STYLE MAP: LAB Consignment

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Ian Warong.

LAB Consignment (in the studio behind Silver Falls, 15 Ossington Ave.,

The first time I went to LAB was for the store’s launch party: K-OS was spinning, flashbulbs were popping, and celebrities from the invite-only guest list were forming in cliques around the consignment merch on display. On my second LAB visit, things were much more low-key. I chatted with Lauren Baker, LAB’s owner and no-big-deal It girl on the backyard patio, which was complete with a ruby red BBQ and empty bottles of Veuve Clicquot.

LAB used to be synonymous with monthly pop-up sales that would cause spontaneous buzz and happiness in unsuspecting areas of the city. Now that Baker has opened her first-ever, permanent location, the waiting is over for deals on gently used, almost new designer fare like vintage Trussardi handbags, Rich and Skinny jeans, or a knitted Marc by Marc Jacobs summer sweater. The bad news? We may never want to shop retail again.

What does it take to make it into the LAB closet?

“The piece has to be contemporary, within two years, and it has to be in impeccable shape. The only mall stores I’ll accept are Club Monaco, Banana Republic, Aritzia (no TNA), and of course I accept major labels and designers. I’ll take vintage if I feel it’s on trend.”

What’s the difference between vintage and consignment? You chose to put a consignment store in the back room of a vintage boutique. Would someone walking through the space, going from Silver Falls into the LAB notice a transition of sorts?

“I’m so happy you asked that question. People have been calling LAB a vintage store because there’s a misconception that vintage is synonymous with resale and consignment, which it’s not. Vintage is a garment that is 20 years older or more. So the ’90s wouldn’t be vintage but the ’80s would. Consignment is just another term for resale—the majority of clothes in LAB are contemporary; most are less than two years old. [Silver Falls and LAB] have got a bit of everything in this space—furniture, vintage, and consignment. [laughing] We’re like a mini mall between the two of us!”

How did you come up with the idea for LAB?

“I was frustrated because I had all these great clothes that I didn’t want to donate or swap. I’ve never been into that because I’d be like, ‘My thing is worth more than your thing’, which is never pleasant. What can I say, I have good taste and my friends have good taste. I love going to Holts but my wallet doesn’t like going to Holts. I thought that consignment would be a good bridge between Holts and the vintage store thing. When I proposed the idea to my friends, they basically told me, ‘Lauren, you really need to do this.’ Also, at the time, there wasn’t anything like this downtown—all the consignment stores are uptown and they’re all really pricey. I chose downtown because this corner of the market hadn’t been cornered!”

Right now, what’s your favourite piece in store and what’s the most luxurious item you’ve got?

“I have a D&G little black dress that is so hot, I honestly don’t know why it’s still here. A friend of mine wants it for her ‘adult dress’ one day. I actually think she’s put vibes on it so no one will buy it. It has darts all around the cleavage area and it makes your boobs look great. I have a Givenchy right now, which I’m pleased to have. Some other favourite things would be the multi-coloured, rabbit-fur vest—Isabel Marant did a similar piece for Fall 2010. It’s perfect. I’m also in talks with some local designers to get some of their samples in store and one major British designer, but I won’t disclose the name!”

Do you plan on retaining some of the spirit of the LAB pop-up sales in the store, or are you looking to do something totally different with the permanent space?

“This is definitely going to be the first store of many. The area I’m looking at is the Junction—there are literally no clothing stores there. I did a pop-up in the Junction and the women were coming in like, ‘OMG, you’re the greatest thing ever!’ The pop-up sales may have to stop for a while, although I love doing them. The plan is just to sit for a bit. Eventually, the pop-up sale will be a way to gauge the market in other parts of the city. I think I’ve basically exhausted the Queen West neighbourhood so I’m looking to branch out—Leslieville or uptown might be fun too.”

Do you think the growing consignment trend is changing the way Torontonians shop?

“I hope so! I think it’s something that everybody needs. Not everyone can afford to shop at super luxurious stores—I think the statistic is something like 2 percent of Canadians can actually afford to buy luxury and designer and the rest of us are just maxing out credit cards. Maybe consignment and online shopping clubs—which I do a lot of—will become an amazing middle ground for the other 98 percent of the population. Consignment is already huge in Vancouver and, especially if you’re a fashion lover, it makes you feel involved, without breaking the bank! Coming out of a recession where everyone’s basically broke, people stopped buying things. Consignment is a really good way to ease back into consumerism. I just gave my friend a cheque for 75 bucks the other day and she was just like ‘Whaaat, this is amazing!’ People love it.”

Your blog is a big part of keeping your clients and fans in the loop. Do you think the fashion blog is changing the way we talk about, think about, and relate to style?

“Totally, totally. The blog is a good way for fashion to reach us faster. London used to be five years ahead of us in terms of trends, and now it’s instantaneous—we’re on trend. I think it’s because blogs are doing wonders for the world of fashion. I am a web gal. I want to be out there. For example, I had a Vivienne Westwood sweater posted on the blog and I just shipped it out to Korea. That’s pretty cool.”

Your launch party was a star-studded affair. Why did you decide to take the launch party route?

“I always envisioned a party! I started out in fashion and then went into the music industry for a few years where I put on events. I also knew that K-OS, who is one of my best friends, would totally lend a hand with the music aspect. Plus, I kinda always wanted to put together swag bags and give them out to people. They turned out great!”

At the launch party, you served an absolutely delicious cocktail. What was the recipe?

“I like the idea of the signature cocktail, and it was clear—no spilling red wine on the clothes! The recipe: Cointreau, soda and muddled lime. So good.”

Below, Lauren Baker in LAB.

Read about other exciting Toronto retailers in our Style Map section!

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