Gastown Shop Hop unites clothing and lifestyle stores, old and new

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      Sales and sweets and wine, oh my! Yes, it’s time to put on your walking shoes and ease on down the brick roads of Gastown for spring’s funkiest shopping event. On Thursday (April 10) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the historic ’hood will host the biannual Gastown Shop Hop, which means discounts galore on indie-designer goods as well as plenty of complimentary drinks and tasty bites at participating clothing and lifestyle stores.

      For well-established hot spots such as dream (356 Water Street), the Block (350 West Cordova Street), and One of a Few (354 Water Street), this festive four-hour event is basically the ultimate customer-appreciation party. For the newer boutiques, however, it serves as a great opportunity to introduce their stylish stock to the uninitiated. Take Meadow Gifts and Apparel (104 Water Street), for example. This adorable little gift and apparel boutique may not be on every fashionista’s radar simply because it only opened in late 2012. But it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of sweet, whimsical pieces that aren’t overly precious but still make you go aww.

      “It’s just such a great event,” says Sasha Freeman, who co-owns the store with her sister, Casey Myrfield. “It brings so many people down to Gastown, and our store is pretty tiny, so it gives us lots of exposure.”

      And since stores like Meadow carry a fair share of Vancouver designers, the Shop Hop also gives local labels exposure. Kuma’s Earth Friendly Eyewear is a great case in point.

      “We have carried the sunglasses with bamboo and wooden handles in the past and they’ve just done so well for us, so we were so excited to see that these ones were from Vancouver,” says Freeman of Kuma, which promises to plant a tree in an endangered ecosystem for every pair of shades sold ($36).

      Meadow also carries a few foxy pieces as well. And by foxy we don’t mean saucy—we mean of the furry, four-legged variety. (FYI, foxes are the new owls.) In one snug corner of the store, for instance, there’s a selection of leather goods by Geneviève Jodouin, a B.C.–based artisan who takes vintage handbags and screenprints simple, nostalgic drawings on them. Naturally, the taupe shoulder bag featuring a sketch of the animal’s face ($50) is one of the highlights of this collection. You can also find foxy faces on the adult-sized Ts ($34) and onesies ($28) by Gnome Enterprises, a Brooklyn-based company that specializes in hand-drawn and handprinted designs.

      For straight-up fashion, there’s Birds of North America, a Montreal-based label that the Meadow sisters recently discovered. These pieces are beyond cute. Standouts include the high-waisted, nautical-inspired pleated Paon Skirt ($139) and the button-down seersucker Poussin Dress ($184). Like everything in the store, the pieces don’t just look adorable, they look super-comfy and -comforting as well.

      “A lot of the stuff that we have is for homebodies—that’s like our crowd,” Freeman says. “It’s a cozy store.”

      That it is. At the opposite end of that style spectrum is complexgeometries (14 Water Street). This spacious, minimalist, gallery-like store, which opened in August 2013, is the epitome of urban chic. It’s where comfy meets avant-garde.

      Store manager Adam DeKeyser explains: “Many of the pieces are unisex, but they’re not androgynous. They look really different on men and women. And a lot of the pieces are multiwear, so there’s a little trick to them.”

      Such is the case with the jersey Hush T ($168), which comes in navy or a dark purplish brown they’re calling “bruise”. Lay it out flat and you’ll see it’s rectangular, but put it on and it becomes a very drapey, asymmetrical mind twister.

      While the NYC-based label has been selling online and wholesale for several years, this Gastown location is the brand’s first stand-alone retail store. So for complexgeometries’ second Shop Hop, they’re going big with a cherry-blossom theme and free Champagne.

      As for Freeman, she hasn’t decided what she’s going to serve yet.

      “Well, we did cupcakes last time,” she says, “but we’ll definitely have some kind of drink like sangria or some kind of festive punch and some little candy too.”

      Either way, you can bet all your wining, dining, and designing needs will be met come April 10.