Vancouver’s Best New Clothing Stores
July 6, 2011
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Originally a Victoria-based boutique, Charlie & Lee (223 Union St., 604-558-3030. Charlieandlee.com) recently traded the quiet island life for an off-the-beaten-path Chinatown location. The fashion-savvy West Coast natives behind the shop love up-and-coming independent labels and bring us their favourite international lines, including Seneca Rising, Gar-de, and The Reformation (we love their Beirut tie-dye dress, $265). Also on shelves are Rebecca Minkoff bags (the MAB backpack is especially on trend this summer, $398), jewellery by local line The Woodland, and an apothecary stand stocked with Malin+Goetz goods. Fellas, don't despair—while it's mostly womenswear, head straight to the back to find "the studio," a room dedicated to quirky but classic menswear lines like Suit DK, Iro, and Them Atelier. The shop will also book after-hours private shopping parties for you and your friends, champagne included.
In a fit frame of mind? Stop in at the new Kitsilano flagship store for New Zealand's Icebreaker (2089 W. Fourth Ave., 778-329-2710. Icebreaker.com) activewear label. Here, the high-end travel gear company crafts its cult products out of 100 percent merino wool, which looks cooler (and, to be plain, smells better) than synthetics. Check out their complete collection of breathable base layers and sleek outerwear (perfect for the autumn days ahead).
Best for Basics
James Perse (2717 Granville St., 604-736-4766. Jamesperse.com), the king of casual cool, popped up in South Granville for a limited run just before the Olympics, stocking an array of womens- and menswear, bedding, and 2010-themed merch. To the delight of comfort-crazy Vancouverites, the shop was granted a post-Games stay of execution. Minimalist designs in all shades of monochrome grace the racks of a suitably stark boutique, where the L.A. designer's trademark luxurious cotton basics reign supreme. Elevate your weekend uniform from the usual yoga gear to James Perse's self-declared "low maintenance, high fashion" aesthetic. We have a soft spot for the label's Japan Relief T-shirt ($69, with proceeds going to Japan), but the Cami Short Dress in solid black or striped grey ($149) also caught our eye for easy-breezy backyard summer wear.
Temple to Luxury
Walking through the notorious Louis Vuitton Maison (730 Burrard St., 604-696-9404. Louisvuitton.com) is like being in a high-fashion honeycomb. (People are still talking about the extravagant opening party last December.) Gold lighting drips down the buttery wood and cream walls and reflects off the "bag bar" that showcases monogrammed accessories on geometric blocks reaching the two-storey ceiling. This is the first maison in Canada, which means it's the only place to find the complete line of LV goods. The light cream and blue canvas Damier Azur Evora MM bag is spacious enough to carry all beachy necessities but refined enough to take to lunch. Get the fringed silk cashmere Alize stole to match.
At the sleek Michael Kors (701 W. Georgia St., Pacific Centre, 604-630-2323. Michaelkors.com) lifestyle outpost, brightly coloured bags and exquisite watches in rose gold (yes, it's cool again) pop against the stark-white walls and display cases. This summer's sandal is the Juniper Espadrille ($188); try it in summery white and gold. For a bag that's both utilitarian and luxurious, check out the Joan Bag ($350), a satchel that was designed for and named after the designer's mother. The Hamilton Tote ($395), given away to audience members during Oprah's last month on air, is also now in store.
Boy Next Door
Saager DiLawri studied at Parson's and worked for many years at UNIS (a contemporary men's label that evokes classic American sportswear) before opening swish Neighbour (125-12 Water St., 604-558-2555. Shopneighbour.com), which stocks labels like Our Legacy from Sweden and Outlier from NYC, as well as an inhouse line of rugby crewneck sweatshirts made by Portland's Columbiaknit. DiLawri has also brought in a few clever gifts and accessory items, like art and visual culture books from DAP publishers and Drifter sport and travel bags made with parachute material.
Gastown boutique Oak + Fort (32 Water St. Oakandfort.com) opened quietly this past winter amidst the madness of Boxing Day sales. Edmonton-based owner Min Kang made the transition from online retailer in order to bring her personal aesthetic to a Vancouver market; the pared-down space shows off the clean lines and soft, wearable fabrics that characterize the eponymous line (a collaboration between local and Korean designers who oversee production in Korea). Also on display are funky necklaces, earrings, and leather accessories, many designed in house. Oak + Fort offers affordable basics like the Oval Tunic ($88)-an exaggerated oval silhouette with side-seam pockets-without sacrificing luxury or design innovation.
The city's stylish gents breathed a collective sigh of relief when Gastown favourite Roden Gray (8 Water St., 604-689-7302. Rodengray.com) reopened in new Water Street digs months after shuttering the original Cambie Street store. The concept menswear boutique caters to the neighbourhood's design-minded men with avant-garde offerings and an in-house personal shopper. Reclaimed Douglas fir logs and Omer Arbel lighting showcase menswear lines like Comme des Garçons, Rag & Bone, and nonnative. Local label Wings & Horn enjoys a place of pride on the racks; we love their short-sleeved cotton/linen blend Selvedge Shirt, with its simple stripes and careful tailoring ($210). It hardly seems fair to the boys, but they've recently started carrying a selection of lines (like T by Alexander Wang and Acne) for the fairer sex.