By Sharilyn Johnson
Jan 24, 2013
Ask Torontonians what’s so great about this city, and you’ll get a common answer: everything you could possibly want is available here. From the fancy to the frugal, hidden gems can be discovered in all corners of the city, but certain streets are paved with more gold than others. Here’s your map to discovering the next great treasure.
Bloor Street West (Yorkville)
Los Angeles has Rodeo Drive, New York has Fifth Avenue, and Toronto has Yorkville. Tell your driver to take a long lunch, because Bloor St. W. between Yonge St. and Avenue Rd. has every top designer name you can think of, all within a few steps of each other. Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Coach, Lacoste, Prada, Michael Kors, and Cartier are side by side, with Gucci and Hermes just across the street. Department store Holt Renfrew’s flagship location is a prêt-à-porter paradise, with clothing and accessories for both men and women. For fashionistas on a budget a search through Winners can yield runway-worthy looks at discount prices.
Queen Street East (Leslieville)
The young, upwardly-mobile couples who increasingly call Leslieville home are the types who would never settle for life in a cookie-cutter subdivision, so it makes sense that unique décor options abound here. Leslieville shopping is like watching a Pinterest board come to life: rustic wooden furnishings at Zenporium, modernist ‘60s and ‘70s pieces at ZigZag and colourful garden accessories at Holy Cow! are just the tip of the inspiration iceberg.
Dundas Street West (Junction)
Another up-and-coming neighbourhood, The Junction is experiencing a retail boom thanks to a recent surge in hip new local homeowners. The rough-around-the-edges storefronts of the Dundas St.’s sleepy former self are still plentiful, but are now interspersed with modern shops devoted to their specialties. You can pick up a second-hand tome from Dencan Books and the Book Exchange, perhaps to read while munching on organic, fair-trade chocolate from Delight Chocolate. Even the home decor options here are ultra-specific: Mjölk exclusively curates wares from elsewhere in the northern hemisphere (Scandanavia and Japan), SMASH specializes in salvaged conversation pieces and Forever Interiors is all about transforming reclaimed wood.
Queen Street West
It’s been the default destination of “cool” for decades, and even though the definition of that word is ever-expanding, Queen St. W. west of Spadina remains a haven for eclectic, modern tastes. Outer Layer is one of the city’s quirkiest gift shops, Rotate This has satisfied vinyl collectors for generations, and The Fashion District showcases over 20 Canadian designers under one roof. Original is an explosion of color and glitter, with racks full of glitzy prom dresses and bold accessories that would make Katy Perry drool. Like any truly cool ‘hood, vintage stores abound, each with their own speciality style: F As In Frank is the best place to snag a ‘90s starter jacket, Cabaret Vintage serves up pre-1950s glamour and ReMix showcases the world’s top designers in gently-loved form.
Kensington Avenue (Kensington Market)
Famous for its vintage shops, you’ll think you’ve stumbled upon the greatest neighbourhood yard sale in history when you turn onto Kensington Ave. and see the colourful racks of clothes lining the sidewalks. Nestled into a short stretch of this narrow, charming street, those racks lead inside neighbourhood mainstays like Exile and Courage My Love, where you’ll find an unpredictable mix of vintage clothing, accessories, and collectibles.In between the street’s many thrifty hovels are boutiques featuring affordable fashions for the more modern hippie, like The Fairies Pyjamas and Dancing Days.
Whether you’re looking for vintage charm or designer class, these retail hotspots have everything the mall doesn’t – including fresh air. So next time your paycheque burns a hole in your pocket, slip on your walking shoes, get your PIN-punching finger in shape and hit the streets.