Souk Montreal has come a long way. For its 19th edition, the famously chic design fair moves into a former garment factory in Mile-Ex, a lofty space that will be brought to life through a collaboration between Souk founder Azamit and Sid Lee Architecture.
As a fashion stylist turned consummate tastemaker, Azamit is famous for both sensing and selecting tomorrow’s trends. When she paused the market last year to reflect on “the essence of Souk,” she realized that has always included the space itself. “When we started at the SAT [Société des arts technologiques], nobody went below Sherbrooke, but they were all so curious,” Azamit says of Souk’s first location, in Montreal’s red-light district. “I realized that’s part of what Souk is, going into areas that are up-and-coming but also mals aimés.” Since then, the market has set up in an industrial corner of Saint-Henri that’s since become a tech hub, and in the downtown core when it emptied out during the early pandemic. And every single time, the crowds have come, eager to experience a curated showcase of Montreal’s best designers, making everything from soap to furniture to children’s toys.
The secret to a stellar guest list? The 65 vendors are chosen by a jury from an extensive list of applicants. Those jurors, who include jeweller Agathe Bodineau and restaurateur Hideyuki Imaizumi for the 19th edition, get swapped out every year to avoid anything like stagnation or favouritism. For newer applicants, Azamit likens Souk to a “coming out,” a way to launch their brand to the public. For established designers, it can be a place to show more personal creations. Not that a good reputation means a guaranteed spot. “Even people who have been at Souk before have to reapply every year, and they need to show something new,” Azamit reveals.
It’s what puts Souk light years ahead of most holiday markets, making it as much a must-visit event—with an entrance fee, pop-up restaurants, and panel talks—as a shopping excursion.
Here are five standout vendors from the 19th edition:
A sustainable, seamless knitwear line that lives up to its “quiet luxury” reputation, Olbrich 3D-prints each piece to order (though designs will be available for instant purchase at Souk). The result: endlessly wearable and pairable pieces, like oversized merino wool turtlenecks and sailor-inspired knit flares.
Head to the washroom in Montreal’s chicest cafés and restaurants, and you’ll spot luxury hand soap from this boutique body-care company. Founded in 2018, the line has expanded into candles, face oils, and more, in earthy-meets-sensual scents.
It’s a bakery with a noble mission: to redeem the reputation of a product that “everybody hates,” the humble fruitcake. The small-batch, sous vide cakes get better with age, and the packaging (inspired, like the bakery’s name, by larch trees) is pretty enough to seduce the most doubtful party guests.
The ceramics scene has exploded around the world, and Montreal is no exception. Spot beautiful/functional planters and vases by Josianne Desrochers, a ceramicist who’s done residencies in Denmark and Japan.
Some Souk purchases are perfect for under the tree, while others make better #treatyoself gifts—like minimalist steel furniture from MDT Mobilier. Spot its sleek design work all around town at hot spots like Fleurs et Cadeaux and the SAT.
Souk #19 runs November 29-December 3, 2023.
Photography by Arseni Khamzin.