Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Natalie Castellino.
CHASSE GARDÉE (1084 Queen St. W., 416-901-9613, chassegardee.com)
Named after the French term for private hunting ground, Chasse Gardée is as well-curated as its name suggests. The boutique specializes in recherché brands, such as Mona Kowalska’s private label, A’Détacher, and LD Tuttle, the masters in layered-leather footwear. Fans of Jeffrey Campbell’s popular line—and men who have a thing for Belstaff, the Italian military brand—will be pleased to find both resting on pedestals against the brick wall. Yet the most unexpected, made-my-heart-skip-a-beat find were the grey Jules Power sweatpants I had seen only a few weeks earlier on the runway. I’ve put them on my shopping list along with the candy-coloured oxfords by Dieppa Restrepo and the stunning yet understated black leather Belstaff doctor bag that called to me from one of the highest pedestals.
As I chatted with owner Daniela Bosco on the big comfy couch in the “living room” area of the store, she confessed that, aside from offering excellent accessories, what she really wants is to envelop her customers in the warm, hearth-like atmosphere of Chasse Gardée amid the area’s austere warehouse aesthetic. Her wish appears to be coming true. During our conversation, the sun shone in through the glass storefront, Daniela’s sweet dog, Max, lounged in the corner and friendly neighbours dropped in to say hello.
What’s the concept behind Chasse Gardée?
“To do something that other people in the city aren’t doing—to offer a different take on what’s available in terms of shoes. My background is actually in clothing, but I wanted to be in this area of the city where there are already lots of clothing stores, so I said, ‘OK I’ll do shoes!’ It was a bit naïve on my part but it’s been good. My three friends and I designed and built the entire space from scratch—all we kept was the original hardwood floors. I exposed the large brick wall, by accident actually, but it’s a happy accident because now it’s the focal point of the space. I ended up picking the name ‘Chasse Gardée’ because as a shopper, I’ve always been a hunter—I’ll do whatever it takes to hunt down a piece. And in French, it just sounds nice.”
Who is the ideal Chasse Gardée shopper?
“Anyone between 22 to 65, but it’s more about appreciating our aesthetic. People walk in here all the time that I think wouldn’t wear most of the pieces we have, but then they surprise me and end up falling in love with something totally unexpected. That makes me happy because it means that they get what we’re all about.”
How much of your own personal style influences your decision when picking out pieces to feature in store?
“[Laughing] I buy pretty selfishly! I go with what I like, I go on instinct and I pray. Oh, and when in doubt, I go with black. There are times, however, when I’ll choose something even though it’s not something I’d wear personally, but because I can appreciate its beauty. For example, the high heel LD Tuttle feather shoe—I wouldn’t wear the heel because it’s too much of a statement piece for me, so we stock the flat version too. I like the subtlety of flats.”
Are you of the persuasion that the bag and the shoe can make or break an outfit?
“I’m really beginning to think so. If you have a stunning shoe you could wear a simple white T-shirt and a pair of jeans and look amazing. Having confidence is the number one element when it comes to pulling off any outfit, but having a great shoe and handbag definitely works wonders.”
If I were a shopper coming in here for the first time in search of the perfect summer shoe, what would you suggest?
“We’re always getting new shipments, but right now in terms of heels, I would suggest the LD Tuttle black leather sandal. They’re handmade in beautiful soft leather, and they’re so comfortable for walking around the city. Another one is the A’Détacher pump—they’re from New York and they’ve got that quasi-clog feel with a softer, more delicate line. And of course, the peach, mint or banana yellow patent leather oxfords by Dieppa Restrepo. I was never into oxfords until I tried these babies—now I think that no one should live without them!”
Is Queen West the new Bloor?
“I never thought about comparing Queen to Bloor, but it’s an interesting question. I would like to think that there would always be a more diverse crowd in this area—albeit tons of condos and stores are popping up and the area is changing—but I think Queen West will always retain its cultural roots. I hope that the shopping will always come second to the culture.”
How important is it for you to stock Canadian brands?
“It’s important for me to do it whenever I can. With shoes it’s difficult, but all the jewellery, clothing and little trinkets you see are all made in Canada. For example, the stationery sets are made by a designer working out of Scarborough. I think it’s really hypocritical to hate on our Fashion Week in terms of what it lacks, but then not do what we can to support our brands.”
Toronto is somewhat of a late bloomer in terms of being considered a North American fashion headquarters. Do you think retailers are partially to blame because they often eschew local brands and designers?
“I think, unfortunately, what happens in Toronto is that we’re more influential outside of Toronto and that we’re also too humble. We don’t have the population like New York, Chicago or London, so we don’t have the disposable income to support our designers the way that those cities can. Our local designers have to travel in order to get notoriety and financial backing to succeed. When I was in the U.K., a friend of mine who’s working with a designer there told me the funniest thing: The top-selling designers and brands in most high-end U.K. stores are all Canadian. So, we’re popular elsewhere—we just have to work on backing up our designers so they become popular at home.”