Toronto Vintage Hipster shopping guide! Queen Street West, Kensington Market stores.
Shopping for alternative fashion in Toronto takes a bit of know-how. If you follow the tourists to Eaton Center or Yonge-Dundas Square, you’ll be disappointed (unless you enjoy Adidas and GAP).
Courage, my loves! In this article, we’ll explore the coolest vintage, indie and underground boutiques, mainly found in two areas: Kensington Market and Queen Street West.
After our Gloomth fashion shoot, my local comrades Linda Tea, Mao and Ashavari took me to their favorite shops on Queen St W. This is the area that houses the OCAD art school (which looks like a brick held up by chopsticks) and MuchMusic studio.
First, we followed the arrow down the narrow stairs of Black Market Vintage (256-A Queen St W).
If you see fellow shoppers like this girl, you’re probably in the right place.
Black Market has an immense selection of secondhand clothes. Some are on the “80s soccer mom” side, such as sweatshirts with cheesy prints of dogs in baskets. However, there’s also a rocking selection of band tees and this “Pentagram pizza slices” wonder.
This See / Hear / Speak No Evil shirt put the middle cat in headphones.
Instead, I think they should have printed a Scottish Fold cat, like my earless fuzz-face! (Tons of Basil Farrow photos on his cat blog.)
Two of hearts. Black Market has a wall of novelty sunglasses, studded belts and bracelets, fishnet tights, and other alt accouterments.
Together, we ducked into Borderline (425 Queen W #217). As you can see from the display, Borderline sells brands like Lip Service and Hellbunny.
Onward to a Canadian institution, John Fluevog Shoes (242 Queen St West). I’ve collected several pairs of Fluevogs over the years. They stand out for their workmanship and alt styling. Many have Victorian elements, such as these claw foot high heels.
Fluevog carries both men’s and women’s styles. I’m particularly fond of his boots like the Swordfish Edwardian.
Across the street, it looks like the live music venue, Cameron House, is having an insect infestation.
Lots of old-style buildings and cool stores (Moog Audio) on this street.
Pastel stars and poofy gowns? Original Toronto (515 Queen St W) looks like my kind of party.
We goofed off at the entrance before heading in. Taeden Hall and I are wearing Lolita ruffle dresses by her clothing label, Gloomth and the Cult of Melancholy. How sweet of her to give me this Chrysanthemum dress, made of cotton and with tiers of ruffles.
Original is possibly my favorite boutique in the city. The name speaks the truth: you’ll find one-of-kind garments, like hedgehog-spiked shoes and sequined tulle corsets.
Linda found these Irregular Choice polka dot shoes, with bow-tied bunnies for heels! This brand makes an amazing Tic Tac Toe platform as well.
At the entrance, I fell for this pastel rainbow crochet sweater. On the upper floor, there is a dizzying selection of prom dresses and bridal wear.
We saw girls trying on glamorous dresses and accessories that would make the Queen Mother proud.
Like Patricia Field in NYC, owner Donna Saslove is the life of the store. Go visit Original and give her a hug for us.
A few blocks away lies Kensington Market, known as the most diverse, funky and historic part of town. The Victorian-style houses are painted with bright shades. Many have a hippie vibe, with Buddha statues and Tibetan flags.
While officially a “National Historic Site of Canada,” Kensington’s real protector appears to be Mr Rogers and his trusty cardigan.
Anthony Bourdain would love the cluster of cafes, which include artisan cheese shops and gourmet coffeehouses. But we were here to shop — so we followed the row of cowboy boots that lead to Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave, Toronto).
Taeden told me that she and her brother used to spend hours in this store, marveling at the 1970s lace dresses, yin yang buttons, Mexican mirrors, and other vintage oddities.
We all stopped to take photos of the Day of the Dead skeletons. Haven’t seen so many sugar skulls since my adventures in Mazatlan.
I recommend wandering through Kensington Market, sampling food and poking your head into the many little eclectic stores. Look for the mural influenced by my favorite painter, Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
Chat with the store owners, and shake a paw or two along the way. Not bad for a walking tour, right?
I leave you with a few bonus photos. I ran into this clubwear / lingerie boutique while walking aimlessly around downtown Toronto.
Not sure what the mannequin boy did to deserve this punishment.
What’s your impression of the fashion scene in Toronto? Are there any places you’d like to add to my list? Leave a comment and let me know.
For more alternative attractions, check out the rest of my posts about the city.
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