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Fashion Stores

Pretty Freedom

Posted by Dayna Winter / Posted on October 18, 2010

Pretty FreedomPretty Freedom was born in the typical fashion of start-up businesses, as the brainchild (conceived over too many drinks) of two friends exhausted by corporate work life. American Apparel expats Helena Brown and Jodee Aguillon solidified their partnership after a hectic store-opening blitz for their former employer. "We realized that we were working hard, but for other people," Jodee explains.

Pretty FreedomPretty Freedom, or "Ilus Malaya", was named for the owners' favourite words in their native languages (Estonian and Tagalog). In many other ways, the 5-month-old vintage store is a reflection of its creators. "Would you wear this?" is their buying criteria, and every piece that finds a home in the shop is something you would probably see in their own closets.

Pretty FreedomIngrained corporate merchandising standards are hard to shake. The pair admits that they find themselves falling back on their AA doctrine, but I can't tell. The space feels like the attic you hoped your grandmother would have, full of secrets and memories and dress-up trunks. This is found-object heaven.

Pretty FreedomCurbside finds are transformed and given new life as clever shelving and lighting solutions. I ask about the vintage typewriters. I am told that they are props and "not for sale" but after a hesitation, Helena admits to a "hoarding problem". I am skeptical. Would hoarders really organize pleated skirts by colour and men's shirts by fabric type?

Pretty FreedomEvenly spaced hangers hold a curated collection of mostly mint-condition pre-worn and vintage apparel. A wardrobe worthy of Joan Holloway includes dresses that manage to be simultaneously sexy and work-appropriate, while practical milk-chocolate Celine loafers are befitting of a demure Peggy Olson. I momentarily miss having an office job.

Pretty FreedomMen's plaid flannel shirts, real fur hats, Mr. Rogers-style cardigans, and slouchy boots are reminders that fall is truly here. While I poke and covet seasonal goodies, a recent New Zealand transplant contemplates a pair of vintage leather gloves in preparation for her first Canadian deep-freeze. Yup, they've got you covered for winter, too.

Pretty FreedomIn addition to vintage duds, Pretty Freedom also stocks handmade jewellery and accessories. The collections compliment the vintage aesthetic, rather than feel like afterthoughts. Romantic necklaces by Vancouver's It's Your Life, and vibrant feathery fascinators invoke times past. The recycled spirit extends beyond store props, too. A Pretty Freedom intern fashions earrings out of vintage buttons and gives souvenir spoons a new purpose as pendants and rings. While Jodee tells me that he doesn't personally craft any of the pieces, he does make a "pretty mean roast beef".

Pretty FreedomThe Kensington shop, part of the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture, is unfortunately easy to miss. Unlike its neighbours, Pretty Freedom has an understated exterior that may not beckon, but becomes a delightful discovery on a lazy Pedestrian-Sunday stroll.

Pretty FreedomWriting by Dayna Winter. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.



HUK / October 18, 2010 at 11:46 am
I don't know why people spend all kinds of money on rent when they could just have a garage sale.

Zoom / October 18, 2010 at 01:09 pm
How about prices?
handfed / October 18, 2010 at 02:12 pm
Those shoes look pretty gnarly on the outside, but I wonder if they have some nice fungus on the inside?
Whisper / October 18, 2010 at 02:21 pm
Fabulous finds at Pretty Freedom. A gem in the midst of chaotic Kensington!
INHALANTS replying to a comment from handfed / October 18, 2010 at 02:59 pm
Those shoes aren't for wearing they're for huffing, dawg.
MP / October 18, 2010 at 03:26 pm
Way to go, Eesti tudruk! :)

I'll most definitely stop by next time I'm in the area on lunch or to get a haircut. Huzzah!
Ktown / October 18, 2010 at 06:39 pm
bob / October 18, 2010 at 08:23 pm
'"We realized that we were working hard, but for other people," Jodee explains. '

Wow, is this really coming from former AA employees?
cynical guy / October 19, 2010 at 01:23 pm
pretty lame.
brian wilson / October 19, 2010 at 06:10 pm
good work helena and jodee
you guys deserve the best after working for a shit company ;)
Zoe Mills / October 19, 2010 at 07:55 pm
Whoever made that lame comment about fungus shoes: it's not the shoes that's lame-it's you!!! :)
Zoe Mills / October 19, 2010 at 07:56 pm
Love Pretty Freedom. Awesome store.
vintage shopper from france / October 20, 2010 at 06:11 am
cleanest vintage shop in toronto! great finds, affordable prices and excellent service... can't wait to go back
WALTER / October 20, 2010 at 11:03 am
AFter all the years I have lived in Toronto, this is the first vintage store where I like every item !!!! Great Job you two.
Brooke / July 19, 2011 at 03:23 pm
how are the prices? im broke..
leonora / June 12, 2012 at 08:00 pm
My favourite vintage store in Toronto yet. The prices are legit (anywhere from 23 bucks for a one-of-a-kind shirt, to 35 for a stylin' denim jacket). The best prices I've come across, for what I'm getting. I've only gotten compliments on everything I've bought from this store. It's very organized, too! PLUS to top it all off, they update their store every Tuesday (meaning, unique fabulous and trendy items are added to the store every week!). Love it!
Jarvis Emerald replying to a comment from Whisper / January 15, 2013 at 10:39 am
Going to check this shop out today. Thanks for the write-up. I believe it's going to be a GEM, from what I've heard.

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