Lady Mosquito is packed with cheery embroidered totes, sculptural felt brooches and dyed palm seed necklaces. The itty-bitty West Queen West spot peddles vibrant South American-made bags and accessories, reflecting the owner's love of design and pride for her heritage.
Two years ago, Cynthia Villegas began importing handcrafted accessories from her native Peru. She started small, working with only a single designer and selling the items on consignment. Her collection grew and she graduated first to a dedicated space in The Purple Thumb, and then to a shop of her own. Today, she supports over ten Peruvian artists, and her standalone retail storefront will soon be celebrating its first anniversary.
Cynthia and I chat remotely while she is off on another buying trip in Peru. "I try to find people who are doing something creative and original, things that I haven't seen in Toronto before," she tells me, "Stuff that makes people happy to look at and touch." Touching is luckily encouraged. In the shop, the Vacide Erda starburst brooches beckon me. My fingers are lured by the juxtaposition of hard foreboding points cut from super-soft felt. These woolen sea creatures, I learn, were a recent feature in Italian Vogue.
The quality and uniqueness of the collection attract patrons seeking one-of-a-kind statement pieces and thoughtful gifts. But Lady Mosquito is beautiful on the inside, too. "I buy directly from the designers, who work at small workshops, mostly at home," Cynthia emphasizes, "Nothing is mass-produced, made in factories or by third parties." Quality craftsmanship and sustainable materials are common threads throughout the collection. Even the starburst brooches are crafted from felt remnants leftover from a hat factory. This is feel-good shopping!
Lucie, Cynthia's friend and stand-in, whisks me through the shop on my visit. She channels the owner's excitement for the pieces, and we are both won over by the same Susan Wagner messenger bag. Sure, Lady Mosquito is a one-woman operation, but it's clear that she's had amazing support along the way. "I don't have a partner, but it would be impossible to do anything without the help of great friends and family."
Near the door, sale merchandise makes way for the new. On her route back to Toronto, Cynthia's luggage is sure to be home to a few carefully selected hitchhiking handicrafts.
Writing by Dayna Winter. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.