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Fashion Stores

Shopgirls Gallery Boutique

Posted by Briony / Posted on June 26, 2009

ShopGirls TorontoI've always liked the concept behind Parkdale store Shopgirls. Owner Michelle Germain was working for Holt Renfrew and The Bay when she started expressing her secret indie side by hosting arts and crafts shows, selling clothing, jewelry, and accessories. And at each one, people came up to her and asked, "Where's your store located?"

Eventually, she opened up Shopgirls, selling all Canadian designers, everything handmade, and art and housewares as well, according to store manager Ashley Winnington-Ball. The store also has a unique structure with a variety of deals for artists, from a flat consignment fee to membership in the Artist's Circle, which offers more promotion and a higher cut for a monthly fee. Visual artists can even rent wall space.


It was the results I wasn't wild about - while I often enjoyed the art and accessories in-store, I didn't like the clothing, which included plenty of AMAW-wear: duds that belonged on Artsy Middle-Aged Women types, with plenty of hippie-like deconstructed items, Susan Harris pieces, and "creative" clothes crafted from recycled pantyhose, teatowels, ties and the like.

ShopGirls Queen

Yet on my more recent visit to the shop, I found that some of the new brands brought in - and the summer selection - made a clothes-shopping visit to Shopgirls a must.

There were silver lame tops with dolman sleeves from Waterloo's Eve Farber ($189) and structured black frocks by Eve Gravel of Montreal ($150), although that sense of playfulness was still there, from the cute summer dresses crafted out of dead-stock vintage fabric by Toronto's My Mom Made That ($140-$160) and the bright-red shirt-dress from Maudlin & Joy ($160) out of BC.

ShopGirls Parkdale

I'm still pleased with the accessories, too, including Julia Moon's poppy pins ($20-$40), Danielle Zippan's laser-cute silver jewelry in cute shapes like hummingbirds and elephants ($25-$80), and LaKrause feathered headpieces ($35-$200).

There were even a few pieces that wouldn't be out of place in a higher-end shop, like Maudlin & Joy's navy cinched-waist jumpsuit ($230) and the various draped jersey dresses by Kania that could almost hold their own with Denis Gagnon's twisty creations of late ($230).

A lot of the AMAW sensibility remains in the form of teatowel skirts, Zyzanium tunics, and the usual screenprinted stuff, but there's a lot more to shop for at this Shopgirls.

ShopGirls Queen West



WOW / June 28, 2009 at 11:50 am
It really gets me when COOL shops open and are WAY OVER PRICED.
Goods / June 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm
Great to see Tennille's paintings on display :)
elise / July 8, 2009 at 10:51 pm
I agree with WOW. Overpriced crap! Minus the cool. So pretentious in there. Absolutely hated the atmosphere.
Ashley from Shopgirls / July 27, 2009 at 04:43 pm
Pretentious? OUCH! We're so sorry you had a negative experience at our shop, and we'd be happy to have you back to make a second impression. Please let us!

As for our prices, Shopgirls represents only Canadian artists and designers, and everything we carry is actually made here in Canada. That means that clothing designers, for instance, don't have the dubious benefit of large-scale off-shore production; the people here in Canada who are hired to make these items are paid fair wages and the clothing lines that we carry are all small-run, so those costs are reflected in the retail prices of our stock.

Shopgirls has a wonderful and loyal customer base who find that our prices - from small items at $8, to great tops at $60 to a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture for $1200 - are fair and reasonable. They are supporting local artists and our growing independant business, and we appreciate them dearly for this.
cutekilla / August 6, 2009 at 04:20 pm
I LOVE Shopgirls and have bought many amazing and unique items of clothing and jewelery from the store, each worth every penny!
Just replying to a comment from Ashley from Shopgirls / September 12, 2009 at 12:39 pm
You should probably take the feedback and make the necessary adjustments to your concept. Your reply to Elise feels like a lecture to the rest of us.
Loveforclothes / October 13, 2009 at 08:16 pm
If you don't have anything good to say, say nothing. Let people do what they love and believe in. Shopgirls is a beautiful and creative store that inspires and nurtures artists and designers from this beautiful country.
I imagine the owners spent months upon months deciding what to place in their space and at what price range. Adjusting to a few naysayers would be a silly idea, when they have so many great ideas of their own!
Lisa Rivers / June 27, 2010 at 08:58 pm
I HEART TENNILLE!!!! Talk about supporting a local artist, if you are reading this Ten, I love you and your work, hope to see you this summer and peruse the fancy colours of ShopGirls!!!
Carol Hoffman / March 12, 2011 at 08:20 pm
I'd like to purchase Second Yoga Jeans Mid-Rise in Black or Charcoal Size 31. Could you send me a promotion code? Thanks, Carol
W.E. replying to a comment from Just / November 23, 2011 at 09:01 pm
Please don't speak on my behalf! I would hardly call that a lecture...sadly, few Canadians support Canadian designers or artists until they make a name elsewhere then all of a sudden it's not 'overpriced crap' that sounds pretentious to me.
Sara Amrhein / March 3, 2012 at 10:38 am
Your shop looks absolutely beautiful! I've never been to Canada but when I do visit one day I will definitely be stopping in! I live in Italy and am currently in the (dreaming stage) process of opening a boutique of my own. I love your concept and the idea of supporting local artists and designers, this is exactly what I hope to do here in Florence. I am one of the designers myself and it really is so hard for us indies to compete with the mass marketing of low-priced low-quality goods when we work so hard to make everything with our own two hands and handle every detail of the business by ourselves!! We are so very thankful that there are shop owners like you who support our hard work and dreams!
Carly / March 5, 2012 at 08:13 pm
I had a REALLY POSITIVE experience in the store today - my first visit.
Not only did I see lots of beautiful designs but I also felt really cared for and respected by the staff. As a new mom I needed a few essential pieces that would fit my post-baby shape and be useful for when I return to work. After looking around a lot online and around town with out much success I was so delighted to discover so many great pieces at Shopgirls. The owner has great taste.

The staff even helped me with my baby while I tried things on - talk about customer service! Instead of feeling frumpy and frazzled (as I can quite often feel in some Queen Street boutiques) they helped me feel funky and fashionable. A positive experience all around.

I can understand some comments about the prices being high but it does make sense given that these are all made in Canada and the price of clothing has been driven down (along with our expectations) because of sweatshops and such. In an ideal world I renew my whole wardrobe there but instead I got a couple of investment pieces I know I'll wear all the time. I'll be sure to save up for my next visit and maybe this time get a babysitter!
Amanda / August 24, 2012 at 09:06 pm
As an artist, it only fuels my struggle when I read about people's opinions about locally made art being overpriced. It goes to show you how calibrated our wallets are to the typical mass produced product that is 'made in India' (or elsewhere). While a starving family ships their 8 year old child out for a
14 hour day whilst making a measly $3/shift wage, you still choose to support the exploitation of the situation by continuing to buy overseas.
I, too, shop at Walmart, Dollarama, etc. or anywhere else that probably sells cheaply made and labored product; it's impossible not to at this point. Once you see the difference (the ethical difference, if none other) you can't deny that you are supporting a better life for everyone. Shop local when you can, it's about humanity. It really is that simple.
Cecile replying to a comment from elise / January 16, 2013 at 05:27 pm
I absolutely agree with Elise. I went in there for the first time and felt so uncomfortable. EVERYTHING was way overpriced and for the few items that seemed reasonable like small pieces of jewellery, it looked like total "bargain basement" stuff that someone had glued together. Very cheaply made.
It reminded me of an "artist" that I knew who would quickly piece something together and which cost them $3 or $4 to make and then would tell us, "I'll just sell this for $60. Someone will buy it!" There was no rhyme or reason how they arrived at that price.
That's what it's like in here.
Alex / April 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm
I was in the shop today for my first visit. I am shocked to read some of the negative comments above. I found the staff extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the items they carry. If anything I found the prices quite reasonable given that the clothes, etc are all designed and made in Canada. In addition I found that most of the clothes (not all were my taste as is life) were stylish and not "mom clothes" by any means. I will definitely return. I am grateful to shops like this for giving us choice.
Sandra Booth / July 1, 2014 at 11:19 am
My problem is that what I purchased off the website was made in China! I was allowed to exchange it as a one time exception (it was a sales item) and told I should email them to find out if products are actually made in Canada before ordering! I was also lectured at the check-out that foreign economies deserve support too! Basically I was told I was being provincial by insisting on returning something that I had every reason to believe was made in Canada. I couldn't even argue intelligently about their hypocrisy at the check-out I was so taken aback.

I'm totally fine with a mixed inventory, but the lack of transparency on their website is appalling and I certainly shouldn't have to justify my decision to buy Canadian at a business that markets to that audience.

I won't be returning.

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