treasure chest toronto
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Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest is a brand-new vintage store tucked inside a very, very old space. The wainscotted and leopard-carpeted little cubbyhole of a shop, located on the ground floor of the the Windsor Arms Hotel (est. 1927), is currently home to several dozen glittering, exquisite pieces of handpicked vintage clothing. Before then, as owner Samantha Michelle tells it, it was a Laduree-style tea shop, then a barbershop, then a series of hotel-lobby bars.

This fall, Michelle says, she and the owner of the hotel were chatting about what to do with the space. "When the owner and I came up with the idea, I was on a plane eight hours later," she says. "I very much believe that if you don't do things immediately they never will."

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That flight was destined for London, Michelle's on-again, off-again home, where she scoured all of her old secondhand haunts, and packed her suitcases full of refined vintage pieces now available for sale in the shop. The store's current stock is the fruit of three separate trips to the U.K. - she'll be heading back soon, with a view to boosting the store's small menswear collection.

treasure chest toronto

Michelle knew she wanted the shop to have a carefully-chosen aesthetic - one that matches the luxurious feel of the hotel. "I don't like things that lack a sort of artistic stamp, for lack of a better term," she says. "There's so many vintage stores you go into that are kind of 'We have everything for everyone'. On one rack, there's a Bill Blass gown, and on another there's Levi's jeans that have been cut into (shorts). Which is fine - and I shop at places like that. But I quite like the idea of an experience that's curated."

treasure chest toronto

What's that aesthetic like? For Michelle, in three words, it's 'Victorian pirate ship': "This sort of grand, big thing with dark wood and elegant ladies, strolling the decks in formalwear, with little gloves and tiny little clutches, like everything dandy. And then, beneath, in like a little rucksack of a boat, there are these dirty pirates in headscarves and beads, sneaking on board to find this supposed treasure chest."

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Basically, it's highbrow and elegant - with doses of adventurousness and seduction. For Michelle, that's best exemplified in a vintage coat from her collection that's made of plush camel-coloured wool - with a leopard-print collar and cuffs. Another favourite is a cocoon-shaped coat made of black ribbed fabric: "You will feel like Maleficent," she says. "I like to wear it with long black gloves and feel like a witchy goddess."

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Marquee pieces like these coats sell for several hundred dollars, as do the store's many, many densely-beaded dresses and tops (after all, this is Yorkville). But if a steal's what you're after, their selection of smaller baubles is likely to deliver: The selection of vintage handbags starts at just $100, and sunglasses are $80.

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So far, Michelle says, the shop attracts plenty of hotel guests, as well as local vintage hounds looking to check out the new space. Whoever stops by is more than welcome to plunk themselves down on the richly-upholstered sofas between leisurely browsings, enjoy a cookie or a sampling of Johnnie Walker Black (Michelle's favourite - very pirate-appropriate).

treasure chest toronto

"It's the kind of place where you can come in the middle of winter and throw down your bags and take off your coat, and know no one's going to take your handbag, and really look around and feel comfortable." I'll drink to that.

treasure chest toronto

Photos by Jesse Milns.


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