Commercial Drive may be known to outsiders for its quaint Italian heritage and alt-hippie vibe, but Vancouver’s style set knows that the stretch between Venables Street and Broadway boasts some of the best independent shopping in the city.
Below, a list of our favourite locally owned boutiques to shop the next time you’re strolling through Little Italy.
Kalena's Shoes, 1526 Commercial Drive
An East Van institution, Kalena’s Shoes has been servicing Vancouver’s fussiest—and most fashionable—shoe connoisseurs since 1967. The family-owned biz carries only the finest in Italian-made leather footwear for men and women, plus an eclectic range of designer handbags and accessories, to boot. (Pun intended.) Offerings for feet run the gamut from slip-on loafers and lace-up ankle boots to open-toe sandals and vampy patent-red pumps.
Gatley Lifestyle Store, 1136 Commercial Drive
A curated boutique that will likely have you browsing its thoughtfully merchandised displays for hours, Gatley is home to a slate of sustainable and Canadian-produced goods for the wardrobe, home, and beyond. The store changed hands last year and is now operated by local interior designer Erin Mullaly, who fills the space with breezy cotton jumpsuits, honey-tobacco body butters, sculptural statement earrings, and other items you can feel good about showing off.
Spank Clothing, 1027 Commercial Drive
This is the original location for the B.C.–born boutique, which opened its doors 15 years ago. Family-run since day one, the shop carries a wide assortment of trendy womenswear such as effortless maxis, velvet kimonos, and high-waist trousers, many of them from Canadian or independent labels. You’ll also find an impressive selection of vegan-leather bags from Montreal-based brand Matt & Nat.
LaLa's on the Drive, 1748 Commercial Drive
One of our favourite places to hit when in need of a last-minute gift or five, LaLa’s is packed with all sorts of functional curios, edible goods, and general fun-to-have knickknacks that are bound to impress even the pickiest names on your list. With a playful stock that boasts items like detoxifying mustard-infusd bath soaks, chai-flavoured marshmallows, and floral-print socks inscribed with the words “I’m a delicate fucking flower,” however, we wouldn’t fault you for walking away with a little something for yourself.
JQ Clothing, 2120 Commercial Drive
Formerly a secondhand shop known as the Jean Queen, JQ Clothing is the stuff of rave and Burning-Man dreams: all metallic crop tops, plunging-neckline one-pieces, and hosiery of all hues and prints. But the retailer hasn’t survived nearly two decades on the Drive peddling festival wear alone: tucked among the metallic tutus and body chains are also retro-inspired sundresses, cute rompers, and cozy cardis designed to flatter a range of body types.
Little Miss Vintage, 931 Commercial Drive
The Drive has long been one of the city’s go-to thrift hubs, and, with its racks of pristine wools, denim, and wearable throwback frocks, Little Miss Vintage does not disappoint in this category. The shop caters to both men and women, and is the perfect size (read: not overwhelmingly big) for a quick stop-and-peruse. Other spots selling preloved garb on the Drive include Mintage (1714 Commercial Drive), Miscellany Finds (1029 Commercial Drive), and Still Fabulous Thrift (1124 Commercial Drive).
Blue Sky Clothing, 1312 Commercial Drive
Dedicated to making clothing that fits women of all shapes, Blue Sky Clothing produces an inclusive collection of ethically manufactured shorts, blouses, leggings, and more. Sizes range from XS to 4X, with founder and owner Marilyn Cobban preferring to forgo terms like “plus-size” in an effort to market garments for what she calls “real people”. You’ll find everything from the basic (scoop- and V-necks) to the professional (trousers and culottes), plus a small assortment of men’s and children’s wear, too.