arrived at this place we were camping all of our trip.  We arrived at this place and it was like sunset, like magic hour…like the most magical hour… the sky was like this most beautiful red, yeah it was just incredible, and at this moment, I was like I don’t know it was like such a good memory we want to do a scent, like it won’t smell like this place, but it’s related to the feeling.”

Valérie and Olivier have found their creative inspiration in many cities, but sometimes it’s the little gems in their own neighbourhood that they can appreciate the most. With their studio and apartments both located in the Mile End, they always seem to find great places nearby to explore.

TRI: What is a perfect day like in your neighbourhood?

Olivier: We like to go at Hof Kelsten

Valérie: We either go at Hof Kelsten, when we are at Olivier’s place, ‘cause he lives closer but when we are here (her place)…like this morning that’s what he did, he went to grab some chocolatine and a croissant at Chez Guillaume, its on St Laurent…it has the best chocolatine in the world…they’re small, its so good! And just take a coffee here…

Olivier: On the terrasse!

Valérie: I’m sad, cause summer is over, it’s like another room to my apartment when it’s nice out…but on a perfect day we don’t do anything, we don’t work!

Olivier: We walk in Mile End a lot, go to the park, see friends..

Valérie: Yeah, grab a drink with a couple of friends.

Olivier: and bike ride!

Ville-Marie will be at this year’s Souk@Sat, from November 27th to 30th, 2014, and since we don’t have a scratch and sniff website, you’ll just have to go and experience their inspired scents in person!

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Valérie and Olivier 's Favourite Hangouts

Hof Kelsten

4524 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal

It’s no secret Montreal has the best bread in North America. Hof Kelsten, straddling the Plateau and the Mile-End, both harkens back to our city’s baking legacy, with takes on classics like challah and baguette.

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Café Sardine / Iwashi Izakaya

9 Avenue Fairmount East, Montréal

Cafe by day, Japanese Izakaya by night, Sardine (or Iwashi in Japanese) is the coziest little gem on Fairmont East that basically serves an unlikely combination of all of your needs under one roof. Incredible coffee? check. Home-made doughnuts? check. Chicken Katsu and arguably one of the best bowls of ramen in the city? double check.

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Boutique Oxford

174, Rue Saint-Viateur Ouest, Montreal

Oxford, a boutique in the heart of the Mile End, is known for two things: their well-curated collection of independent magazines and their wide selection of high-quality casual shoes. It’s a perfect, friendly spot to drop by during a lazy weekend post-brunch Mile-End mid-afternoon jaunt to check out their ever-changing rotation of products.

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Arts Café

201 Avenue Fairmount Ouest, Montreal

Arts Café is many a Mile-Ender’s go-to brunch spot, with a rustic-style menu featuring delicious local produce, meats and preserves. With dishes like duck confit poutine and waffles with guinea fowl, berries and candied walnuts, you won’t be surprised if we tell you it’s hard to get a table on a saturday or sunday morning. But it’s well-worth the wait.

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