Atelier DNHN: raising awareness about autism and responsible consumption

By Angèle Simon
Reading time: 4 Minutes

On this World Autism Awareness Day, M.A.D. Shoppe presents the portrait of Julien, the creator behind Atelier DNHN. Shortly after the pandemic, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) following a life-changing depression. Settled in his workshop, he tells us the story of his brand as well as the challenges of his daily life as an autistic designer.

After graduating in design from the French fashion school ESMOD, Julien launched his first brand in 2004. The concept: high-end unisex streetwear. However, as the challenges of entrepreneurship grew, he decided to set aside his brand in 2009 and work in a corporate environment instead.

A few years later, Julien felt the desire to change his life, even his country. He heard about Montreal, a creative city where both English and French are spoken. It was in 2015 that he officially settled there and found work in the fashion industry as an assistant designer.

"I had depression, and that's where it all started. I lost all my capability; I didn't want to create anymore, it was empty."

Although Julien already knew he exhibited signs of neurodivergence*, his depression exacerbated everything. Anxiety in all its forms, loss of control, and emptiness are now part of the creator's daily life. Like many other autistics, Julien also has sensitivity to stimuli, whether it be light, smells, or sounds. For instance, changes in seasons, crowds, and social interactions can be sources of anxiety. In a conversation, the non-verbal cues of someone Julien is talking to can sometimes be very difficult to decipher, thus creating a stressful situation.

Atelier DNHN

In 2018, Julien rediscovered his passion for creation and decided to make caps for fun. His friends and Instagram followers appreciated his work and encouraged him to relaunch his design career. With that encouragement, Atelier DNHN (or Denhien) was born in 2019 in Montreal. Diversity, Nuances, Human, and Native are the guiding principles of the brand.


Made from second-hand clothing, scraps, and end-of-roll fabrics, the caps, hats, clothing, and accessories imagined by Julien are unique and ungendered. Inspired by nature as well as work, sports, and military uniforms, Atelier DNHN pieces embody an ethical and ecological approach. Fabrics come from army surplus, various donations, work shirts, or blankets found in thrift stores. Moreover, Julien offers a customization service that allows customers to choose their blanket to turn it into an overshirt or coat.

Raising Awareness

Since his diagnosis, Julien has wanted to mark World Autism Awareness Day through Atelier DNHN. Whether through education, donations to the Autisme Montérégie organization, or collaborations with local brands and artists such as Lebicar, Raised By Wolves, Atelier B, and now M.A.D. Shoppe, the creator aims to open up the discussion on autism. It's also an opportunity to explain to neurotypical** individuals what autism really is and why the daily life of an autistic person is completely different from theirs.

"Autism isn't an illness, it's a syndrome, I have it within me."

As an artisan and entrepreneur, Julien must adapt his creation and manufacturing process to the maximum. Indeed, a simple disruption of his routine can destabilize him for days or even weeks. It's an overwhelming anxiety that prevents him from creating and operating his business for an indefinite period. In order to live more easily, Julien is supported by an intervenor from the Centre de réadaptation en déficience intellectuelle et en trouble du spectre de l’autisme, who helps him find solutions and tools to improve his daily life.

This year, Julien once again wants to mark this day. On Saturday, April 6th, he will open his workshop to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. He would like to showcase his creations through discussions on autism and responsible consumption. His workshop is located at 2065 Parthenais, Suite 282-A, Montreal, QC H2K 3T2.

M.A.D. Shoppe and Atelier DNHN encourage you to donate to support greater awareness of autism. This can be done through the Canadon platform to support the organization Autisme Montérégie.

SHOPPE THE CAUSE with Julien, creator of Atelier DNHN. You have the chance to win an exclusive candle in addition to supporting the cause of autism, an important cause for Julien and the M.A.D. Shoppe team.

To take part, shop an item from Atelier DNHN’s selection, you have until April 30, 2024 



*Someone whose neurological functioning is atypical, often due to a neurodevelopmental disorder.

**Someone who does not have a neurodevelopmental disorder, particularly autism spectrum disorder.