Tag Archives: Canadian designers

Minimalist style, straight from Montreal

Montreal-based leather design house m0851 has carved out a bigger and better presence in Toronto’s retail scene.

The company, known for its high-end men’s and women’s leather outerwear, bags and accessories, has recently opened two new Toronto boutiques: one on Avenue Road in Yorkville, and one in Bayview Village.

The Yorkville store, which opened just before Christmas, replaces a boutique that the company previously operated just a few blocks away, on St. Thomas Street just south of Bloor.

With a minimalist and casual style, m0851 pieces are generally versatile and functional – practical, but fashionable. The design team behind the collection aims for quality and durability in the materials and construction of the items.

The entire collection is produced in Montreal – a refreshing detail in a world where most of the items we buy seem to be manufactured in countries with questionable labour practices.

Similar to the company’s collections, its boutiques are modern, clean and simplistic.

It has four stores in the Montreal area, along with one in Vancouver and a new one in Calgary. Outside of Canada it operates stores in New York, Paris, Belgium and Taiwan.

The chain is certainly growing, and as it does, more Toronto locations could emerge. Keep an eye out for a potential new street-front store on either Queen Street West, King Street West, or in the Yonge-Eglinton area in the year ahead.

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Filed under Boutiques, Fashion, Store Closures

Fresh Canadian fashion arrives in Yorkville

Yorkville fashion hub Homegrown Boutique is expanding its roster of Canadian design talent.

The boutique has announced that for the Spring/Summer 2012 season, it’s adding the collections of four Canadian designers to its lineup of fashionable offerings.

The new lines include:

  • LABEL Clothing– a clothing line produced in Toronto by designers Shawna Robinson and Natalie Sydoruk, who focus on offering clothing that’s comfortable, sustainable and wearable.

    A piece from LABEL's Spring/Summer 2012 Collection.

  • Anu Raina – a Toronto-based designer whose pieces incorporate bold prints and a variety of textures.
  • Denis Gagnon – a popular Montreal-based designer well-known for dramatic collections that typically incorporate leather, silk and floral prints.
  • Melissa Nepton – a designer based in Montreal whose label got its start when she was cast in La Collection, Québec’s version of Project Runway, a couple years ago. Her collections are designed to be feminine, comfortable and practical, targeting urban career women.

Homegrown Boutique, which opened in July 2011 (A patriotic boutique), is dedicated to the promotion and growth of Canadian designers. A cozy little shop on Cumberland Street, it currently carries the collections of seven different Montreal and Toronto-based designers.

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Filed under Boutiques, Clothing Lines, Fashion

A milestone for Made You Look

A pair of independent jewellery stores on Queen Street West is coming of age. Sister boutiques Made You Look celebrated their 10th anniversary on Thursday, suggesting that their unique business model is working – and based on the crowds that came out for the occasion – it’s working well.

Made You Look is not your typical retailer. Not only do the boutiques sell jewellery; they feature in-store workshops where jewellery is handmade by some of the designers themselves.

Some of the high-end jewellery featured at Made You Look at 1338 Queen St. W.

The two shops are positioned directly across the street from one another on Queen Street near Dufferin. One specializes in elegant, sophisticated jewellery, including wedding and engagement rings; while the other carries pieces that are more fun, funky and fashionable.

Together, the two shops carry items from more than 100 local independent jewellery designers; some of which rent space in the stores and use it to manufacture the shiny items that are sold both at Made You Look and at other retailers.

The business model lets shoppers see firsthand where the merchandise is made, and who’s making it.

The concept is particularly popular among customers who are seeking custom-made items for a wedding, anniversary or other special occasion. The accessibility of the designers means customers can easily sit down with them to develop the customized piece they want.

Merchandise at the boutique at 1273 Queen St. W.

Despite an annoying Queen Street streetcar divergence on the night of the anniversary party, the soiree was very well attended. Guests sipped cocktails and nibbled on appetizers, and were encouraged to browse the offerings at both locations.

There’s clearly plenty of talent in Toronto’s accessory design marketplace, and it appears this destination for this merchandise is here to stay.

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Shopgirls celebrates three successful years

Queen Street West is home to plenty of fun, fashionable boutiques, and standing out among them is Shopgirls Gallery Boutique.

Twiss & Weber Coffee Cozy, $14 at Shopgirls Gallery Boutique.

A hub for Canadian talent that carries products designed by more than 80 artists and designers,  Shopgirls was launched by Michelle Germain three years ago.  The shop’s merchandise includes a wide range of clothing, jewellery and accessories, along with paintings and various household items.

Creativity radiates throughout the large, 1,800 square-foot boutique, where you can find a huge collection of unique products that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Take, for instance, a collection of adorable coffee cup sleeves made of felt and embellished with colourful, decorative, flowers made by Ottawa-based Twiss & Weber.

Other items I particularly like include the store’s Matt & Nat handbags, its drapey Covet tops and its Second Clothing Yoga Jeans – an item that seems to be one of the shop’s hottest sellers.

Shopgirls celebrated its third anniversary on Thursday with a fun party where shoppers came together to browse the boutique’s newest collections and mingle over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The celebration continues throughout this weekend, when visitors to the Parkdale Village boutique can pop a balloon to win between 15% and 50% off of their purchase.

Don’t pass up this great excuse to visit an absolutely charming Toronto boutique that showcases tons of Canadian design talent.

Congrats to Shogirls on three successful years!

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A sudden departure for Andy Thê-Anh

Andy Thê-Anh's former Bayview Village boutique, emptied out with no explanation.

Andy Thê-Anh has closed the doors of his Toronto boutiques. Just a few short months after unveiling two brand new shops in the city – one in Yorkville and one in Bayview Village – the Montreal-based designer appears to have abruptly packed up and left.

The women’s clothing stores opened in late March. They carried the distinguished designer’s high-end collections, which are geared towards a “sophisticated, modern and professional woman,” according to the company’s website.

Notes posted on the windows of both boutiques indicate that as of Tuesday, the company will no longer operate boutiques in Toronto, but that the collection will continue to be available in Montreal. No reason is given for the sudden store closures, and there’s no mention of the closures on the company’s website.

It seems unusual that such a high-profile designer would give up on a major market like Toronto so quickly. Even if sales were weaker than expected – possibly due to continued weakness in the economy that is likely hampering luxury purchases – I would have expected the shops to stick around for at least a year before moving on.

It’s particularly unusual since the company boasts on its website about ambitious growth plans, including plans to expand into the U.S. and Europe. Before tackling these major markets, it would seem logical for Andy Thê-Anh to first establish a stronger retail presence here in Canada.

Having admired this talented Canadian designer’s collections for years, I’m a bit sad to see him leave the Toronto retail scene. I hope his boutiques have greater success elsewhere.

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Filed under Boutiques, Fashion, Store Closures