STYLE MAP: Shopgirls

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Shopgirls (1342 Queen St. W., 416-534-7467)

Lately, the fashion industry has been abuzz about supporting Canadian designers and local brands. So it’s quite fitting that this edition of Style Map should feature the brilliant boutique, Shopgirls and its owner, Michelle Germain.

Located in the heart of Parkdale, Shopgirls is more than just a store where you buy things, go home content, and possibly visit again. Shopgirls is a bustling community centre for designers, artists, and fashion lovers alike. With over 80 Canadian designers on hand, a newly added Home section and a gallery hallway space showcasing original pieces by local artists, Shopgirls is quickly becoming a leading lady of Toronto’s fashion scene.

I couldn’t help gushing over the park bench made entirely out of bicycle tires and the rusted key necklaces and honeycomb hairpieces by Ashley Winnington-Ball. I could also fare gladly with Montreal-based designer Eve Gravel’s black heart lace top and “my leo” leopard print skirt in my closet.  Oh, and the Yoga Jeans! But as Michelle told me upon my arrival, “We’ll get to those later”—as if they were a trick up her sleeve! I was hooked.

During my visit, Michelle told me about her sartorial path. She started off in the business of retail marketing at Holt Renfrew, and then moved to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Michelle had already envisioned her Shopgirls long before she ever thought it possible to curate a space where art and fashion collide. Not only has her vision gradually become a charming reality, she has also helped many Canadian artists and designers gain recognition along the way. Every single piece in store is hand selected; every single piece has a story.

Shopgirls owner Michelle Germain with daughter Zara Violette.

Allow me now to tell you a story about Shopgirls’ claim to fame and what no woman should eat that extra vanilla cupcake without: Second City Denim’s Yoga Jeans. Some facts about these jeans, in no particular order: They boast a 92% shape memory (the industry standard is 64% so these won’t sag after sitting like those unforgiving jeggings you bought last year); they feature a zipper locking mechanism (no gap to mind here), and they’re 97% cotton so they fit and look like real blue jeans—when in reality they feel like the coziest pair of sweatpants.

I tried a pair on and they were so unbelievably comfortable that I felt like Ashton Kutcher was going to pop out from behind some corner and tell me I just got punk’d. That didn’t happen, so, at $110 a pair, I quickly scooped up both the charcoal rinse and the black denim styles. Now I can eat as many muffins as I want in my yoga jeans and not worry about my muffin top being exposed. Did I mention you have to go down a size or two in yoga jeans for them to fit properly? Don’t mind if I do!

I had such a fun time at Shopgirls that I visited again that evening for the store’s second annual Walk the Walk for Windfall event. Windfall is the only new clothing-drive for women in Toronto and that night’s fundraiser included a runway show featuring stylish, everyday women and famed image consultant, Wendy Woods. (Guess what—my friend who came with me also bought a pair of Yoga Jeans that night. Coincidence?)

One of the nicest things about Shopgirls is its singularly friendly environment. Every few weeks or so, when Michelle and her team throw various chic soirees—an art exhibit or a runway show—the faces are familiar, and the smiles are sincerely welcoming. No fashion snobs, please.

As a special premium for Style Notebook readers, Shopgirls is offering a 10% online or 15% in-store discount on Second Clothing Yoga Jeans until Dec 30, 2010! When purchasing Yoga Jeans from Shopgirls online simply enter the promotional code STYLEYJ10 at checkout to receive 10% off. When purchasing at the Shopgirls location at 1342 Queen Street West, customers can simply present the same code to receive 15% off.

Below, more shots from inside Shopgirls.

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