What is essentially the one advantage Toronto has over larger, more established fashion capitals of the world is that it’s much less difficult to shop. I want to clarify my use of the word “difficult” in this scenario; Toronto is easy to shop because as it stands, it boasts a manageable number of Menswear boutiques located in clusters surrounding the downtown core, specifically in the Yorkville region. With some planning, it can become a bastardized version of a pub crawl where instead of getting progressively drunker, you get to upgrade your closet with fire garments. In either case, you’ll end up a lot more broke than you started. Be responsible!
My first experience with shopping independently owned Yorkville stores was with a menswear boutique called Contraband. Fast-forward a few years and a few licencing issues, CNTRBND emerged rebranded while retaining their image as a contemporary streetwear boutique with a primary clientele of foreign exchange students with more money than they know what to do with. There’s an interesting mix of brands with extremely varied price points. LA based brand Midnight Studios hangs on a rack beside fashion powerhouse Haider Ackermann like a child looking up to their older sibling. Geographically, it’s a bit difficult to find considering they switched locations from its front-facing Cumberland location to a more humble Yorkville Avenue alleyway. If you’re somehow adverse to the idea of owning money,
Maybe disliking money isn’t enough. Maybe the thought of money turns your stomach and you have to keep yourself from retching at its mere mention. Maybe money brings back repressed memories you would rather have left at the back of your mind. If so, Serpentine bears no qualms saving you from your existential, capitalist nightmare. This also happens to be the only menswear boutique in Toronto which sells clothing exclusive to the “dark fashion” sub-culture, stocking labels such as Julius_7, Rick Owens, and Guidi. Contrasting heavily from typical Yorkville aesthetics, Serpentine is dark, grungy, fueled by influences of rock-and-roll music. The only colour found in the store is the crooning red of the motorcycle fixture situated by the road-faced window of the shop. The owners, both of whom are initially intimidating due to their statures resembling that of a certain large and green superhero in the Marvel universe, immediately disarm shoppers with their helpful and friendly personalities.
Moving north to the outskirts of the Yorkville hub, Working Title is tucked away in plain sight fixated between an anti-aging shop and a convenience store. A rather unlikely setting for what is considered by many in the industry to be the most thematically and aesthetically cohesive menswear boutique in Toronto. Which, by most accounts, isn’t surprising considering much of the store’s influence (and non-coincidentally, brands) hails from the Scandinavian region of Europe. The store doubles as a clothing boutique and a magazine shop, both curated by the store’s two co-owners who also run the store’s day-to-day operations. Working Title’s aim to bring contemporary Scandinavian minimalism to North America is reflected in brands such as Our Legacy, CMMN SWDN (common Sweden), and Eytys. The boutique still bears some of its initial influence which was rooted in Americana through brands such as Engineered Garments and Gitman Brothers Vintage.