The year 2017 saw us saying goodbye to a number of longstanding stores (R.I.P. Sears, Nicole Bridger, Ingledew's Shoes, and countless others), but the past 300-plus days have introduced some retail heavy-hitters to Vancouver as well.
From big (and small) Japanese names hawking stationery, houseplants, and beyond to a host of locally born and bred businesses that prove brick-and-mortar operations aren’t dead, here are the openings (and reopenings) that left a mark on the city’s retailscape in 2017.
Muji, 4700 Kingsway and 1125 Robson Street
It was a whirlwind year for Japanese “no-brand quality goods” retailer Muji, which landed in Vancouver at the start of 2017 in the form of a pop-up shop at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. The temporary shop proved so popular that a reservation system was set in place followed by the announcement that the company would open its first B.C. location at Metropolis at Metrotown in August.
Fast-forward to December and Western Canada is now home to two Muji outposts—one of which, at a whopping 14,507 square feet, is the retailer’s largest store outside of Asia. Equipped with an aromatherapy bar, in-house café, custom embroidery counter, and other exclusives, the downtown Vancouver store carries everything from experimental clothes and accessories to houseplants, stationery, and cleaning tools.
Native Shoes, 14 Water Street
It was only fitting that Vancouver-founded and based Native Shoes open its first brick-and-mortar outpost in Gastown. The footwear retailer, which produces a range of waterproof, odour-resistant, and vegan shoes, put down roots in the ’hood in October and unveiled its storefront earlier this month.
Outfitted with utilitarian white and plywood shelving and a living and breathing moss wall, the playful flagship displays the company’s core adult and kids’ collections, plus limited-run styles and exclusive collaborations with artists from at home and abroad.
Lululemon, 2101 West 4th Avenue
This summer, Lululemon’s original home in Kitsilano—the site that launched an international fascination with stretchy, skin-tight yoga pants when it opened in 2000—was revamped and expanded into a neighbouring space that previously served as a Midas.
Now totalling 6,300 square feet, the refreshed space features dedicated men’s and women’s departments and a lush rooftop patio that plays hosts to community workouts and events. The cherry on top? A refurbished auto-repair shop sign that showcased the words “You always remember your first” when the store officially reopened to the public in August.
Uniqlo, 4700 Kingsway
In April, casual apparel company Uniqlo finally put rumours to rest by announcing that it would open its first Western Canadian location in Burnaby. Situated at Metropolis at Metrotown, the 20,630-square-foot store launched with fanfare in October, drawing lineups much like fellow Japanese retailer Muji did when it opened at the mall only months earlier.
The two-level space carries versatile and relatively affordable coats, T-shirts, loungewear, pullovers, and more, as well as Uniqlo’s HEATTEACH line, which works to retain heat. Collaborations with artists and labels like Disney and KAWS are also stocked. A second Uniqlo is slated to open at Surrey’s Guildford Town Centre by spring 2018.
Community Window, 11 West Hastings Street
In February, one of the city’s most beloved vintage shops, Community Thrift and Vintage, joined forces with its sister store, Window Community Art Shop, under one roof. Now known collectively as Community Window, the 2,400-square-foot flagship offers its curated selection of pre-loved wears alongside art, homewares, and accessories crafted by people within and outside the Downtown Eastside.
Operated by the Portland Hotel Society, a local nonprofit that advocates for underserved residents of the DTES, the women-led business employs vulnerable women from the area on the retail floor and as part of the store’s peer program, which includes an in-house sewing studio where participants learn to make aprons, tote bags, and other items. All profits from these products go directly toward the women.
Lush Cosmetics, 1020 Robson Street
After a lengthy, seven-month renovation, Lush Cosmetics reopened on one of the city’s busiest retail strips in August. The revamped 2,340 space—almost double its previous size—features dedicated skincare, bath bomb, and oral care sections, plus the company’s first haircare styling bar in Canada.
A sizable 42-inch concrete sink welcomes shoppers to the store, where they’re welcome to get hands on with products. Fragrances, shower gels, colour cosmetics, and of course, bath bombs, are only a handful of the personal-care items you can expect to find at the shop.
Holt Renfrew, 737 Dunsmuir Street
This year, Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew made a lot of headway in its grand, multi-phase renovation, which was initially outlined in 2016.
Joining a completed men’s department is now a dedicated women’s shoe hall complete with in-house Laduree; a 1,200-square-foot personal shopping department; and a massive single-level beauty hall that boasts 25-plus cosmetic counters and more than half a dozen private skincare cabins.
Other Holt Renfrew–related news includes the incoming opening of the Toronto-based Colette Grand Café, a French-inspired restaurant that will take the place of the short-lived Holts Café in 2018.
Sort, 2550 Stephens Street
The rollout of Kitsilano’s Sort wasn’t exactly “big” per se—rather, it was quite the opposite in fact—but the store’s quiet assurance in its streamlined aesthetic and stock is what makes the opening noteworthy.
Tucked off a busy strip of West Broadway, the lifestyle boutique is run by friends and graphic designers Vince Lo and Alvin Kwan, who fill the shelves with practical, well-designed items for everyday life. These include Japanese pens and scissors, handcrafted ceramics, and toques and T-shirts, as well as a curated assortment of art and design magazines.
The space also functions as a community space and has hosted a number of pop-up shops and workshops with local artists.
Leisure Center, 950 Homer Street
Vancouver’s Leisure Center can best be described as Totokaelo on crack. The locally owned store takes the concept behind that high-end Seattle boutique—a curated selection of hard-to-find luxury and up-and-coming labels, displayed in a gallery-like setting—and ups the ante with extras like an in-house café, theatre space, and photography studio where locals and creatives can converge and work.
Alongside pieces from designers like Vetements, Yang Li, and Loewe are also beauty and home goods, plus a book department that sells a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles hand-picked by the people behind London-based independent bookstore Donlon Books. It’s worth stopping by to peep the art, which includes a stripped-down 1977 Camaro Rally Sport by local artist Myfawny MacLeod, alone.
COS, 18 Water Street
H&M’s sister store, COS, opened its first Western Canadian location in Vancouver this spring, bringing a mix of pared-down classics and trendy mens- and womenswear pieces to Gastown’s retail offerings.
Its name shorts for “Collection of Style”, the 3,024-square-foot shop carries wear-everywhere button-downs, frocks, shoes, jewellery, and everything in between—all with a distinct Scandinavian sensibility. Even the curvy furniture and warm woods that decorate the store are a reflection of the company’s commitment to clean lines and timeless construction.
Harlow Skin Co., 655 East 16th Street
Local skincare label Harlow Skin Co. opened its first storefront in East Vancouver in April, launching the next chapter for this Vancouver-born success story.
Founded by Chrystal Macleod, the line, which is known for its natural skin- and body-care goods, has been available online and at select retailers since 2014, but the Fraserhood boutiques marks the first time that customers can explore Harlow’s full range in person.
Alongside face elixirs and body balms, visitors will also find ecofriendly cosmetics, natural deodorants, and candles from a band of like-minded girl bosses—many of them local—that Macleod has built relationships with over the years.
Filson, 47 Water Street
Seattle-based outdoor-lifestyle label Filson made the move into the Canadian market this year with its first north-of-the-border store in Gastown, which opened in April.
The 2,800-square-foot shop carries an assortment of men’s and women’s high-quality clothes fit for life in the Pacific Northwest. Think outerwear, bags, and accessories like sunglasses, watches, and hats, as well as outdoor gear and giftables like coolers and leather-and-stainless-steel flasks. Plaid is plentiful and many of the items use proprietary materials that protect the wearer against the elements.
Lion & Sun, 4219 Main Street
It’s difficult to walk past Lion & Sun without stopping to stare even for a little bit. With its clean, concrete floors and expansive, gallery-like vibe, the fashion and lifestyle boutique, commands attention from the street and stocks an immaculate assortment of hard-to-find labels that owner Rooz Dezfooli discovered while working trade shows as a marketing specialist.
Shoppable items include giant lightbulb-shaped decanters, recycled-beer-bottle glasses, and scented candles that evoke freshly baked baguettes and crème brulee. For the wardrobe, there are men’s and women’s sneakers by Japanese label Onitsuka Tiger, wooden and concrete bowties from the Burnaby-based BÖ by Mansouri, and premium denim by brands like Naked & Famous and James Jeans.
Cortex, 420 West Pender Street
Sustainability is what led designer Negin Izad to launch Noctex, an ecofriendly fashion label that uses 90 percent deadstock textiles.
The drop-hem button-downs, distressed T-shirts, and sloughy cardigans are what line the racks at Cortex, a studio and retail space that opened in downtown Vancouver in January as a way for Izad to showcase her collection while spotlighting garments from other eco-consciously produced brands.
These include recycled-leather jackets from Sweden’s Deadwood, hand-hammered jewellery from Hvnter Gvtherer, and locally made knitwear from Caitlin Ffrench that employs Canadian-sourced wool. The boutique also sells footwear, candles, stationery, and more.
Mackage, 701 West Georgia Street
Canadian outerwear label opened a location in downtown Vancouver in October, surprisingly beating out colder cities like Calgary and Edmonton as the site for the Montreal-based company’s first Western Canadian store.
The 1,325-square-foot shop carries men’s and women’s outerwear, including lightweight down coats, trenches, leather jackets, and the brand’s signature “V collar” parkas. There’s an assortment of adorably small children’s apparel too, plus accessories and knitwear.
A blend of wood, metal, and marble—and a large, backlit photograph depicting icy, snow-capped mountains—create a luxe shopping experience that pays tribute to the West Coast.
Tiffany and Co., 723 Burrard Street
It took more than a year but Vancouver’s Tiffany & Co. finally completed its expansion this spring, revealing a brand-new two-level flagship that is triple its former size.
Taking over an upstairs space formerly occupied by a Japanese restaurant, the refreshed Tiffany features double-height ceilings and a second-level mezzanine, enabling the luxury retailer to enlarge its fine-jewellery, bridal, gift, and private-sales salons.
Meanwhile, the curved, granite façade—marked with Tiffany-blue awnings—nods to the label’s Fifth Avenue flagship and American Deco skyscrapers of the ’30s and ’40s.
Brunette the Label, 231 Union Street
Another local success story, Vancouver’s Brunette the Label is best known for its cheeky graphic pullovers and Ts, which are adorned with words like “This wine is making me awesome”, “Rosé okay”, “Babes supporting babes”, and or course, “Brunette” (and “Redhead” and “Blonde”).
Available online and at select retailers since 2015, the label is now stocked in its entirety at a Chinatown flagship, where Vancouverites can try on and browse the decidedly girly loungewear, vegan leather jackets, and accessories. Officially opening its doors in November, the boutique also serves as a pick-up spot for web orders.
Arc’teryx, 813 Burrard Street
North Vancouver’s Arc’teryx opened its largest Canadian location to date in downtown Vancouver in June, joining a shopping district that now boasts a healthy supply of recreational- and fitness-oriented retailers.
Recognized internationally for its high-performance outdoor apparel for men and women, the brand stocks the store with clothing, gear, and accessories designed for hiking, running, mountain climbing, and other activities West Coasters are known to oaccasionally partake in.
The 3,200-square-foot space also features a warranty-and-repair bar and plays host to community events between customers and local outdoor organizations.
Six Hundred Four, 101–123 Cambie Street
Professional golfer James Lepp expanded his footwear business beyond golf shoes earlier this year, opening a storefront in one of the city’s most storied neighbourhoods that offers a selection of sleek, limited-run kicks adorned with original art by local artists.
The part shop, part “shoe gallery” is dubbed Six Hundred Four and displays a mix of low-tops and high-tops that are splashed with works by painters, illustrators, and graphic artists. Each style is available in limited quantities (604 pairs, to be exact) and are laser-engraved by the maker to specify its number in production.
Artists who have been featured include Patrick James Bravo, Elyse Dodge, and L.J. Throstle, with a portion of proceeds benefiting various nonprofits.