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.”