6 under the radar fashion boutiques in Koreatown
Within the four-block radius of Koreatown lies a terribly adorable mini-Mecca for fashion girls. I'm aware that calling Korean style cute is a bit of a stereotype, and to be sure, many other adjectives could be applied to it as well. But to say it isn't cute would be a straight up lie. There are six shops that stand out above the rest along that stretch of Bloor St. W., and they carry sweet summer dresses, trendy statement pieces better than what they've got going on at Urban Outfitters, and unique items that you may not find anywhere else in the city. This list is tailored to the ladies, but dudes can get outfitted at Ted's Style Shoppe, too.
Here are six great places to shop in Koreatown.
House of Rinka
House of Rinka just might have the best selection of dresses in the city. This is one of those times I feel like I'm revealing a gem that I should leave hidden for those who are already dedicated. While you will find your standard mix of Put a Bird On It sundresses in here, there are lots of beautiful things I've never seen elsewhere in the city. I spot a pink pleated maxi dress ($65) with a sleeveless crème lace overlay, crop-length, that also exposes the shoulders. The dress looks like my grandmother's ancient curtains, only sexily repurposed, and not at all like a crazy lady's nightie. It is ideal in every way. I also spot a blue mini dress with orange birds on it (I know, I know) and a white Peter Pan collar for $35, and a white backless dress in lace for $69.
Far and away, this spot is my favourite. For the most part, the pieces are neatly divided into two groups. Many of the dresses and blouses feature girly details like polka dots and florals. On the other hand, you have pieces with a bigger sense of humour, like a plain heather-grey maxi dress in jersey with a giant moustache across the front ($39), or a pair of high-waisted denim booty shorts with little pictures of Bart Simpson all over them ($49). Other standout garments include paperbag trousers in navy and burnt rust ($49).
Just You Sarah & Tom
Along with sounding like a pretty hot threesome, Just You Sarah and Tom has some pretty bangin accessories. Hello Kitty reigns supreme in here, and while that look might be a bit juvenile for some, I absolutely adore the concept of a serious outfit punctuated by bedazzled Hello Kitty clip-ons ($8.95) or a clutch emblazoned with her buttoney little face ($32). Accessories like this work with more wild outfits, too, if you have the will and the desire to rock it.
If you're more of a floaty bohemian at heart, you should prrrrrobably make a stop in here. Everything is handmade in Nepal, and while there are plenty of stores of the same ilk in Kensington Market and elsewhere in the city, I have yet to stop into one in which every single item is perfect. There are long tie-dyed dresses for $19, airy silk skirts for $12, and an assortment of gorgeous, handcrafted buffalo leather bags that range from $35 to $45. Aside from all of that, they also sell elf slippers for a mere $13.
At Vivace, you will find a huge number of unexpectedly charming designs, from laptop-shaped backpacks with floral designs to rompers with Yorkies printed all over them. They've got practical, everyday items like bamboo t-shirts and leggings in neutral colours ($30), but their stock stretches to lovely, frilly dresses as well. Highlights include long tiered dresses in fuchsia, heather or black ($110) and lace figure skater dresses with detailed rose appliqués on the chest, available in black or crème ($62).
When I first started spending time in Toronto, I used to hunt through Chinatown for Louis Vuitton knockoffs. I was never able to find anything good, and it turns out that's because they were all hiding in Koreatown the whole time. There are Louis bags for a mere $9.99 to $35, a rack of Ralph Lauren and Lacoste polos for $29.99, and Burberry print headbands for $10. They also sell the perfect slouchy t-shirt for $24.
Photos by Denise McMullin
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