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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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

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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STYLE MAP: Over the Rainbow

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Over the Rainbow (101 Yorkville Ave., 416-967-7448, rainbowjeans.com)

I spent yesterday morning hanging out with the fascinating Joel Carman, the owner of Over the Rainbow, Toronto’s premiere denim destination for 35 years. Joel showed me all the nooks and crannies of the 4,800-square-foot emporium, which includes an alterations room and a mini version of an Ikea warehouse—only this one is stocked with pairs and pairs of Seven for All Mankind.

Legend has it that you built your denim empire on $2,000 made from your time working as a cab driver? Is this true?

“Absolutely. I graduated from university, travelled around Europe for a couple of years, and then started driving a cab. It paid the bills and, back in 1973, driving a cab in Toronto meant that you were kind of an outlaw. All the young guys were driving cabs. We’d get together after a night’s work to party a bit—it was this whole subterranean lifestyle. But I knew that I wanted to do something, to build something, and that I wanted to work for myself. One night,  I picked up a gentleman in my cab; we started talking and I found out that he did alterations. He invited me to go to a party with him and his friends. I said sure. After that, I brought him a couple pairs of pants to fix. One day he asked me to go into business with him.”

What happened next?

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STYLE MAP: The Cat’s Meow

Owner Louise Cooper in The Cat’s Meow (Yes, that is a lettuce print on her dress.) Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

The Cat’s Meow (180 Avenue Rd., 647-435-5875, thecatsmeowcouture.com)

Most people know The Cat’s Meow as the lovely vintage store whose window displays are probably the number one cause of fender benders on Avenue Road just before the lights at Davenport. What most people don’t know about the Cat’s Meow is that it’s the closest thing we have in Toronto to a fashion archive. Owner Louise Cooper knows just about everything there is to know about vintage clothing. Case in point? She can identify an original Schiaparelli by matching the engraved initials behind the buttons of a sweater with the French buttons the designer often used.

Your window displays are legendary.  Can you let us in on the behind-the-scenes of creating them?

“Lisa does all the merchandising for us—she has a fantastic eye for what goes well together. Our windows bring in about 80 percent of our business. Vintage never really looks good on the hanger—the dresses come alive on a mannequin. And we’ve had a couple of fender benders out front! Three or four times I’ll hear a crash outside and when I go out to look, it’s a woman who’s rear-ended another car directly in front of the windows!”

In fashion, the classics are being reclaimed by much younger generations—20-year-olds are wearing the Chanel flap bag. Do you find that your clientele reflects these changes?

“Definitely—we get young teenagers coming it to buy Chanel bags. I find that the younger generation really reflects what’s going on in the fashion world. Even 12-year-old bat mitzvah girls come in here and know exactly what they want—and that takes a real education and real confidence. These young girls come in and say, ‘I wanna look like Audrey Hepburn.’ I have to stop myself from saying, ‘How do you even know who that is?’”

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STYLE MAP: Love of Mine

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Love of Mine (781 Queen St. W., 416-368-4999, loveofmineboutique.com)

Anna Damelin’s infallible inner compass has made Love of Mine the coolest place to buy jewellery in Toronto. Her multi-faceted store is a collection of her favourite things from her heart to yours. Upon entering, a wall of colourful ceramic butterflies welcome you, while Alexis Bittar and Wendy Nichol pieces sparkle delicately in the distance.

A few of my loves? The kitschy pop-up, pavé diamond skull and bowtie rings that Anna brought back from New York, along with a pair of golden chicken feet by Swallow that are absolutely useless and irresistibly charming.

What’s the idea behind Love of Mine?

“I’ve always liked so many different things, and I just decided to put them all together. In Love of Mine, everything is curated—everything in here is hand-picked by me. I only pick things that I would love and cherish, and would have hanging on my own wall at home, or would wear on myself. It’s very personalized here.”

What are the most exotic and unexpected pieces currently in stock?

“The pieces by Swallow are phenomenal. She does the gold-plated heart paperweight, but not a cutesy heart, it’s like an actual biological heart. Stunning. The most unexpected piece I have in store right now is also from her collection. My husband thought I was completely crazy for having ordered them—they are two chicken feet, dipped in gold. That’s it. They don’t have a function; they don’t hang, they’re too light to be paperweights, they’re just there. And you know what? People love them! I keep selling out of these chicken legs. Who would’ve thought!”

How do you choose which designers are represented in the store?

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STYLE MAP: Independent Designers Outlet

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Independent Designers Outlet (1418 Dundas St. W., 416-238-7045, shop-ido.com)

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?

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STYLE MAP: LAB Consignment

Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Ian Warong.

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

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!”

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