Fast fashion tends to translate into shit quality, which is why I steer clear of H&M and its ilk (among other reasons--I'm sure I'll harp on that in a future post). But "cheap(er) and cheerful" doesn't have to mean "China and cheerful".
All too often people stock up on crappy imported one-season wonders of dubious quality, whether it be from the streetwear shops that line the Spadina stretch of Queen Street or from the ever-growing fast fashion pimps, when they could be applying the eco-friendlier principle of shopping closer to home.
There are plenty of Canadian brands that might set you back a little more than a swathe of quickie cotton from Forever 21, but they're more unique, well-made, local, and should last you longer than a couple dozen washes.
Charlie is a great place to hit for Canuck clothing from contemporary lines at reasonable price-points. Situated at 809 Queen Street, this cute shop stocks plenty of Canadian lines that usually won't cost you more than $200, and are often much less. (I scored a lovely--and pricey-looking--black-and-white ombre silk dress from Montreal's LnE for $115.) "I wanted to support Canadian fashion innovators, but at reasonable prices. I want to be actually accessible to people!" said owner Erin Swan.
Swan (who used to buy for Girl Friday) will be bringing in Adrienne Butikofer for fall--a favourite from this Toronto designer include a long belted black sweater coat with oversized buttons. She'll join the Montreal designer Anastasia Lomonova's disco-style fitted mini-dresses that shimmer with black sequins ($169) and shiny pleated spaghetti-strapped cocktail frocks ($189), along with LnE's purple shift dress with yellow-lined pockets.
The store also carries plenty of those "immediates" (read: trendy tra-la-la pieces), but there's a twist: they're decent quality, and totally affordable. I hate how the throwaway pieces offered by independent boutiques are often crappy quality with an outrageous mark-up. (I'm often tempted to hold up some stupid drape-y jersey cotton top straight off the Chinese import boat that's now retailing for $90 and say, "Really?")
Here, however, there are plenty of faster-fashion pieces that are relatively cheap for the materials, cut, or detailing you can get (and could be a nice long-term addition to your closet--moreso than some tank-dress from Urban Outfitters). Examples include a raw silk ombre gray and cream blousy shirt from Trinity, Lovely Girl's shiny cream silk tank with lace details, and Sole Mio's seafoam silk day dress, which will all run you around $90--and that's before any sales, which lower the price considerably. (And, for those who want to go cheapie-cheap-cheap, trend darling BB Dakota is here, too, with the entire line falling in the muy reasonable $39--$120 range.)
Since you should have some dough left, check out the fall selection of bags from Australian line Mogil, a city exclusive. The foldover clutches and bags are leather with suede accents, and run around $140. (These are an improvement from the boring, cheap imports currently on offer here.) Any remaining dollars can go towards a silver necklace, with Früg's cougar charm ($35) the hands-down winner.
Getting to huff "No!" when people ask if your uber-cute piece came from H&M? Now, that's priceless.