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Life of Manek

Life of Manek sprouted up in Dundas West just over two weeks ago, and from the floor-length floral dress in the front window to the candy-coloured vintage sandals, I know I'm in for something special.

Owner Nicole Manek doesn't disappoint, and truthfully, this 10-year-veteran of the fashion industry and host of an upcoming makeover show even exceeds my expectations. The style is eclectic, elegant and whimsical, with accent touches of Manek's Eastern European background.

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The store's design is spacious and chicly white, with one notable exception: upon entry, you'll notice the immense plastic fish that almost seems at odds with the store's atmosphere. "In the '70s," Manek tells me, "it was the big thing to go to Florida and go deep-sea fishing. My Dad caught it there, and while they can't give you the fish, they take a photo and create a replica." It hung in their house for years, until Manek rescued it from the basement. Now it holds vigil over a beautiful display of designer vintage and bright scarves.

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During our chat, we're interrupted by cries of delight from shoppers. As the only buyer, Manek's personal taste rules supreme, and it's a cheerful blend of decades, patterns, and bursts of bling--the stores pairs the excitement rifling through a particularly stylish aunt's closet and the thrill of the find, with high-end merchandise more often found in Yorkville .

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A meticulously curated selection of vintage clothes from all across North America mingles beautifully with high-end designer gear from the likes of J-Brand (denim in delectable pastel hues) and G-Lish (intricately beaded and sequined party dresses from a former designer for Escada and Valentino, around $350-$400).

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As a stylist and costume designer, Manek brings stock from shows and photoshoots that she's worked on previously as well as an uncanny ability to predict what will suit a shape. She points to shoppers and advises on styles and colors with natural ease.

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Manek also carries Danish denim designer SkarGorn (around $120) and you'll find the bold prints of Australian swimwear line We Are Handsome ($260 for a one-piece, string bikinis for $206), with more styles expected to arrive in the summer.

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Her enviable stock of brand-name, never-been-worn vintage sunglasses includes Versace and Dior ($220-$260). Vintage shoes are $55-$65, gently used Jimmy Choos and Prada pumps come in under $200, while the fabulous selection of vintage hats ($45-$165) are aching to be worn to a old-timey Derby event.

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Manek is also the exclusive retailer of MCMC perfumes ($45 for perfume oil), which is thus far the store's only foray into beauty, but the array of scents--from Kept's tangy mix of rose, leather and clove to Hunter's masculine blend of balsam, vanilla and tobacco--will suit a wide range of men and women.

Jewellery offerings include New York's Jaclyn Mayer , who dips rope in gold and resin. Manek's conservative first buy from the line has flown off the shelves, with gold-plated bracelets ringing it at a reasonable $98.

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The store's priciest item is a Chanel bag for $1800, but the vintage non-label purses and dresses come in around $45 and you can pick up a party dress fresh from L.A. for between $200-$300. She's also planning a wall of vintage records, a selection of men's vintage, and some children's vintage as well. What might that look like? "Pink leather vests," Manek replies, eyes lighting up.

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There's not much mystery behind the store's name, but she was (unsurprisingly) teased mercilessly as a child--"Manic Monday, manic panic, manic this, manic that"--and she wanted to at long last own her name. The neighbourhood response has been wonderful, Manek tells me. "The women who shop and live here are amazing--from young girls to new moms with their strollers."

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As for her overarching vision for the store: "I wanted to design the ultimate store that I would want to shop in." As it turns out, she's created a store in which many women would happily while away an afternoon.

Life of Manek

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