Sure, grabbing a cup of joe from one of Vancouver’s sundry sparse, torn-from-the-pages-of-Kinfolk cafés is all fine and dandy. But sometimes, the maximalist in us just wants to sink into a plush unicorn-horn-topped chair—one finished with what appear to be scaled tentacles posing as armrests and legs, and surrounded by similarly fuzzy, fantastical side tables and stools—with a coffee, tea, and maybe a three-tier tower of housemade pastries on hand. That’s not too much to ask, right?
Well, at the just opened Laurence & Chico Café (833 Bute Street), it isn’t. A new venture from Laurence & Chico—a Vancouver- and New York–based brand known for its fun and wonderfully outlandish womenswear—the concept is part coffee shop, part afternoon tea house, and 100 percent pure Instagram fodder. The 2,000-square-foot space is designed by founders Laurence Li and Chico Wang, and every component—from the fringe-and-pearl-embellished lighting fixtures to the black porcelain teapots and cups adorned with illustrations by Li—is available for sale.
With its whimsical pink-wallpapered ceiling, rubber duck–themed restroom, and creepy-cool mashup of creature-like elements and fancifully dressed mannequins, the eatery has a very Alice in Wonderland—the Tim Burton reimagining—vibe, offering those familiar and unfamiliar with Laurence & Chico a different way to engage with the brand. “We want people to be comfortable with coming in just for a cup of coffee,” Cathy Ho, Laurence & Chico’s public-relations coordinator, tells the Straight during a tour of the shop. “And they don’t necessarily have to like fashion because fashion’s not for everyone.”
The café serves 49th Parallel coffee and a high-tea program dreamed up by Tobias Grignon, who was previously the director of culinary operations for Edible Canada, plus a slew of treats—including cakes and macaron ice-cream sandwiches—from local hotspots like La Glace and Temper Pastry. Afternoon tea service is offered in-house or to-go; coffee is poured into paper cups decorated with Li’s drawings of octopi and giant eyeballs.
In addition, visitors can browse a small selection of Laurence & Chico accessories, such as graphic caps and phone cases, toward the back. Postcards illustrated by Li (from $12) are available, too. (The brand got its start when Wang encouraged Li to turn his artworks into postcards; the duo sold them in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood while studying at the Parsons School of Design before applying the drawings to clothing.)
Though they’ve since stormed fashion weeks in New York—and returned to Li’s native West Coast with a trunk show in Yaletown earlier this year—the Laurence & Chico Café marks the designer pair’s move into the lifestyle sector, where they now offer “crazy-surreal” furnishings, slip covers, and even tableware. “They want you to step in and feel like you’re in another world,” says Ho.
Check out the photos below for a peek at the Laurence & Chico Café before you visit IRL.More