Collaboration is at the heart of the creative process for Toronto’s Treaty Design. Since their official launch in January of this year they have received many accolades and been afforded incredible opportunities within their field including exhibiting at Milan Design Week, receiving the Caesarstone People’s Choice Award for the Design Exchange Emerging Designer Competition and the Juror’s Award at the 2014 Toronto Design Offsite Festival.

We got to tag along with Production Designer and Partner Matthew Cherkas (M) as he visited some of their local production partners and then caught up with Creative Director Vincent Joseph Manestero (V) to dive deeper into their inspirations, partnerships, and love of localized design.

Can you tell me about your background respectively?

Matthew: I went to OCAD for Industrial Design after doing a year at Sheridan figuring out how to draw, paint and do 3D work. At OCAD I went through industrial design and took furniture classes. I had classes with Gord Peteran and Tristan Zimmerman, two inspirational instructors for me. I worked for Tristan a little bit for his Science and Sons business, which was such an awesome experience.

Vincent: I also graduated from ID at OCAD. Afterwards I worked there in a few capacities including in the woodshop as a class assistant. That was a fantastic spot to work in after graduating because it meant everyday I was working with my hands and on machines. I wanted to more intimately understand the process of how things are made so that I had more confidence in incorporating manufacturing techniques and the qualities of materials into my designs. After that I found a space of my own in a woodshop full of veteran woodworkers. There was a dirty corner full of storage stuff, and with a few friends I negotiated to clean up and rent that dirty corner. I spent the next few years there learning how to put things together.

How did you end up starting a company together?

V: During my time at OCAD, Gord Peteran brought some of my work down to The Interior Design Show. Talking to people and seeing their reactions to my work was so important for me. I wanted to create an opportunity for other students to exhibit during Design Week so I co-founded an exhibition called Tables, Chairs and Other Objects. I knew I wanted to hand the project off to someone and Gord recommended Matthew. He was the only one who had a real passion for it and was committed to showing up. That year, we spent way too many hours making a shower of flowers for the window display piece. That was the first time we hung out and realized we could really work together.

M: Before that he thought I was just a hipster with a mustache who hung out on the fifth floor.

V: A nice guy with an obnoxious mustache! We had over 600 people come, which was totally intentional because we marketed it well and made a big fuss.  It had so many students with friends who were proud, so it turned into this big celebration for all of us.

Ok, then what happened?

V: I was invited by Benetton to be part of the team for a few weeks at Fabrica, their research centre near Treviso, Italy. Going out there and seeing their production speed and how ambitious their projects were inspired me to move faster, think bigger and get work done. They pushed me hard and showed me the kind of impact design can have. After the success we had with Tables and Chairs it was natural to bring Matthew back into my design efforts. Him not wanting to slit my throat after spending 22 hours of every day together was a good sign! We didn’t have a name for anything; we just worked on stuff that we wanted to see and started to be ambitious about the kinds of narratives we wanted to present through objects and furniture. We said something stupid like…

M: ‘In one year we will take over the city!’ It started as an experiment and then it became more and more what we wanted to do.

V: It took us 6 months and we launched 10 products.


What does each of you bring to Treaty that the other doesn’t have?

M: Vince is a phenomenal networker and communicator. Those are very advantageous things to have! I’ve been learning a bit of it over the last year and a half and practicing those things myself.

V: At OCAD, you have to stand up and present every week. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable! For one thing, it’s really rare for me to work with someone who is so patient and accepting of who I am. I don’t think it’s an accident that we resonate with what we want to achieve because we really share a vision. He’s eternally positive which is just a joy. He can always find a way to make things happier and calmer. Also his work ethic is unbelievable!

How did you hook up with the Drake General Store? Are you planning future collaborations?

V: One of my friends Michael Madjus from the Toronto Design Offisite Festival mentioned that the Drake was interested in doing work with local designers and asked if we’d be interested. We were already working with our talented friend and illustrator Marc O’Brien on another project, so we collaborated again when this came in. The concept for the fall collectionwas house party we were excited by the opportunity! We hadn’t collaborated like that with a retailer before but they’ve been really nurturing towards us given that this was our first time. They have such a great brand presence and we’ve been motivated by their ambition. We’re perfectionists with a ton of questions and we want the quality of our product to be the best we can give.


What shape would your ultimate project take?

V: There are so many things! The reason why we make such small and accessible objects right now is that we can afford to do that. With a lot of money we could make bigger things out of more expensive materials like gold or titanium. I love the idea of having lots of money…

M: … Period! A socio-economic type project would be great though.

V: Yeah! I really love how design has this humanitarian power that can impact peoples’ lives. When we start a project, nothing exists and as industrial designers we could make absolutely anything. If all I had to worry about was how it would impact people and not the money aspect that would be amazing! Being able to develop an industry about traditional craft would be ideal for what we do. To work with craftsmen around the world that are very talented with a particular material would have such an impact on their communities.

Where do you aim to take Treaty in the future?

V: Everything right now is in developmental stages. We design and manufacture work of our own which we find retail stores for, such as the work we just put in the AGO gift shop. The holidays are a great time to be launching new works like household items. We also sell the service of design to other manufacturers and brands such as those we met in Europe we’re currently designing work for. We started a relationship with Umbra, which we’re really excited for because they have been such a monumental force in introducing Canada to design and also promoting Canadian design. We’re working with interior designers as well to source work we’ve already produced or develop original work.

Find out more about Treaty from their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.