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.

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STYLE MAP: Coco’s Closet

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Coco’s Closet (413 Jane St., 647-981-6870).

Nadia Trelle, a former associate buyer at Holt Renfrew, could easily become any girl’s new best friend. Not only is she très enthusiastic about all things fashion, she’s also a girl’s girl—which becomes clear within just a few minutes of watching her interact with her customers. She wants them to find the perfect dress, the perfect bag, or the perfect shoe, and she makes it her mission to help them succeed. (With a few Chanel bags on the shelves, how could she steer you wrong?)

Nadia’s consignment boutique, Coco’s Closet, is one of the first to pop up in the Bloor West Village area, after the recent success of shops like Fashionably Yours and LAB  Consignment in the Queen West and Ossington neighbourhoods.

What strikes me most about the selection at Coco’s is the quality. The Postcard winter jacket with fur trim has surely never seen a Canadian winter, and a beautiful pair of Burberry rain boots have certainly never splashed in a puddle. The finds that particularly caught my eye were a Balenciaga Giant clutch and a Missoni knit twinset that I had to reach out and touch. You know, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

What can we find in Coco’s Closet?

“I take things that are a year or two old, unless, of course, they’re classic pieces. An Hermès scarf from 20 years ago is still relevant, right? Ideally, I’m a mid-to-high end store. I have a Christian Dior dress, Armani, Prada, Gucci, Robert Rodriguez, but I also have some Theory pieces, as well as premium denim like Sevens and Citizens. I also carry the odd piece  of Banana Republic. I’m really looking for up-to-date fashion. The boutique is 70 percent on the higher end of things, but I’m always looking for that fun fashion piece. If something comes along that I think is right for me, I’ll put it in the store.”

Why consignment versus retail?

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THE IT: London’s top shops

Hostem and Vintage 123, two stops on London’s amazing Urban Gentry shopping tour.

Story by Sara Graham, a Toronto writer and girl-about-town who recently spent a stylish sojourn in London.

Landing in one of the world’s fashion capitals can be more than a little overwhelming. Just stand on the corner of Oxford Circus for five minutes, as I did recently. It was a tidal wave of fall fashion and I was most definitely caught in the undertow.

It’s impossible not to shop. There are the usual suspects: Topshop, Selfridges, Harrods, and Dover Street Market for those who can afford the edgy couture on offer.

But when it comes to the business of “new” in London, no one quite has their finger on the pulse like Kevin Caruth. He started Urban Gentry tours back in 2007, and, after forging key relationships with hotel concierges—think customized tours for teens, and private sessions for the serious shopper or casual browser—his team is now servicing some of the world’s top fashion journalists. I had to get in on this action.

For my purposes, Kevin suggested that his protégé, Mae Shummo, take me in and around the East End where the business of fashion, art, and all things designer are flourishing at a rapid pace.

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TIFF SPECIAL: Meet the man who made Nikki Beach

Story by Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour and Glowerers for The Style Notebook during TIFF. Today: Behind the Nikki Beach phenomenon.

Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

If you build it, the models will come. And so it was with Nikki Beach Toronto, a pop-up bar conversion specially for the festival. Nikki Beach is the white hot brand that founder Eric Omoré started in Miami in 1999. The French-born impresario then took the poolside champagne cabana concept back to the homeland setting up in St. Tropez, then expanding his empire to other playgrounds of the Diddy and fabulous, such as St. Barts, Cabo, Marbella, Croatia, Egypt, Qatar and Panama among the 20 outposts.

Some seven years ago, Omoré took a temporary tent to the Cannes festival; this is his second year in Toronto (Nikki Beach was in the Park Hyatt last September).

But its temporary home this year, at C-Lounge on Wellington, is a natural fit. The team brought in an ocean of white—the brand’s signature non-colour—to drape every inch of the place.

Then they filled it with models. Unlike other temporary havens set up for stars around town (such as the London-based private members’ club Soho House, reported on in this space earlier this week), Nikki Beach Toronto is open to regular paying customers around parties planned for this week.

Thus is the place you could actually have seen Will-i-am  from the Black Eyed Peas mingling with normal folk. Pretty, normal folk I qualify that, all swaying around the reflecting-pool-side bottle-service cabanas bathed in soft light.

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LETTER FROM…London

Story and photos by Sara Graham, a Toronto writer and girl-about-town, who recently spent a stylish sojourn in London.

In London, Harvey Nichols has got to be tops when it comes to the business of department store window dressing. The sets installed for the autumn season are genius. Books, cassette tapes, pegs, pencils, nails, and about a million puzzle pieces were used to create a magical series of scenes that even impressed my 12-year-old nephew. Now that’s a job well done!

Click through for more pics!

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STYLE MAP: Ruins

Josh Reichmann and the amazingly named Mikey Apples, co-owners of RUINS. Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

RUINS (960 Queen St. W., ruinstoronto.com, info@ruinstoronto.com)

For those who don’t call a dog a dog and a spoon a spoon*, you probably don’t call a blazer just a blazer. Well, neither do Josh Reichmann and Mikey Apples. Their new concept boutique, RUINS, is the closest thing to shopping for clothes in an actual gallery space—minus the “do not touch” signs and the attitude. In Reichmann’s words, Ruins is “an ever-mutating, creative project that is finely curated.” Whether you shop at RUINS to pick up a rare vintage piece, to enhance your music repertoire, or to get your hair cut in the single-chair salon out back, the duo promises to deliver an aesthetic experience that will linger long after you leave the store.

*”The passion of an aesthete is absolutely inaccessible to the man of ordinary concept who calls a dog a dog and a spoon a spoon.” —R. Huelsenbeck in En Avant Dada.

How do you two know each other?

Josh: “We both come from the music world in Toronto: Mikey in the capacity of managing touring bands like Crystal Castles. I was in a touring band so our paths were always crossing. Every time we talked, we found out that we had common interests in aesthetics, design, art, and music, so we kind of jived on those levels. Touring and recording is one thing for me, but I’ve always wanted to station myself and get involved in clothes and branding this whole world that I had envisioned.”

How does one go from envisioning this world to taking the plunge and opening a store?

Josh: “I had some connections to the fashion world from the music world, through labels in New York like Assembly and Opening Ceremony. The main questions were: What lines do we want, what lines can we get, and where do we want to be? It was really tough to locate the perfect space on Queen Street—over here, it changes block by block. We totally lucked into this place even though—unluckily—it needed tons of work. We spent the next couple of months rebuilding it into the space we envisioned.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this from skeptics along the way, but really: Another indie Queen West boutique? Continue reading

LETTER FROM…Sri Lanka

Story by Jordan Porter, a Toronto fashion writer, who is on a year-long trip around the world.

I just got back from one of the best experiences of my life. For the past 30 years, Sri Lanka has had more than its share of strife. With a brutal and bloody war that finally ended in early 2009, and a hard hit from the tsunami in 2004, this incredibly beautiful country has unfortunately been a “no-go” zone for far too long.

Despite these hardships, on my recent roadtrip across Sri Lanka, I encountered some of the smiliest and friendliest people, the cleanest cities in all of Asia, and the most amazing and diverse landscape I have ever seen.

In just eight days I went from the ancient cave temples of Dambulla, to the tea plantations of Hatton at 4,000 feet, where I stayed at a beautifully restored colonial plantation house and filled my belly with melt in your mouth scones and tea sammies all day long, back down to a tropical climate of palm trees in the quaint seaside town, and former Dutch Colony, of Galle.

Saving the best for last, my trip ended with a visit to Minneriya and Yala National Parks, where I called on Leopard Safaris to take me on the adventure of a lifetime.

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LETTER FROM…London

Story and photography by Grace Carroll, a Toronto fashion writer who moved to London to “conquer the fashion world” and live with her rock star BF.

It’s mid-August and I’m standing outside of one of London’s hottest fashion parties of the summer: Wolf & Badger’s Summertime Party in Notting Hill.

As I contemplate how to navigate my way through the crowd to reach the guest-list girl, I smirk at the thought of gelato being served to guests outside. Considering, of course, that the blustering winds and sudden low-temperature has me shivering profusely despite wearing a long-sleeved silk blouse and trousers in what should be the summer’s hottest month.

I slip through the door with my friend Becca in tow just as it begins to pour down outside. Everyone is packed into the boutique, and the claustrophobic environment creates a comforting coziness, sheltering us from the nasty storm that has erupted outside. We weave through the crowd until we discover the bar and each pick up a glass of Pimms (the only drink available) before tucking into a corner to catch up on our latest gossip. ‘Where is the vodka?’ I wonder. ‘I thought this was a fashion party…’

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STYLE MAP: Réva Mivasagar

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Réva Mivasagar (753 Queen St. W., revadesigns.com)

Ever since Sarah Jessica Parker made it fashionably acceptable to accessorize with a bird headpiece on your wedding day, I’ve come to consider bridal fashion as more than just a white dress. Fashion designer Réva Mivasagar, however, has infused his couture wedding dresses with runway-worthy glamour for years. After studying at Central Saint Martins in London (where he roomed with Alexander McQueen), Mivasagar moved to New York and started his bridal line, which has been featured in every top bridal magazine, including Martha Stewart Weddings.

About a year ago, Mivasagar set up shop in Toronto, where he creates beautiful wedding dresses as well as a separate fashion line that soon-to-be brides often end up walking out with. “That’s our bride, more of a runway bride,” says the designer.

How did you get involved in the fashion world?

“I’ve been involved in fashion for over 25 years now. When I was in high school, I became really interested in costume and I ended up enrolling in a pretty esteemed costume school in Australia. After my first year, however, I made the cross-over into fashion.”

At what point did you start designing bridal pieces? Was the transition something you fell into or did you plan it?

“It was definitely something I fell into. About 10 years ago, I was doing eveningwear in New York and my agent asked me to create a collection of white evening gowns. It just took off as bridal. Obviously there was a market out there for women who didn’t want to look so ‘bridey’. I put some of the dresses in the window at our shop in SoHo and it became my bread and butter.”

What are the three most desirable qualities a dress should possess?

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STYLE MAP: Carte Blanche

Tania Martins, owner of Carte Blanche. Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Carte Blanche (758 Queen St. W., 416-532-0437, shopcarteblanche.ca)

True to its name, Carte Blanche gives free rein to your imagination as soon as you walk through the door. The space calls to mind a sexy collision of Lichtenstein pop art and high fashion—and the clothes only add to the artful effect. Every piece on the CB racks has at least one of the following: a cut-out, a unique pattern, an atypical textile, and a way of making you believe that yes, you can pull it off.

I sat down with owner Tania Martins to learn about shaking up the “safe” Toronto style scene.

Carte Blanche displays an obvious confidence in the brands it carries—you’re obviously no fashion rookie. How did you become involved in the fashion world?

“When I was in high school, I interned for a Canadian designer as part of a co-op course and that pretty much made me fall in love with the industry. I ended up working with that same designer for four years. Shortly afterwards, I met my current business partner, Dan Agostino. He’s really driven, exciting, motivating—and he loves fashion even more than I do. He had a store on Queen Street called Pink Cobra.

Now Pink Cobra has turned into a fashion line, but at the time, the store carried really fashion-forward pieces and brands that no one in Canada had ever heard about. The store eventually closed because Dan was going back and forth to England, but once he got back for good, the ball started rolling again. We went from a makeshift studio on Dundas back to our original space, which is where we are now, and launched Carte Blanche.”

Do you think that, in general, Torontonians follow what’s on trend versus taking a risk with their wardrobe?

“Yes. Toronto is safe. A perfect example is the brand April 77, an amazing denim brand from Paris. The jeans cost about $170. When we first started carrying them, people weren’t buying them. They had never heard of the brand and thought they were too expensive for a denim line that didn’t have the cult following of, say, Sevens or Nudie.

Then two seasons later people caught on and started asking for them all the time. Torontonians have a tendency to buy what they’ve already heard of, what’s hyped in magazines, and what celebrities are wearing. That’s not what we’re about. We’re here for the people who want to live outside the bubble.”

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