The Black Box Boutique
The Black Box Boutique has been open for just two weeks in a second-floor space in Yorkville. Somewhat unassuming from the outside--with a banner hanging from a balcony, and a soon-to-come sandwich board in the works--the space itself is located up a slender staircase, and is quite petite.
This suits owner Lilla Balint just fine. She was initially considering moving into Liberty Village, but all the available spaces were too large, and boutique proportions were crucial to her plans for the store. "My vision was for it to feel like you're entering a jewel box," Balint tells me, and the self-designed space is a lush, white-washed space anchored by an exposed brick wall, recessed glass display cubbies, an immense bejeweled chandelier, and mirrors, mirrors everywhere.
Balint's background is primarily in fashion design, and she remembers always being fascinated by the production of accessories. She credits a stint as the marketing coordinator for a local bead wholesaler for her knowledge of the jewellery industry.
Balint does the buying herself, and aims to pinpoint each designers' strongest pieces, as well as those most representative of their design identities. The stock is divided between Canadian lines--including Balint's own work, as well as that of her friends--and high-end international collections, with the price point typically falling between $50 and $500.
Black Box Boutique carries Balint's own eponymous line ($46-$130), a playful collection of bracelets, rings necklaces. The current collection, dubbed "Blocked Out," sees Swarovksi crystals, metals and ultra-suede come together for a boldly colour-blocked line. The store's own aesthetic, ultimately Balant's own, comes through in her jewellery--a balanced mix of tough designs and jewel-crusted hearts, clean looks and show-stoppers.
There's Monserat De Luca's ($52-$142) L.A-based brass designs, including USB and hinged stacking rings, stethoscope necklaces, and unisex jewelry that takes the work out of flirting--boldly declaring "married," "single," "drunk," or "sober."
Balint is the exclusive Toronto retailer of Liel and Lentz ($80-$400), based out of Oakville, which combines local and exotic woods, with sterling and gold fill. They do their own etching, including a two-tier necklace with images of a bra and panties. You won't find Gypsy ($220-$500) elsewhere in Toronto either, whose ornate designs are handmade in Istanbul.
Vita Fede's global, timeless designs are an instant stand-out. Designed by L.A-born Cynthia Sakai out of Italy, the collection of rings, necklaces and stunningly architectural bracelets ($150-$525) echo her Asian heritage, and simple gold, silver, rose gold, and monochromatic tones come together in a collection that's at once tough and feminine.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend (allegedly), but those on display at Black Box remain within an affordable price point. I was particularly, and unexpectedly, delighted by French designer Vanessa Tugendhaft, who suspends .05 karat ($180) and 0.1 karat ($496) diamonds from simple, coloured threads, with the aim of making diamonds accessible to all.
For men, or those of us who like to dabble in their jewellery, you'll find the strong, geometric designs of Montreal's Charles P. Bahringer ($75-$200) using stainless steel. You'll also find the beautiful plastic tiered necklaces of Beijo Brasil ($48), bracelets from Montreal's Madge ($40-$50), the line that inspired Balint to open the store, Noir, and a back room devoted exclusively to watches from Toy Watch and Tokyo Bay ($100-$250).
The demographic, due in large part to her Yorkville address, has been slightly older than she expected--her vision was ages 20-35--but her goal is to develop relationships and build a solid customer base. Best of all, if you find yourself in Yorkville on a Saturday afternoon, you might be presented with a streetside mimosa courtesy of Balint meant to lure you upstairs. Go on, be lured.