Contributed by Robyn Urback
The name isn't the only thing that's extraordinary about Pho Pa. Though when I first walked into the store, I judged it to be just another funky West Queen West retailer. Owner Alexa Lewis showed me otherwise. Literally.
"See that shirt that girl is holding over there?" she said, pointing to a woman holding a sleeveless tank with black and beige horizontal stripes. "It looks pretty typical but when you put it on it looks incredible."
I looked closely at the top. From far away it seemed to be straight-cut, but upon closer inspection I noticed slight inward seeming around the middle. "It really accentuates your curves," Lewis said.
The idea seemed so simple. I was surprised I hadn't seen anything like it before. But that's what Pho Pa's all about; providing unique, truly one-of-a-kind clothing that you're certain not to find anywhere else.
That's because Pho Pa sells original pieces from small Canadian designers, along with merchandise from their house line. New designer pieces are always popping up in the store. Some designers source out the shop, and others are found among the undiscovered talent at Ryerson University's fourth year fashion show.
"I hear about new up-and-comers through the grapevine," Lewis said. "When you're in the industry, that grapevine is very informative."
The result is a collection of original pieces, many basic with distinctive twists. A great example is a grey tweed vest with a fringed corset tie back for $240. A fabulous mix of classic and edgy.
"I look for eccentric pieces," Lewis said. "Different in fabric and cut. Nothing plain. And well-made."
Eccentric is a silk printed tunic, stunning with bright blues and crisp browns and reds for $80. A strapless black dress with a sweetheart neckline, detailed with lace and buttons down the front ($89) is certainly not plain. And just about everything seems to have an atypical cut. Their mint green, bubble sleeve wrap shirt ($110) is only one example.
Just like the clothing and accessories, the people who shop at Pho Pa are individual and unique. "They've grown up at shopping malls or making their own clothes and are sick and tired of both," Lewis said. "They're frustrated. Not rich. Not blenders. They just want their clothing to show who they are."