Muji may have brought thoughtfully designed products to the masses when it touched down in Vancouver earlier this year, but if you have a thing for well-made home and lifestyle objects—particularly those hailing from the seemingly always-a-step-ahead Land of the Rising Sun—Kitsilano’s Sort (2550 Stephens Street) should, nay, must be on your radar.
Situated just off West Broadway, the design-focused boutique quietly opened this past summer and has since been introducing Vancouverites to a slate of quality, artfully assembled goods born both at home and overseas. At first glance, the items that line the shop’s clean white and wood shelves are nothing remarkable: scissors, mechanical pencils, paper clips, and ruled notebooks. But it’s their design and careful construction, the minute ways in which they’ve been optimized for everyday living, that are worth celebrating.
The scissors, for instance, are crafted from a single sheet of stainless steel, which offers the cutters a sleek look while making them more durable. The mechanical pencils, produced by Japanese label Penco, employ a dark two-millimetre-thick lead that allows for broader strokes ideal for shading or sketching. The Italian-sourced paper clips, meanwhile, are nickel-plated and bent in a wider, squarer shape that’s sturdier than your standard clip. And the notebooks, manufactured by the Tokyo-based Craft Design Technology, are filled with soft, cream-coloured pages that are easier on the eyes than stark white.
“It’s not so much about the glamourous side of things…but the functional, fundamental, foundational approach to something,” Sort co-owner Vince Lo tells the Straight during a recent visit to the store.
Cofounder of local firm Studio Faculty, Lo operates Sort with friend and fellow graphic designer Alvin Kwan. Together, the duo has curated a collection of neat objects that they hope will prove practical to Vancouverites while fostering in them an appreciation for the intricacies of design. In addition to desktop accessories and stationery, you’ll find handmade mugs, plates, and serving bowls by Hasami Porcelain; brollies from local institution—and soon-to-be-permanently-closed—the Umbrella Shop; and books and magazines that dissect the realms of design, art, and architecture.
There’s a small selection of unisex T-shirts, pins, and wool toques by the locally based Corduroi Club, too, plus utility knives, stackable glassware, and adorable hand-carved toy animals. “We want to bring in products that a lot of people may not really know of,” says Kwan.
Lo and Kwan would also like to see Sort serve as a community space. They recently wrapped up a pop-up shop with Corduroi Club and will soon play host to a series of calligraphy classes led by local artist Fox & Flourish. It’s all part of the pair’s mission to make the diverse—and ever-so-subtle—discipline of design more accessible to the city. “We don’t think design is only for the creative class,” says Lo. “We think it’s for anyone.”
Check out the images below for a closer look at Sort before you visit IRL.More