Best telling it like it is businesses
Human Garment Factory Fashions
203–165 West 4th Avenue
Sew What Garment Manufacturers Ltd.
1422 William Street
The Human Garment Factory and Sew What are both aptly named women’s wholesale clothing manufacturers.
Best name for a new fashion label
We’re all sick of hearing about the recession, and we groaned when we discovered new local fashion label, the Penniless Fashionista. But after seeing the brand’s look book and hearing the names of pieces from its spring and fall collections, we couldn’t help but smile. Using their experience as starving students as inspiration, Kwantlen graduates Alecia Ebbels and Brieanna Soo debuted pieces for every step of the economic downturn. Start with the Meltdown racerback, featuring a flirty front ruffle, then pick up the Boom 2 Bust flutter-sleeve top. Next, move to the Panic tank, which has a buttoned placket and cinched waist, and the colourful Destitute Diva dress. Finish with the Propaganda sweetheart-neckline tube dress—meant, of course, to inspire Hope, a high-waisted circle skirt with exposed back zipper.
Best place to find end-of-season designer deals
2570 Main Street
While slumping sales this year motivated store owners to mark down merchandise earlier and more drastically than ever before, Jackie O’Brien, owner of Jonathan+Olivia, has been doing it since she opened her Vancouver store three years ago. What’s cool about it, however, isn’t the fact that there are 70-percent-off deals to be found; it’s the range of merchandise and high-end brands she stocks. Rivalling the selection at Holt Renfrew, O’Brien’s designer dossier includes names for guys and girls like Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, Opening Ceremony and its collections by Chloí« Sevigny, Surface to Air, Acne, Rachel Comey, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Whyred, Rag & Bone, A.P.C., Band of Outsiders, and Robert Geller.
Best Filipino-Canadian fashion stylist
Although most Filipinos would know international Pinoy fashion designers like Pitoy Moreno or Inno Soto, many don’t know about Filipino-Canadian fashion designer Manuel Mendoza. Mendoza’s low profile in the Asian-Canadian community is compensated for by his popularity with the city’s socialites and celebrities in the local entertainment industry. Born in Manila, Mendoza left that city during the Marcos regime and immigrated to Vancouver. His first shop was a tiny one on Main Street called Mendolinos in the 1980s, where he made women’s and men’s clothes. The business prospered and his path to success continued. Today his shop, Manuel Mendoza Couture (692 Seymour Street, 604-681-0183) offers bridal, couture, fabric, and tailoring. Mendoza’s designs are classy, simple, and organic, and have been worn by Vancouver actor Seth Wong and concert pianist Dorothy Uytengsu.
Best underrated, relatively affordable Gastown store
209 Abbott Street
Amy York is an amazing woman who manages to balance two successful businesses, look stylish, and remain laid-back and as cool as a cucumber while doing so. The owner of Commercial Drive’s Prado Café and Gastown’s Nouvelle Nouvelle, she’s made it her mandate to stock the latter with clothing that girls and guys want to wear, and without charging exorbitant prices. Tucked onto a side street a skip and a jump away from the Gassy Jack statue in Maple Tree Square and all the hustle and bustle of tourist central, York’s open, high-ceilinged boutique includes lesser-known labels such as Something Else by Australia’s Natalie Wood, Quail, Sessí¹n, and Brooklyn designer Samantha Pleet. You’ll also find LnA leggings and oversized T-shirts, patterned skirts by Mociun, Manimal moccasins, and a small selection of vintage shoes and bags by Coach, Dooney & Bourke, and even the occasional Chanel. Best of all, not much in the store is more than $250, meaning you can look stylish while paying prices that keep you feeling cool, too.
Best place to shop the world for beauty items
Pacific Centre Mall
Coquitlam Centre Mall
Although you might not be able to travel the world at any given moment, you can certainly drop by beauty retailer Sephora. Want to feel like a Greek goddess? Try Korres, a cosmetics line from Greece that takes its inspiration from the oldest homeopathic pharmacy in Athens. Looking for a Zen escape from the urban cacophony? Check out Boscia from Japan, which was one of the first lines to offer botanically based and preservative-free products. Feeling a bit pallid and wan? Try Moroccan-based Argan oil, bronzing version, from Josie Maran. Even if you can’t afford to go on a holiday, Sephora can help you look like you did. Besides, the best way to get out of a recession is to spend money, so go ahead and do your civic duty.
Best place to find wearable art
2408 Main Street
Yet another gem in the fabulous 2400 block of Main Street, JewellerBau’s sculptural handmade display cases are filled with the raw, chunky jewellery of owner Dina González Mascaró. The rings, pendants, and bracelets range from rough, abstract shapes to the most uncutesy small dogs you’ve ever seen, rabbit-head pendants inspired by Albrecht Dí¼rer, and bulls’ heads from Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. Mascaró, an Argentinean who has lived in Vancouver for almost 10 years, claims she’s not a jeweller but a sculptor who happens to make jewellery. Also visit to check out other artists’ work she carries and to chat with her about the ideas and process behind her edgy pieces.
Best local recycler to show at New York Fashion Week
Red Flag Design
This local eco-chic design studio is the toast of the town these days. Its recycled zip-top totes, handmade for the Vancouver Art Gallery store out of discarded exhibition banners, sell out whenever available, and its repurposed sailcloth bags are getting national attention for their haute styling. But Red Flag’s aesthetic is also starting to turn heads south of the border. For a swanky Rodarte event at last year’s New York Fashion Week, the studio paired reused leather from six decommissioned Lexus cars with recycled sailcloth to make a sleek shoe carrier (complete with leather chain-link handle, no less) for 500 guests. Why anyone would put dirty shoes in such a beautiful bag is a mystery to us.
Best place to satiate a shoe fetish
2205 West 4th Avenue
Unlike drugs or pornography, buying a new pair of shoes is a thrill you can openly enjoy in public, and there’s nowhere to indulge like at Gravity Pope. The focus at this candy shop of footwear is on cool design, and offerings include an awesome range of brands, from Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors to lesser-known labels like Chie Mihara and Coclico, as well as casual classics from Vans and Converse. Go ahead, try ’em on; you can always do with another pair. This is one vice that won’t land you in a world of trouble.
Best place to find Swedish clogs
Touch of Sweden Enterprises Ltd.
2141 West 4th Avenue
This outfit’s traditional Swedish-style sandals may not be as sexy as your Christian Louboutins, but you probably can’t stand in those for eight hours every day and still function. Culinary and health-care workers across Vancouver swear by these awkward-looking Ugglebo clogs. The orthopedic wooden inner sole is more comfortable than it sounds, and the thick rubber on the bottom absorbs nearly as much impact as a running shoe. They’re sold in hospital lobbies across Vancouver during Touch of Sweden’s “demo days”, or you can find them on-line at www.swedishclogs.com .
Best (and only) Corset Shop in Vancouver
Lace Embrace Atelier
219 East 16th Avenue
Even if there were other corset shops in Vancouver, this would likely still be the best. Handmade on the premises by Melanie Talkington, these tightly gripping, wildly sensual satin-and-steel devices are just the thing for burlesque stars, kinksters, and ordinary women who want a shape that causes traffic accidents.