STYLE MAP: Independent Designers Outlet

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Independent Designers Outlet (1418 Dundas St. W., 416-238-7045,

The term “outlet shopping” usually conjures up images of frenzied women coming home from Buffalo, wearing five layers of Rodarte for Target dresses in an attempt to evade those tenacious Canadian customs officers. Back in Toronto, Lara Stephenson has, thankfully, given a whole new meaning to the word “outlet.”

The designer of Revolve Clothing, Stephenson is also the owner of the Independent Designer’s Outlet (IDO), which offers customers chic, reduced-price items from a wide range of local designers. And, although the clothes are overstock from last year’s collections, Stephenson selects only classic items that are easily re-invented, like the timeless LBD or a silk, patterned tunic from Dagg and Stacey. It’s a win-win: Shoppers get sweet deals on high-quality, non-outlet pieces and independent designers finally have a space into which their closets can overspill.

When people hear the word “outlet”, most of them think about rummaging through racks of ripped clothing—the word carries negative connotations. IDO is a totally different experience. Why did you choose to call it an outlet?

“I always wanted ‘outlet’ to be in the name of the store, but my intentions for IDO were different from what the term makes people think of. I think the main difference is quality. I wanted IDO to be a place where designers could sell their overstock, but at the same time, all the brands we stock make really high quality stuff—and we won’t have a gazillion XXS’s or one sample size of something. We usually get in a full range of sizes from our staple brands like Juma.”

What’s the hidden gem that’s in-store right now?

“Oh, I absolutely love the patterned tunic by Dagg and Stacey. It retails for over $250, but you can find it here for $150. I also love the grey, cocktail-length dress by Juma—it’s down 80 percent, meaning you can grab it for a breezy $65. There are also the Revolve dresses that are perfect for the summer. They come in bright colours, are so light and, of course, eco-friendly. Another thing you’ll notice is that we have accessories as well. These crochet hats are handmade locally, and the feather earrings, made in Vancouver, are about $30 to $40 a pair. They’re handmade and so in for spring.”

There’s a waiting list for designers to get their pieces into IDO. What’s the process for getting new stock in, keeping a fresh selection for your customers, and making it worthwhile for designers to sell their overstock?

“I try to change things up every month. If I find that something isn’t selling after a month, I’ll work out a new price with the designer and try again for another few weeks. As for the waiting list, designers email me daily to see if there’s space for their items. What I try to do is stock a variety of clothing while making sure that it’s all from the current season. So, everything that’s here now is spring/summer fare. Also, some designers, like Juma and Lux & Luster, have a permanent home here and will often send over new items.”

As a Canadian designer, how important is it for you to support fellow Canadian designers?

“It’s really important to me. My studio is right underneath the store, so it’s great that I can work and sell my clothing all in the same space. I wanted to share that privilege with others in the industry who may be working out of small studios and who may not have closet space for their overstock, like I do. It’s become a way of uniting and supporting each other. Even if it just means that we have all our overstock in the same place, it’s better than each designer having to deal with it on their own.”

Tell me a bit about your own line, Revolve Clothing.

“I started the line in 2004. My background is in fashion; I went to design school, learned how to sew, the whole nine yards. I wanted Revolve to be simple, crisp, and streamlined, while retaining some of the more intricate detailing like a pretty bow or embellishments, a cute button, stuff like that. Plus, since 2008, I’ve made a commitment to transforming Revolve into an eco-friendly line. I’m really excited about where that facet of Revolve will go in the future.”

Below, Lara Stephenson in IDO, and other pics from the shop.

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