There’s nothing like a change of scenery for recharging your creative batteries. And that’s exactly what Leighann Boquist decided to do earlier this year. She moved her well-established Oliver & Lilly’s clothing boutique from its thriving South Granville location on West 13th Avenue to 1575 West 6th Avenue, near the uptown end of the Granville Street Bridge. Why leave that hot piece of commercial real estate now?
“It was just timing, really,” Boquist says during a tour of her new digs. “Last year, we were thinking about starting fresh, but how do you do it at an existing place? Then we had a little bit of luck locating this space before it was built. Our five-year lease at the 13th location was coming up and that’s when this was brought to our attention and we thought, ‘What a cool way to hit Refresh and go into our next phase.’ So we did it.”
The new space boasts the same square footage but has a somewhat different vibe. Where South Granville bustles with a lot of foot traffic, the new area is more of an art-gallery hub—which means Oliver & Lilly’s is probably going to be a destination spot for most of its shoppers. Another difference is the new space is modern, bright, sparse, and slightly industrial, whereas the old one was located in a charming character building, which, as Boquist explains, played a part in her store’s creative direction.
“We were really inspired by Scandinavian design and the French café, that kind of thing,” Boquist says. “And we wanted to make sure that we could bring that feel to a new location. So the trick—and the fun part—was trying to bring the essence of our old store here.”
With that in mind, she whited out the room, added some brick trim, and worked her old indoor trees into the new décor. As for merchandise, Boquist kept her entire lineup of labels, including A.P.C. from Paris and Heidi Merrick from L.A.
She also added a couple of new labels, including Chinti and Parker from London.
“Their main focus is conscious cloth,” says Boquist, who is the exclusive carrier of the label in Western Canada. “So they’ll always work around certain mandates and make sure that each design meets at least three out of the five points—whether it’s organic, carbon-neutral, made in the EU, hand-finished natural trims, et cetera.”
Designwise, Chinti and Parker’s specialty seems to be knitted pullovers. The merino-wool, heritage-style Aran Sweater ($548), for example, is gorgeous. The silhouette’s got a little bit of that ’80s shaker-knit retro thing going on, but the bright cobalt blue definitely gives it a modern feel. Another beauty is the Moon Sweater ($548), a navy cashmere classic crew-neck with a white crescent-moon intarsia design.
The new space has also inspired an expanded jewellery section, with pieces from several designers, including Tassia Canellis from Paris. Here, we have simple pops of colour. The gilt brass Lovebird earrings ($48), for example, feature a little drop shape of solid enamel in eye-popping hues such as sky, fuchsia, and green—perfect when you just need a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to brighten up your face. And the same goes for the delicate Lovebird necklaces ($58)—an easy way to accessorize.
While Boquist has made some changes in the last few months, one thing that’s stayed the same is the deciding factor in what makes the cut: “It has to be wearable, and it can’t be fussy.”