Laura Nezri didn’t know exactly what kind of business she wanted to start, but she did know she wanted it to add enjoyment to people’s homes and that it should strive to be what she calls “authentic.”
“Home is relevant to everybody,” she says. “Everybody comes back home after a long day, and home is where we are most authentic.”
Nezri settled on linen bed sheets, and Maison Tess, an online bedding company based in Montreal, was born. In keeping with that drive for authenticity, it was important to the company’s founder that her products be environmentally sustainable and that the manufacturer operated, as Nezri says, “in a way that was acceptable to me.”
After a lot of research, she found a small, family-run mill in Portugal that met her criteria, and she placed her first orders. Now her company sells three kinds of sheets: washed linen, coco linen (a blend of cotton and linen), percale cotton, and recently introduced waffle-linen towels. They’re designed in Montreal and manufactured in Portugal. She named the company after her family: T for Thomas, her husband, E for her son Elie, and double S for her daughter Sasha. Four base solid colours – white, sand, rose and chrome – are always available, and seasonal “trend” colours are introduced two or three times a year.
Her products have Oeko Tex certification and the company belongs to the Better Cotton Initiative, both organizations that promote sustainable cotton growing and textile production. “These are things that speak to the consumer of today,” Nezri says. A lot of the positive reviews her products get are based on that profile, she adds. “Consumers want to know where they’re buying from, who they’re buying from, especially the millennial age group.”
There’s a demand for all three types of sheets, she says, but washed linen is her favourite. “People who start sleeping in washed linen rarely go back to cotton. It adapts to your body temperature, and the quality is quite outstanding.”
She recently introduced the linen-cotton blend for customers unfamiliar with linen and who might balk at its higher price. “It’s a halfway point for people to touch and feel it, and if they like it, to move up to a full linen set.”
There are benefits to selling online. “It doesn’t matter where you are, people know you exist,” Nezri says. “The challenging part is that you’re a tiny fish in a pool of huge sharks. It demands a lot of strategies to differentiate yourself. We’re still in the first phase of having people discover us. That relationship keeps growing.”
The company’s next move will be to set up pop-up shops across the country to showcase its products to a wider market. Another move will be to add a children’s line, Nezri says. But don’t look for the stereotypical dinosaur/ballerina children’s patterns. “I’m a huge fan of basic solid colours; I think it’s really nice,” Nezri says. “When you have nice tones, you don’t need a print.” •
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1155 Guy St., Montreal