Dundas West

After years of promise, is Dundas West finally Toronto's food and fashion hotspot?

Dundas West might not be a fashion destination just yet. But Toronto's most stylish (or those who yearn to be) might want to start familiarizing themselves with the streetcar schedule now. Yes, when it comes to quantity, diversity, and accessibility of some of the city's best independently owned boutiques, West Queen West still reigns as fashion king. But the slow-to-grow community of Dundas West has been encroaching on some of Queen's foot traffic as of late, helped by the influx of several new restaurants. And with the cessation (finally) of the road's repair to the streetcar tracks and sidewalks, Dundas West's fashion community might just have the opportunity to really make a statement.

First came the latest wave of clothing stores, which started to change the face of Dundas West about one year ago. There was Lost & Found, Woodlawn, Magwood and Dalston Grey, each of which came with impressively young owners at their helms. Then came the restaurants; The Federal Reserve, This End Up, and Midfield Wine Bar, which added themselves to a Dundas West hot list that already included places such as Brockton General and Enoteca Sociale.

Now, it seems, the relationship between the fashion stores and restaurants has grown to be mutually beneficial. The stores, say Magwood owner Sarah Magwood, helped to plant the seed for the changing Dundas West community. "The stores brought traffic to the area," she says in her now year-old shop. "Many of the restaurants came after." But now, the restaurants are paying it forward, particularly in the form of the young and brunch-hungry. "The Federal Reserve especially has really been bringing people into the area," Magwood says. "People who are waiting in line, or are walking home after brunch, will pass by my shop and take note that it's here."

The Dundas West fashion stores are also taking active approaches to getting the word out. Several took part in the recent Vintage Night Out event, which brought West Queen West and Parkdale vintage shoppers a little further north this year. "Obviously we didn't take part since we're not vintage," Woodlawn owner Ainaz Maleko tells me. "But it gave people a chance to see what else is being offered on Dundas. In any case, we are seeing a lot more foot traffic around here."

Access has undoubtedly improved with the streetcar back to reliable service, and Nicola, who I speak to at Dalston Grey, says owner Leah Gust is expecting much more foot traffic this summer as compared to last. With its burgeoning restaurant community flourishing and rents comparatively low, Dundas West is poised to receive more young fashion entrepreneurs looking to set up shop. It's not West Queen West yet, but I think I hear the thunder of vintage boots ready to take over Little Portugal.

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