Even selfie-obsessed millennials will tell you that Instagram feeds should be consumed with a giant grain of salt, but the clean, black-and-white scroll of the LBV Lifestyle Boutique captures its physical stores to a tee.
“I was finding it difficult to access products I wanted for the job I was doing,” says interior designer and shop owner Tracey Wikenheiser during a phone interview with the Straight from Kelowna, “so I thought that I would become my own source.”
The designer opened her first LBV Lifestyle Boutique, a one-stop shop for high-end fashions, furnishings, and luxe homewares, almost 10 years ago in Kelowna and unveiled a second location in Vancouver’s Gastown in November. Washed from wall to wall in a black, white, and gold palette, the bright, gallerylike space at 206 Carrall Street stands in stark opposition to its weathered brick exterior, offering local fashionistas and in-the-know designphiles a taste of Old Hollywood in one of Vancouver’s most storied neighbourhoods.
“We’re really passionate about making sure that our products are really great quality and design- and fashion-forward,” says Wikenheiser, “and that we’re bringing something to the marketplace that not everybody else is carrying.”
Hunting down exclusive, hard-to-find names is the m.o. for LBV—an acronym for le bonne vie, though its Gastown stop can also be interpreted as live beautiful, Vancouver—where shoppers can find everything from high-fashion sneakers and fringed heels to printed Equipment button-ups and versatile basics by mega-blogger Sincerely Jules.
When it comes to home and design, however, Wikenheiser admits that it can be difficult finding items that other stores aren’t already stocking. As a result, she makes a point of standing out from the competition with her tightly edited presentation—a skill that comes naturally to the sophisticated designer.
Inside the boutique, a black-velvet armchair, framed in gleaming brass, sits beside an impeccably dressed mannequin atop a zebra-print rug. Scented candles from Karl Lagerfeld, soothing diffuser oils by local aromatherapy line Vitruvi, and custom-made throw pillows emblazoned with choice terms like rich, oxo, and a certain four-character word beginning with the letter f line glitzy glass shelving. Elsewhere, gold-speckled wallpaper serves as the backdrop for an elegant console, where two Barbara Cosgrove table lamps, their bases modelled after Chinese guardian lions, flank a pair of peep-toe booties and an Italian leather tote by Vancouver-based fashion-tech brand Mezzi.
Save for the fixtures, lighting elements, and a single gold-and-glass console, every item at LBV can be nabbed by shoppers. Even pieces from the store’s expansive gallery wall—a high-contrast mix of celebrity portraits, editorial shots, and prints of tongue-in-cheek quips like “More issues than Vogue”—can be ordered, complete with frames.
“For me, it’s about a vision and telling a story, and the pieces must fit into that story,” explains Wikenheiser. “And if I order something and it comes in and it doesn’t feel right or look right, I will put it in the cupboard, which is terrible retailing because you should be selling it.”
It may be a move frowned upon by the typical buyer, but Wikenheiser’s design-first approach has certainly resulted in a highly curated space that’s all her own—and one that’s sure to attract consumers during the upcoming Gastown Shop Hop, taking place next Thursday (April 21) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. LBV is one of almost 60 retailers and restaurants participating in the seasonal one-night shopping bonanza, when discounts, live music, and freebies will abound along Water Street and beyond.
During this time, LBV will be offering 20 percent off its entire stock, excluding sale items, and shoppers can also enter to win a leather clutch by Mezzi and a DL & Co. soy wax candle. The event will offer snap-happy Instagrammers a chance to check out the store, too, as well as the dazzling array of items that Wikenheiser can’t help but add to her own shopping list.
“The easiest thing to do is to sell something that you love,” she says.