Oak + Fort
Oak + Fort is a minimalist's dream. Crisp white walls and a spacious shop house neatly organized racks of beautiful fabrics and cuts, all unfussy and - surprisingly - all quite affordable. The brand has already made a name in Vancouver as the go-to spot for a wardrobe upgrade since launching in 2010, and many of Oak + Fort's fans have begun spreading the word to the Toronto market.
The store's first permanent Toronto location opened in April at Shops at Don Mills, with a pop-up shop down currently running at Queen and Tecumseth. If trekking up to Don Mills isn't in the cards for you, worry not; they are currently waiting for the right permanent home to be available downtown.
Despite its status as the new kid on the block, I'm surprised to find the store very busy soon after opening on a Sunday. With brands like Aritzia and Mendocino just around the corner, it could easily be overlooked. And quite frankly, Oak + Fort looks very premium, which could potentially deter more frugal shoppers. But the biggest shock factor, for me, are the prices; I was expecting it to be in the $200-plus range, but most of their items barely crack the $100 mark.
The temptation to turn this visit into a fully-fledged shopping spree is high. A gorgeous lightweight printed dress is $68, while a chevron-patterned cotton scarf is a mere $38 - and trust me, it looks so luxurious, they could easily get away with double. Need a pair of simple, well-cut pants? A very reasonable $88. How about a classic, slouchy trench? That will be $132, and one of the more expensive items in the store.
Because most of their stock is minimalist and classic, they're still investment pieces, but the kind that won't leave you feeling guilty and living off your organic quinoa cereal for days. That's very much at the heart of the brand: "No one should suffer to wear what they want to wear. That's our key philosophy," explains managing director Stephanie Or. "The easiest way to dress yourself is if you had a closet full of really good basics. You wouldn't have to think about it in the morning. Good basics, good price points."
Subtle design details make even the most conservative pieces just that little more special, such as an artfully placed fold here and a little pleat there. The materials used are durable yet luxurious. You could outfit your entire wardrobe from Oak + Fort, and would end up looking exquisitely timeless with a little bit of edge. It's a versatile formula that should gain them a Toronto following in no time.
Minimalist, clean and comfortable. I'll buy that for under $100.
Writing by Esther Rogers, photos by Jesse Milns.