At work with: Atwater Atelier
words and photos by Trevor Browne
Meet Narek. He’s the owner of a local Montreal cycling bag maker called Atwater Atelier. We visited him at his workshop to talk about his journey as a bag designer and the idea behind his creations.
MK: Tell us a bit about where the idea for Atwater Atelier started.
AA: Being an ex-messenger I started making bags out of necessity and I originally built bags for myself and other fellow bike messengers. I originally made them to withstand the 9-5 grind through all four seasons. They’re definitely more of a heavy duty bag than a light technical bag, but things are always changing and going through different versions and generations and getting more refined. From the large volume messenger bags it grew to tote bags and rucksacks, to rando bags and panniers then cycle adventure bags.
MK: Where are Atwater products manufactured?
All bags and accessories are designed and handmade right here in Montreal, Canada. From design to prototyping to manufacturing and shipping, every stage of our production is done in-house. Most of our fabrics and hardware are locally sourced from Montreal businesses, trying to keep things in Montreal’s economy. It’s amazing to see our customers understand and support this philosophy as well. I actually work in a great building full of woodworkers, steelworkers and artists and we have a great little community, bouncing ideas of each other, borrowing each others skills and sharing espresso machines.
MK: What’s it like being an independent manufacturer?
AA: It can be frustrating and nerve-wracking at times. But most of my problems are good ones and when I wake up I can’t wait to get to the workshop and start making bags. Its all about thinking about the bigger picture and keeping the momentum going. I recently read Yves Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman”, and that put a lot of things into perspective. It’s all about having functionality of an item, always achieving a better design and working with the local community.
MK: How do you spend your free time?
AA: Free time? (laughs). I pretty much just bike and think about bags. I’m either at home working on the website, answering emails, drinking espressos, curating my instagram, designing or sewing here at the atelier or biking around in between.
MK: Tell us about your cycling history.
AA: I only got into bikepacking and touring a few years ago but I really love getting out of the city by bike. Before that it was courier and fix gear bikes. I definitely miss the beauty and simplicity of the fixed gear bike. Now I ride my Bombtrack for all my adventures and gravel biking. Its so fun and so versatile. I dream of just riding around, drinking coffee and getting off the grid for one or two days.