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Fashion Stores


Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Posted on November 2, 2012

contraband torontoContraband has been open for just a few days, but you'd never know it from the already pristine, everything-in-its-place interior. The stock is not yet fully rounded out--you can blame Hurricane Sandy for that--as Contraband's slated footwear was held up in New York. The Yorkville menswear shop's draws from the location's former tenant (a pharmacy), as much as from Yorkville's own unlikely history as the hub of Canadian hippiedom.

contraband torontoI chat with co-owner Christopher Casuga and brand manager Bernard Manarin about their vision for the store, and learn that they each have 15 years of retail experience under their belts (including most recently at Holt Renfrew)--Casuga has lent his consulting and buying flair extensively in Asia and worked with fashion conglomerate I.T, while Manarin is trained in visual marketing and merchandising, and has his own brand, NTHNG.

contraband torontoPart of the store's appeal lies in its juxtaposition of brands such as vintage sportswear-inspired Brooklyn Circus, alongside Thom Browne, or even Nike. "We're mixing designer, luxury brands with entry-level brands," Manarin tells me, and he sees this mix of high and low fashion as indicative of the state of street style today. It's a true-to-trend forecast, with thrift and thrift-inspired looks or casual sneakers increasingly working their way into the closets of well-dressed, affluent men.

contraband torontoThe interior is stark and brightly-lit, thanks to the snaking fluorescent lights above, resulting in a set-up that lets its stock breathe--you can easily rifle through A.P.C jackets, and the shop's small selection of caps is displayed on stumps of reclaimed wood that's been submerged underwater for 30 years. The polished concrete floor adds to the cavernous industrial atmosphere, thanks to its haphazard splotches of paint.

One of the shop's most interesting features is located near the entrance. "You see a lot of men waiting for women, but what I've been noticing is a lot of women are now waiting for us men," Casuga says.

contraband torontoTo that end, a lush brown custom-made leather couch faces a table sporting two XBox controllers and a flat-screen TV. On a Thursday evening, Tropic Thunder provides the shop's only soundtrack, while earlier in the day, Monsters Inc. graced the screen. It seems the folks at Contraband have finally succeeded in making shopping with your fashion-conscious boyfriend fun. "Yorkville is one of the places in Toronto where people are spending the most time and the most money," Casuga tells me, and the barebones media center by the shop's entrance is a clever way to facilitate both.

contraband torontoTheir stock caters almost exclusively to men, although they do carry Extension's hand-made, beaded bracelets, some of which are unisex, and some (such as the Swarovski crystal, or Swarovski pearls for $40) were certainly bought with women in mind. Other pieces, such as their loose-fitting tanks, knitwear, or even flannel shirts, have already appealed to female shoppers. "It's like shopping in your boyfriend's closet," Manarin says.

contraband toronto"It's a hard market for women out there," Casuga adds, so they'd prefer to bring in the occasional feminine accents--such as hats or eyeglass frames--to complement their stock. It's a wise move in a neighbourhood seemingly saturated with luxury women's retailers.

contraband torontoSpread around the whitewashed space, you'll find New York's am aftermidnight, Black Scale's polished yet quirky streetwear, Filipa K, Nudie, sunglasses from Super, Reebok Classics and Oak (another New York brand). The emphasis here is on European heritage fashions, rather than the Canadiana championed by local brands such as Wing + Horns.

contraband torontoIn the very near future, you can expect to see brands like Raf Simons, Comme des Garcons, the high-end looks of Richard Chai (Contraband will be the exclusive Canada stockist), and T-shirts from City of Mary. The store's direction is set to go into higher-end clothing, although the exact roster of slated brands is being kept under wraps--however, expect fashion houses such as Balmain. They're also planning a buying trip to Japan, which is sure to inject several avant-garde brands into the store's stock.

contraband torontoTheir footwear section will include Alexander McQueen by Puma, Nike, Reebok, and Alejandro Ingelmo (expect to fork up around $1200 for his sneakers), and a small selection of bags ($175-$475). Currently, the price point in the store as a whole ranges from around $45, to $965 for an A.P.C jacket, but as of January, the store's prices will top out around $4,000.

contraband toronto"Contraband is a place where we can basically just be ourselves," Casuga tells me, and sunk deep into the plush sofa, I can see how that could pay off nicely for this Yorkville newcomer.



neilson / November 3, 2012 at 06:17 am
$1200 for Alejandro Ingelmo sneakers?! That's an excessive markup. Seeing as their grotesque "fur josh" hi-tops retail for $800 at less astronomically margined retailers.

This terracotta-tiled basement isn't a shop, it's an al-Qaeda recruitment tactic.
lricharz / November 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm
I think you guys linked the wrong website.
Lee Zamparo / November 5, 2012 at 10:29 am
Who would be put at ease while shopping in an overly clinical, starkly lit hospital basement, with blood-like paint spattered on the floor? Looks like a room half-way through a hasty cleanup job after a gore filled knife fight. No amount of wood stumps or leather couches can mask that.

"Contraband is a place where we can basically just be ourselves,"
Hepman replying to a comment from Lee Zamparo / November 5, 2012 at 11:49 am
I second that, Lee. This imbecilic piece of a pretentious ragshop BEGS to be ignored by people with at least an ounce of brains. What a load of CRAP in a basement. Flooding might help clear the low brow junk away, don't you think?
Chris / November 6, 2012 at 11:42 am
These fucking high fashion outlets with your typical hipster dooshbag working the counter and like 10 shirts hanging in a souless space are the worst thing possible to happen to Toronto. Toronto fashion is fucking redonkulous.
nirun / November 6, 2012 at 02:24 pm
for the commenters that are afraid of challenging the status quo... the eaton centre is only a few stops away
Christopher Carter replying to a comment from neilson / November 6, 2012 at 02:39 pm
The new subculture of hating on Toronto subculture. Toronto has cool guys everywhere.
John replying to a comment from Christopher Carter / November 6, 2012 at 03:15 pm
neilson did use a lot of big words though, so he probably knows what he's talking about it
Josh / November 6, 2012 at 04:13 pm
Ya'll mad, these dudes are doing their things. You're on the internet hating.
Eric / November 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm
Well apparently you haters are so pathetic that you've got nothing to do besides going online hating on others~yo GET A LIFE!!!!
Ray / November 8, 2012 at 12:27 am
Original Fake!
Randy / November 19, 2012 at 11:04 pm
This city needs a fresh store like this, the moment I walked in I saw 6 things I wanted to buy. I walked away with a great coat and will be back for the rest. Love that couch!
yourDaz / December 23, 2012 at 03:54 pm
Toronto needs more male boutiques like this, but really $4000 that's a ridiculous price point. I realize it's Yorkville, but com'on!! If these guys want to stick around they better come down.

Go next door to Serpentine.
mans game / January 3, 2013 at 11:14 am
Nice couch and ceiling zig zag lights but nothing special clothing wise here. Nothing a real man would buy in here with the exception of maybe possibly BKC.
Swaggy / January 3, 2013 at 11:40 am
I give Contraband 4 months till their nest egg rent runs out and another 2-3 months till the landlord locks them out. Who thinks they will still be there past June 2013?!
Eric / January 3, 2013 at 01:19 pm
I've waked into many of the previous stores mentioned and not even received a Hello or any sort of acknowledgement. Why is that? Because these places are supposed to be the COOLEST stores with the COOLEST ppl working at them?! All I get is BAD service with even worst attitudes. I walked into Contraband the other day and the guys in there were super nice and down to earth. They gave me the whole deal of what's to come in the new year at the store. These other COOL places need to start taking notes because these guys are for REAL.

@Swaggy you should use that same time frame and move out of your parents basement!
Austin Riley replying to a comment from Swaggy / January 3, 2013 at 01:59 pm
You know, some of these negative comments are hilarious. But to wish someone who's just opened their doors and following their dreams ill will and hope they close is really sad. Toronto, a city full of hateful nobodies.
Swaggy replying to a comment from Eric / January 3, 2013 at 02:26 pm
What makes you think I live in a basement? Not to reveal too much but by the look of Contraband, it looks like they're the ones in the basement... Zing!
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Satanic / November 17, 2014 at 11:38 pm
I love these! Toronto is awesome. They have some awesome occult clothing

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