Jen and Michael met at an Italian bakery in Los Angeles and immediately bonded over their love of language, culture, and travel. A decade and many adventures later, they are pursuing their dream of designing and collaborating beyond borders. Jen’s academic background in international aesthetics and literature and Michael’s unconventional understanding of art and invention (thanks to the artists, engineers and entrepreneurs in his family) inform their design process. Bouchard Design Co. collections are an amalgamation of their experiences observing, connecting to, and allowing themselves to be changed by the places they’ve been and yearn to go. Bouchard Design Co. pieces are imbued with personal value, cultural significance, and aesthetic appeal. Created with internationally sourced vintage and antique elements, each one-of-a-kind piece reflects the interplay between past and present, here and there. These custom pieces for individual clients and capsule collections for boutiques are carefully and imaginatively handmade by Jen and Michael Bouchard in their studio located just outside of Minneapolis, MN.
Through product and financial donations, Bouchard Design Co. is committed to supporting organizations that facilitate international education, work to ensure human rights, and help our fellow global citizens thrive.
Check out Jen and Michael's work at the upcoming Fashion Week MN Spring 2017 Market at Modist Brewing put on by Minneapolis Craft Market. Photos taken by Lydia Jane Photography.
Talk about the beginnings of Bouchard Design Co. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
Bouchard Design Co. evolved out of my (Jen) solo jewelry business (Litany) as Michael and I began to collaborate more on design and product development. The origins of this collaborative endeavor are rooted in our travels together and long conversations at the dinner table. Bouchard Design Co.’s products reflect our passion for discovery, both at home and abroad.
How has your business evolved? How have you evolved alongside it?
We enjoy working closely with boutique owners and individual clients to create unique collections for them. This approach allows us to evolve organically in our aesthetics and in our relationships with our clients. There have also been opportunities along the way that have required us to rethink the way we design and produce. One of the first large-scale projects we worked on together was a collection for Jack White’s Nashville-based label, Third Man Records. In order to produce 1000 custom leather bracelets in two months, we hired on eight wonderful contractors to help us complete the project. It was a learning experience for both of us, and one that we definitely welcomed.
It sounds like travel, and all of the self-reflection and growth it inspires, plays a significant role in your creative process. Can you speak to that a bit?
Absolutely – Michael and I are very curious people (in both senses of the term!). Any chance we have to discover a new place, a new design concept, or a new way of thinking, we go for it. Our most recent trip to Chile provided plenty of opportunities for cultural, intellectual, and aesthetic awakenings - from pouring over the stylistic details in Pablo Neruda’s homes to discussing the relationship between oppression and the creative process with Mapuche artists to scouring flea markets for unexpected elements to use in our design work.
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
Michael comes from a family of visual artists, scientists, and engineers, so his creativity manifests as functional and design-friendly solutions around our quirky midcentury house and beautifully handcrafted surfboards (he’s originally from L.A.). I come from a family of musicians, community builders/activists, educators, and writers, so my mind is constantly at work looking for ways the arts and language (verbal or text-based) can open up pathways of communication, reveal our differences and similarities, and build a greater sense of community.
What do you find special about using internationally sourced vintage and antique elements?
There’s something exciting about merging time periods, cultural references, and aesthetic elements into a piece or collection– it keeps things current, yet rooted in history. Each collection opens up a dialogue about the interplay between past and present, here and there.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
After living together in L.A. and traveling a lot in the early years of our relationship, we decided to make a permanent home in MN. We’re now raising our daughter and housing our studios in a home that’s been in my family for 3 generations. There is so much creative energy in MN that inspires us and keeps us going. We’ve also found there to be an openness and collaborative spirit between artists and entrepreneurs in this area - this creates synergy that’s really exciting and we’re grateful to be a part of it.
Why is local important?
Every city in the world is unique in terms of how its history and culture(s) have shaped current realities, and the Twin Cities are no different. The small business owners, artists, and designers in this area are an essential part of what makes MN unique. One of the things I love about the Twin Cities area is that our local is global – this convergence of cultures drives innovation in all sectors, and it’s especially noticeable in our small businesses.
What do you see for the future of your business?
In addition to product expansion in our leather accessories and t-shirts, we hope to continue to work closely with museum shops and boutique owners across the country to create capsule collections comprised of one-of-a-kind pieces. We’re excited about upcoming research and sourcing trips to Dakar and Paris.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
I’m incredibly grateful for all of the people we’ve met around the world and in our local community through our sourcing and design projects. The nature of this work is very interconnected, and we enjoy establishing and growing these relationships. We also use BDC as a vehicle for supporting initiatives that shape a more just and equitable society. Each year, we donate a percentage of our profits to organizations that facilitate international education, work to ensure human rights, and help our community members thrive. The future of our communities and innovation within creative industries depend on diverse perspectives. To that end, we are thrilled to be involved with organizations like Minnesota Youth Community (http://www.mnyc13.com/) and Young Fashion Fund (http://www.youngfashionfund.