As far as he can remember, Dorian Gabriel has always moved on wheels. Whether that was , rollerskating from his native Montmartre, where he was taught painting by local artists, to Montparnasse or vacationing in Italy on the back of a Vespa.
Today, Dorian has managed to turn his hobby – customising motorcycles – into a trade through the brand he started half a decade ago, Creativ Garage. We take a look at the genesis of a Parisian workshop that operates with heart, versatility and impressive craftsmanship.
How did you get started?
I always enjoyed modifying my rides. The custom trend was just kicking off and it was mostly Bonnevilles that were being worked on. The Bonneville wasn’t within my budget, although it was my dream project. But I had just been introduced to the Speed Triple, so I figured that it would be a fun experiment. Later, ATS eventually asked me to build a rear kit for them based on the one I had made.
It was still very much a one-off creation for my bike, but I began to think in terms of developing a product and making it plug & play – a professional product. I spent a full month on R&D and it was successful. All I had to do was build from there: starting with custom products, such as the seat, up to a complete kit. I was only making very limited quantities for each, a dozen at most and then moving on to the next.
What is your process?
My intention every time I come up with a new product is for it to showcase genuine craftsmanship and be versatile enough that it can be installed on any machine. I named the workshop ‘l’Atelier Mecanographique’ in reference to both the model construction system and graphic design, which was my first trade.
What inspires you?
Visually, I draw ideas from superhero comics, 80s Japanese anime and old books, which all convey the same graphic lines and I always try to translate these on to the motorcycles. The machine is like a media, it’s a language, a lifestyle.
Who is your customer?
I feel like we are targeting people looking to have fun, just like myself. Today, I am over-compensating for things I couldn’t afford when I was younger, I treat myself. Creativ Garage puts special care into packaging because we assume that when the customer receives the product, he or she gets to reminisce about opening gifts under the Christmas tree. Today’s trend, overall, is leaning toward nerdiness; it’s OK for a 40-year-old to buy a skateboard or collect RC cars. We’re all looking for that taste of Proust’s madeleine.
Three types of people talk to us: those who buy online; those who want something custom from us; and those who simply like our state of mind and come with either a budget or a project.
Do you still get to enjoy motorcycles as a hobby now?
Riding is like a drug. I can’t explain why I need to ride for thousands of kilometres when I go on a road trip, as I did across Greece last summer, because it is a very individual pleasure to experience but one that we get to share with a bunch of other riders.
I also recently took a mechanic course to learn everything about an engine, so my new passion project is to take apart a machine completely, keep about 20% of OEM parts and build the rest myself.
Could this be the future of Creativ Garage?
No, I really want to keep developing cosmetic improvement products. And that’s why I want to focus on retro-modern motorcycles, they are reliable. I see so many customers who start improving their motorcycles and once they’re done they realise there are mechanical issues and they can’t ride. The only situation where I would prepare an older model is if I source it myself.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve been driven since my beginnings by Deus Ex Machina. They created a tribe, a beautiful sense of belonging to whoever embraces their products in connecting surf to automotive. I’m hoping to invite the local retro-modern community to my space, with Saturday afternoon live custom jobs, motorcycle shows and meals. I feel that there is such a strong connection between the garage and the kitchen, in the lingo, the process. Also, people who value beautiful things often equally enjoy good cuisine.