Mint Boutique opened up almost two months ago in a somewhat dicey part of Distillery District--no, the notoriously swank neighbourhood isn't home to roving gangs, but it will soon be home to a new condo, and Mint is squirreled away down a narrow side street lined with scaffolding and construction workers.
Inside, it's a different world. The small, intimate boutique is immediately relaxing, and owner Lisa Anderson is quick to offer me a mint. Her background is primarily in academia (art and archeology), but she's always dabbled in retail, and her most recent post was as manager of the Gardiner Museum's retail shop.
"What you're going to find here are tried and true brands, in fits that are good for all body types, and a mix of funky, independent, and local, as well as some things that we have exclusive rights to." While you might not find strictured, formal gowns, you will find a selection of wearable pieces that transition well from work-day into evening.
The majority of the stock caters towards easy, comfortable clothing--Mint is the exclusive Toronto retailer of the Shoshanna line of figure-flattering, silk dresses (around $300). She also carries an array of well-made, upscale basics like Splendid T-shirts ($58), or unisex tees from Alternative (around $30).
"We were going after the demographic of the area," Anderson tells me. "We try to have something for everybody--price points run from $6 to $1300." To describe the vision of the shop, Anderson says, "Think of a scaled-back Anthropologie."
Anderson has no immediate plans to expand into footwear, but she does carry the T-Kees line of thong sandals--with colours inspired by modern make-up palettes. There's also a cubby devoted to children's items--from blankets, to impossibly soft stuffed animals ($12).
There's also an emphasis on ethical clothing: Roberta Roller Rabbit's collection of resort-inspired pieces are hand-printed in collaboration with communities in India (and the designer is focused on creating sustainable businesses in those areas).
Then, there's the houseware. Anderson clearly has an eye for subtle, but impactful designs, clean lines, and the odd piece of die-hard Canadiana. Especially striking are the lab-inspired oil and vinegar dispensers from NYCruets, which are hand-blown in Hungary and utterly modern, or Roost's lattice-like vases and vintage-inspired frames.
The brand that I instantly (and enduringly) covet is Mar Y Sol, a line of impossibly elegant and painterly clutches ($85) hand-made in Madagascar out of sustainable fibres.
Tucked away in a back corner is a display case filled with jewellery that's whimsically feminine, and ranges from the flat-out bling of Nicole Richie's House of Harlow, to New York's Katie Diamond, to Andrea Corson's beautifully intricate silver jewellery. You'll also find the super-durable and lightweight but still chic bags of MZ Wallace (beginning at $275), which combine Italian leather and Teflon-coated nylon.
The stock is on trend, but not necessarily trendy. Rather, it's populated by items that are meant to last, and staples that serve as humble canvasses for braver style statements.