10 places in Toronto to find clothes by Canadian designers
Finding places in Toronto that sell Canadian-designed clothes can be a horribly difficult task. Sure, there's the one-off shops owned by the Mimran Collective (Joe Fresh, Pink Tartan) and the odd pop-up operation that's so successful it lingers around longer than planned (Philip Sparks), but it's increasingly rare to see stores stock a group of Canadian designers — and that's me generously using the term "group" to mean more than two.
This past year saw Magnolia and UPC, two local boutiques that favoured Canadian designers, close their doors. Juan Carlos Gaona, former owner of Magnolia, told me that the public isn't educated enough about the merits of Canadian design (merits that don't include stuffing the spoils of dead geese into jackets).
The best way to see how far Canadian fashion has come is to, well, see it. I recommend visiting, physically or virtually, one of the stores below to check out/handle/for the love of God BUY some homegrown styles:
Located in swanky Yorkville, Eleven carries all-Canadian stock. They do skew a little on the older side, so this is where I plan to shop a decade from now — or if I ever have to work in an office. But I do confess to coveting their accessories, which are luxurious and plentiful just the way accessories should be. Eleven's stocklist includes LundstrÃ¶m, Joeffer Caoc, David Dixon, Basch, Shay Lowe, Carla Wax, and Rita Tesolin.
Ukamaku is an online shop for emerging and small-scale Canadian brands. Their designers have a lot of creative clout (a small part of me is resurrected every time I get to spell "clout" properly), and are known for staging some of the best shows at FAT (Alternative Arts & Fashion Week). Brands include Caitlin Power, Breeyn McCarney, Andy Hall, Rachel Sin, Nella Bella, Emily Woudenberg, OR by Angela Chen, Heidi Ackerman, Worth. by David C. Wigley, and oh-so-many more.
This store is Twisted Sister meets Paris Hilton with a few good Canadian designers on its roster. Located almost in Parkdale, but not quite, the clothes here are trendy and for those with healthy wallets. Labels include Cara Cheung, Greta Constantine, and Bustle.
Holt Renfrew (Bloor Street)
Canada's answer to Saks stocks less of its own than you'd think, but when they do, it's pretty good. Labels include Greta Constantine, Jeremy Laing, Juma, Mackage, and DSquared2. One of the best bets for finding Canadian fashion is the "World Design Lab" on the second floor (why our domestic designs live in a section named after the rest of the world, I'll never know). They stopped carrying Denis Gagnon and I'll never really forgive them. The salesclerk I spoke to said he wasn't "wearable" enough. Whatever.
Another all-Canadian shop, Homegrown Boutique boasts a maple leaf in its very logo and has a cozy Cumberland St. location in Yorkville. Current brands include Rachel Sin, Caitlin Power, Sarah Stevenson, Zoran Dobric, and Christopher Bates. Future brands include Anu Raina, Melissa Nepton... and Denis Gagnon!
A lot more expensive than its soupy counterpart, Pho Pa offers young Canadian designers the chance to sell and receive feedback on their products. Most of their brands can only supply the store with small quantities at a time, so if I see something I like, I'm going home with it right away. Labels include Dagg & Stacey, Maison, Illyria Design, Juma, Rachel Sin, and Snoflake.
This is where I shop for a boyfriend if I really like him (or accidentally dent his favourite piece of wall art). Their shop carries everything from casual to business wear in a range of price points, and they throw really fun parties full of oysters and booze a few times a year for preferred customers. Brands include Bustle, Moose Knuckles, Christopher Bates, Lipson, Naked Underwear, and Dion Neckwear.
TNT Hazelton Lanes
This spacious shop caters to both men and women and isn't going anywhere-- they just celebrated their 20th anniversary last May. Labels on their stocklist include Smythe, Greta Constantine, Modern Vintage, Obakki, Line Knitwear, and Wings + Horns.
Danier is a successful Canadian brand that's now supporting and collaborating with other Canadian brands, and the results are hotter than leather pants in July. They boast collections by George Antonopoulos, Mark Fast, Raphael Mazzucco, and Greta Constantine. There's also a great jacket by John Hillifer, winner of the 2011 Danier Design Challenge for third year design students at the Ryerson School of Fashion.
The Peacock Parade
This exclusive online boutique sells designer goods at up to 80% off retail prices. They're also based in Toronto and make a point of supporting Canadian talent; I've seen deals on everything from Foxy Originals, to Pink Tartan and Line Knitwear on here. Last Toronto Fashion Week, they teamed up with Juma and Denis Gagnon to sell select pieces from their S/S 2012 collections almost right off the runway.
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