Boutique Monique has opened in one of the last areas you would think of for a new vintage clothing store — St. Clair and Oakwood.
This is about as far as you can get from West Queen West (figuratively speaking, of course) with the Oakwood C.I. courtyard holding in Trinity Bellwoods Park's stead, and an abundance of dollar and corner stores rather than chic indie pop-ups and organic green cafes.
Nevertheless, this was the perfect spot for Monique Nanton to open her vintage shop, which was bred from a collection that has been 20 years in the making. Collecting vintage clothing was a personal endeavour for Monique, until she started to run out of room to keep it all for herself. She opened an online boutique in 2008, with the goal to one day open her own physical shop.
When the time came, she found this then-vacant spot, and decided that it perfectly suited her needs. "I live just around the corner," she tells me when I drop in about a week after her opening day. "And it's close enough that I can go and pick my daughter up from school."
But St. Clair West, especially this stretch, isn't exactly a shopping destination. Especially one for vintage shoppers with an eye for labels and fine construction. Nevertheless, Monique has moved all of her picks from online to in store, and doesn't seem at all concerned about bringing shoppers to the neighbourhood.
"I'm a vintage shopper," she says. "And like most vintage shoppers, I go to wherever I need to to find those beautiful, quality pieces. People who know vintage will travel for vintage. "
Many of those quality pieces at Boutique Monique have labels that surely your grandmother will remember — Oleg Cassini, Eaton's, Lipton, and more. Then there are those that most will recognize — Guy Laroche, Jean Paul Gaultier, Ralph Lauren — Canadian labels such as Marilyn Brooks, and a whole lot more without the brand recognition and simply selected for their cut and style. Monique is particularly partial to '40s looks, though her collection includes pieces from decades before and after.
The boutique is divided into three separate spaces; a front area, a room for shoes, and a salon in the back complete with fireplace, vintage furniture, and racks of elegant evening wear. It is from this room where Monique flaunts some of her favourites, which include a gorgeous Ira Berg silk black gown ($60) and a belted straight-cut orange Oscar de la Renta ($75). Button, sequins, and Grecian draping seem to be recurring themes, as are pieces that generally seem to fall between the $40 to $150 price range.
Monique says the lower cost of rent as compared to, say, Queen Street, helps keep the prices down. And to a determined vintage shopper, she knows that the promise of a checked black and white Valentino jacket for $130 just might have the power to make a shopping destination out of St. Clair and Oakwood avenues.