When it comes to Toronto fashion retailers us ladies have the exact opposite problem to the guys; instead of too few options, we’ve got too many!
Although it is of course debatable whether there ever really can be “too many” stores, even for the most dedicated shopaholic combing the city for that perfectly flowing maxi skirt or printed blouse is quite a task. Just in time for new fall arrivals – think knit tweeds, black leather, capes, and another round of fur accents – here are the top 25 womenswear retailers from Toronto you should know about.
A2Zane which has now found a permanent address on Queen West, is mainly focused on women’s jewelry and accessories with a few things for guys as well. The small shop is known for its colorful selection of the oh-so coveted Rebecca Minkoff Mini M.A.C. purse, awesome sunglasses by Karen Walker, as well as great pieces from the Elizabeth and James line of contemporary jewelry.
Previously dedicated exclusively to online sales and random pop-up retail locations, owner Zane Aburaneh has not surprisingly been quite successful with his first permanent brick and mortar shop. Adding to the buzz and right in tune with Zane’s creative and forward thinking attitude, the store will feature dedicated space in the back to host additional pop-up shops from time to time.
Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu
Designer Rosemarie Umetsu’s personal belief is that “individuality is at the heart of style”, and there is no doubt this individuality is represented in each and every luxury design found at her Atelier Boutique on Davenport.
Combining her love for piano performance and past experience as a buyer for Club Monaco and Holt Renfrew, Rosemarie provides her customers with an exclusive shopping atmosphere. The small boutique with its all white crisp interior houses a unique collection of pieces all made in small batches or customized to be one of a kind.
In addition to being known for her theatrical designs, Umetsu founded the “Iconic Beauty” project which celebrates the style of the Canadian Female Artist through fashion photography. Regular events related to the project are hosted at the exquisite Atelier Boutique.
This cutesy little shop is one of those places where every single item has some sort of gorgeous detail which causes you to “ooh” and “ahh” while you dream of a luxury life full of beautiful things.
Stocked with an abundant selection of lacy (and sometimes a bit racy) lingerie, bras, sleepwear, chemises, and nighties, the Beestung merchandise always remains elegant and tasteful. Look for feminine brands like Hanky Panky and Eberjey, or more practical undergarment solutions like Commando’s microfiber nude slips and an assortment of the ever-popular Spanx body shapers.
Naomi Berkel first opened Bella when she was only 24 years old, a brave move for such a young woman in an industry as fast-paced as fashion. Located on Eglinton Avenue West, Berkel’s risky venture has thrived and grown, now considered to be one of the best women’s shops along the trendy stretch of retailers.
With monthly buying trips to New York, Miami, and L.A., Bella always has something new to check out from designer brands including casual staples as well as fancier evening attire perfect for a first date.
As shop owner and recent Ryerson Fashion Communication grad Paige Boersma eloquently puts it, Queen West’s Bicyclette Boutique is “street style meets fairy tale”. If that one liner description doesn’t have you creeping their website already you will definitely be excited by a curated collection of flirty yet urban pieces from hot brands and local designers including; Wildfox Couture, Heartloom, and Charlie Jade.
Boersma has covered all her bases working the always updated e-commerce channel, hosting pop-ups, creating gorgeous monthly – not just seasonal! – lookbooks, and ensuring regular and always stunning style inspiration on the Bicylette blog.
When you ask the average woman about the top 3 things they hate shopping for the most it will come as no surprise to hear that denim is always somewhere in that list.
As skinny jeans get tighter and tighter us ladies are getting more and more desperate for a store that will really listen to what we want, provide options and solutions, and most of all give honest advice. Body Blue, with locations on both the Danforth and Queen West, is that store.
Their huge selection of brand name denim includes both trendy styles and more classic looks with a range of price points to suit the diverse needs of their customer base.
Since 2008 Canopy Blue has serviced all of uptown Toronto’s fashion needs from their small boutique store near Yonge and Eglinton.
With a great mix of attire from casual t-shirts to black tie dresses, the knowledgeable staff offers highly personalized service, complete with after-hours shopping parties and even at home wardrobe consultation. There is no doubt this chic retailer along with its equally chic owners Candice and Nicole bring the LA vibe to North Toronto with designer brands including Alexander McQueen, JBrand, and Missoni.
The Coal Miner’s Daughter
To see all that The Coal Miner’s Daughter has to offer you will have to visit both cozy locations (the original found near Bathurst and Bloor and the newer storefront on Queen West) since they each stock a slightly different selection of merchandise while still similarly focused on Canadian jewelry and design.
In addition to carrying a host of designers which includes Eve Gravel from Montreal and Alice and Alishka from Ottawa, this retailer is home to part owner Janine Cockburn-Haller’s in-house clothing line, Clementine & Tweed. Stop in at the store to see how Janine mixes old and new materials to create unique fashion items while business partner Krysten Caddy adds her own artistic style by crafting the stores very own collection of jewelry.
Comrags, the original clothing line launched back in 1983 and co-designed by Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish, now has its very own storefront in the up and coming Dundas West neighbourhood. Everything is proudly produced in house and covers day to evening attire with the latest collections featuring gorgeous silk screen patterns and bleach print designs.
The fashion focused pair begins each collection with inspiration (usually from vintage dresses or prints) and then concentrates on the fabrics in terms of texture, quality, and care. With materials and a direction, the team next starts the design stage. By doing few typical sketches and instead drawing directly on the mannequin, Gunhouse and Cornish define the Comrags style with their unique sense of proportion.
Who doesn’t want fashion attitude mixed with a little nostalgia? I know I certainly do, and that’s exactly what Kasha Bilobram, owner of Fawn, has got in store for Fall 2012 at her trendy shop on Queen West.
The boutique’s “of the moment” apparel includes lines from both around the world as well as from our own backyard (check out the stunning collection from Toronto designer Jessica Mary Clayton!). New items are fluently mixed with a small selection of top quality vintage pieces adding to the unique assortment of merchandise in the store.
Although the seasons most popular fashion trends are always very present, it seems Fawn and their clientele have a way of making the hottest styles all their own by providing a diverse and seemingly effortless twist to every outfit.
This cute little clothing and accessories shop which originally opened on the bustling stretch of Yonge in Lawrence Park, now has a second location downtown in Hazelton Lanes.
While you will typically find more basic apparel (usually printed cotton styles and plain layering pieces), Heidi Ho’s selection of jewelry and handbags always offers a funky and different way to accessorize a tired outfit. Next time you need that little something extra to update your wardrobe keep an eye out for this retailers characteristic brands including Yumi and Fredrick Prince.
This fun-loving store gets its name not only because it always has something to make your mouth water, but also after its founder, Honey Chadwick. Opening the store’s first location in Bayview Village back in 2003, this experienced fashionista has grown her business across Toronto to Sherway, Promenade Mall, and Eglinton Avenue.
Honey carries cute, feminine, and flirty styles which range from casual brands like Splendid and Maison Scotch to dresses and more elegant pieces from designers like Nicole Miller. With over 50 labels and a great mix of denim, ladies of all ages are sure to find something sweet at Honey.
Judith & Charles
For Judith Richardson and Charles Le Pierrès it was love at first sight when they met decades ago at a tropical resort on vacation. For the rest of us it was love at first sight when the pair became TeenFlo’s exclusive North American licensees, delivering the now world renowned working women’s brand to Canada.
This fashion duo have since embarked on a new journey all their own, with the contemporary Judith & Charles label now sold across the continent including locations in Vancouver, Montreal and New York. Fall must-have items include the Zebra-B mixed texture jacket and ombre inspired Berlin Blouse.
If you are looking for that perfect dress odds are it can be found north on Avenue road near the 401 at Madeline’s Boutique. Although Madeline’s may be on the expensive side, this retailer is dedicated solely to women’s formal attire and carries a huge selection of evening gowns to flatter any shape and size.
Along with custom pieces and tailoring services on site, the staff will ensure you are looking your best with footwear and accessories to compliment your outfit. Top brands include; Badgley Mischka, Sherri Hill, and Aidan Mattox just to name a few.
When it comes to looking their best women often forget to invest in one of the most important fashion items, their undergarments! Only once you’ve had that perfectly fitting bra do you realize the world of difference it makes to have extra lift and support all in the right places.
The attentive Melmira staff will educate you on everything you need to know about the right style for your needs, paying special attention to ensuring your insecurities are minimized throughout the entire process. To complete the experience the two story boutique boasts a full luxury swimwear section upstairs with the same great customer service philosophy. Book an appointment now by clicking here.
With an emphasis on handmade products sourced from North America, Narwal Boutique offers an upscale shopping environment without the typical sales pressure and snobby attitude.
Although the store carries a multitude of top name brands such as Tripp NYC, House of Harlow, and David Lerner, the chosen pieces from each collection have a more wholesome and bohemian feel. For those of you that want to shop in designer style without feeling like you’ve just walked into another mini boutique version of TNT, The Narwal’s “off the beaten path” vibe might just make it the perfect place.
Out on a Limb
Sorry to all those who wanted to keep this Toronto fashion gem “hush-hush”, but the secret is officially out! While at first you might have your doubts about the tiny Avenue Road boutique, I dare you to step inside and not be absolutely floored by their fabulous selection.
Perhaps a bit overwhelming at first, Out on a Limb only displays one of each of item they carry – meaning you will likely find more brand name options here than you know what to do with. Owner Ellen Somer is a natural when it comes to choosing the very best pieces from all your favorite lines, creating a unique and curated collection of the latest trends that is WAY more than just hosiery.
Ask the approachable staff for assistance and in moments you will be presented with a variety of stunning options from labels including Michael Stars, Ella Moss, Velvet, Paige Denim, Gold Hawk…yes, the list goes on and on. If there’s only one piece of fashion advice I can give you this season its rush to Out on a Limb and scoop up the best of Fall 2012 while you still have a chance!
Although R.A.D stands for “Research and Development”, its definitely safe to say this Dundas West retailer is also pretty rad. Owner Kia Waese opened her tiny limited stock showroom to offer high-fashion clientele an “alternative to the big luxury brands”.
The prices might mean this merchandise isn’t for everyone, but for those of you who can afford it, look forward to a prime selection of minimalist pieces of which Waese is proud to say you will likely be the only one you know wearing.
Rac Boutique is co-owner’s Faith and Glenna’s Queen Street flavored gem dropped right in the thick of the ritzy Yorkville shopping district. Although these style savvy women originally planned to open on Queen West, competition and brand crossover lead them to what has turned out to be an even more distinctive store front location on Cumberland.
Their modern boutique stocks emerging and relatively undiscovered designer pieces alongside lifestyle products, jewellery, bikinis, specialty gifts, and literature. Prices range anywhere from $150 to upwards of $1000 for some fashion items, but not to worry since the best part about Rac is the ladies will be sure to find you alternatives if an item is beyond your budget.
For casual daytime attire and all your weekend wear needs head to Robber on Queen to pick up some of Erin and Robin’s relaxed West Coast meets Toronto hipster style. The quaint little boutique has a good mix of leisurely sweaters, tanks, and denim alongside comfortable yet feminine dresses and cardigans.
If you’re planning a trip down south at any point this coming winter I recommend Sandpipers to get you set with all your resort wear and poolside attire. With about every style and color of bathing suit imaginable the friendly staff at both the Yorkville and Yonge Street locations will listen to your insecurities (yes we all have them!) and help you find the fit that makes you feel the most comfortable.
Sandpiper’s brand name swimwear and accessories may be a bit pricey, but the attentive service and hand-picked selection of merchandise makes shopping for one of the most stressful items a surprisingly enjoyable experience worth paying for.
Shop NYLA, short for New York Los Angeles, has an all white interior and light airy feel that is exactly what the true Toronto shopaholic needs to tide them over between visits across the border to revamp their wardrobe.
You can be sure to shop the hottest trends as buying is done with monthly trips to both NY and LA to get the latest from celebrity studded brands including See by Chloé, Vince, and Hudson Jeans. Their new two-story boutique space now means even more room for must-have extras like a JBrand denim bar, yummy fragrances and gorgeous candles.
ShopGirls Gallery Boutique
Lately it seems like women everywhere have been buzzing about Second Denim’s Yoga Jeans, the patented pant boasting 92% stretch memory and a huge celebrity following. ShopGirls Boutique is proud to say they are Toronto’s Yoga Jean expert, already having fitted over 5000 “happy bums” at their Parkdale store.
First opening in 2007, this retailer has always ensured they carry a range of styles for women of all shapes and sizes. Most notably, ShopGirls strives to provide a comfortable shopping environment free of the overly serious attitude found at most fashion retailers and go further to even offer the option of browsing by body type on their website!
Full of awesome Canadian designers and staff with great style advice on how to flaunt your curves, every woman will be sure to head home from the gallery not only looking, but feeling their best.
The Store on Queen (a.k.a TSOQ)
This brand new addition to Queen West has only been open for a couple months but nonetheless is already making its mark on the Toronto fashion community. Owned by two long-time friends Angela and Valentina, the pair set out to fill a void in the women’s market by combining their respective talents as a contemporary designer and apparel buyer.
One of the best things you can look forward to about TSOQ is their prices. The owners always strive to minimize markups and choose edgy styles at lower price points keeping their store accessible to everyone. Already set up for online shopping and with plans to soon introduce an in-house label, TSOQ is definitely a store that shouldn’t be lumped in with the Queen Street masses.
Priding themselves on exemplary customer service, the staff at Three16 Boutique on Eglinton Avenue West are always up for spending the time to help you find exactly what style suits you best. The shop stocks a great selection of high quality apparel as well as complimentary jewelry and accessories always ensuring it has something fresh with new deliveries every single week.
At Three16 you can expect to find a range of merchandise spanning feminine pieces by the French line La Fée Maraboutée, dresses from the A-lister favorite Rachael Pally, and luxury cotton basics from Lillia P.
Whether it’s a couple trendy additions to your already well stocked wardrobe, a head to toe style make-over or that last impulse purchase before you max your credit card, head to any combination of the above retailers to find the best of the best in women’s fashion.
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If some of your other favorite stores aren’t on this list make sure to leave a comment or keep an eye out for my next post about the top unisex fashion retailers from Toronto you need to know!
Photos courtesy of: BlogTO, Martin Pinker (Body Blue), and others.