Virginia Johnson has opened a new retail boutique in a bright and airy space on College near Ossington. The Canadian textile designer has shown off her unique prints down on Ossington for the past ten years or so, moving northward when building changes dictated a shift.
The current space — outfitted with a huge front window and cool white walls — allows for a little more room for customers to explore her shawls, bags, and books. The shawls are positioned off two tiers of suspended bamboo stalks, while the clothing hangs from painted pipe racks. It's very breezy, very relaxed — very Virginia Johnson.
I don't meet the woman behind the name when I stop by on a weekday morning (Virginia, I'm told, does a lot of her designing at her home studio), but I do meet April who works with Virginia and takes a few moments to tell me more about the move.
"I think she would've loved to stay on Ossington," April says, adding that Virginia spent about five years in one spot on Ossington, and another five just along the road. "But space there is really hard to find."
"We've had customers follow us up here," she adds. "And lots of new people poking their heads in to see what we have in store."
The shop is currently hosting a 30% off summer sale, wherein most items in store have been marked down. And while the inventory on the floor might suggest that Virginia Johnson is somewhat of a meek operation, the brand has actually garnered worldwide attention, carried in over 100 stores across the globe.
While Johnson, herself, is Canadian, much of her professional studies took place south of the border, specifically in New York at Parsons School of Design (Project Runway, anyone?). She went on to work for Helmut Lang before launching this business back in 2001. Her designs start with watercolours, which are silkscreened onto fabrics in small batches in India and Toronto.
Virginia Johnson is perhaps best known for her shawls, so I start by examining some of the styles in stock, including a lively lobster-print in jade and a cocoa camel print on creme, both made of merino wool and marked down from $195 to $136.50. The clothing sports prints, as well, mostly on cotton voile, in forms including beach-bound sleeveless ruffle dresses ($295 orig., now $206.50) and full-length pocketed caftans ($295 orig., now $206.50).
My personal preference for print has always been in accessories, however, so I'm naturally drawn to the oversized canvas totes in seashell print and priced at $98. (And for a smaller version, there are the mini cosmetic bags for $31.50).
April says the stock will change with the seasons, but that College Street locals (and nomads from Ossington) can expect plenty of nature-inspired prints, all designed in Canada.
Photos by Morris Lum