It was another tough year for fashion retailers; Forever 21 went bankrupt, closing 44 stores in Canada just last month, and following in the footsteps of retailers like Payless and Topshop. Still, many Canadian retailers dared to expand their direct-to-consumer footprints in 2019 with the launch or their own storefronts or via strong retail collaborations.
From lingerie brands to a tattoo concept shop, I’m counting down some top Canadian brands that broke into retail this year.
Canadian intimates brand Knix kicked off its retail debut this year with the opening of its first standalone stores. The brand opened a storefront in Vancouver and inaugurated a flagship retail store in Toronto on Queen West. The brand, which had its start in 2013, equally launched a nationwide partnership with Nordstrom in 2019, rounding out a very busy retail year.
It was especially exciting to see independent Montreal-based designer Marilyne Baril break into retail this year with a brand new space for her brand Marigold. She opened a storefront in the Montreal borough of Verdun for her made-in-Montreal line that encourages ‘Slow Fashion’. The store’s interior is characterized by orange accents housing the womenswear designer’s latest creations.
Canadian indie label Okayok inaugurated its first permanent retail location in its hometown of Toronto in 2019. The boutique houses the brand’s playful contemporary loungewear, as well as the company’s new commercial studio space. The brand, founded in 2017 by designer and entrepreneur Adrienne Butikofer, is well-known for its niche, and sometimes cheeky designs.
Following a successful pilot pop-up project last year, Manitobah Mukluks expanded its number of retail locations this year to 18 stores in several major cities. The brand, which specializes in indigenous modern footwear, opened the pop-up experiences temporarily this year. The brand opened stores in several locations across the country including Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and the Toronto area.
Cruelty-free Canadian outerwear brand Wuxly Movement opened its first storefront in 2019, in Toronto, in a retail space shared with fellow local brand Vitaly. The brand, co-founded by former Canadian pro-football player, James Yurichuk, and master-tailor, Anthony DeBartolo in 2012, offers a range of parkas, bombers, jackets, hats, and vests that promise to be sourced ethically.
Toronto-based tattoo startup Inkbox opened its first permanent retail space on Queen Street West this year. The temporary tattoo brand has experimented with a number of pop-ups since first launching in 2015. The new location offers tattoo designs and a retail space housing the company’s temporary designs. Inkbox also launched an area for permanent tattoos, dubbed Inside Out.
After 5 years online, Province of Canada announced the official opening of its first brick and mortar store in Leslieville, Toronto, in 2019. The new digs at 1004 Queen Street East houses the brand’s well-made basics collection of made in Canada pieces, as well as accessories like toques, totes, and candles.
This year, Toronto-based fashion brand Ellie Mae Studios teamed up with decor brand COFO, to open a retail space at Toronto’s shipping container market, Stackt. The new space is filled with Ellie Mae’s womenswear collection, as well as the two brands’ chic cannabis accessories, and COFO’s modern and streamlined furniture.
Six years after launching her eponymous label, Vancouver-based jewellery designer Melanie Auld opened a brick-and-mortar store during the summer of 2019. The 805-square-foot flagship, characterized by pink and green decor, carries Auld’s full range of west coast-inspired bling. Beyond the brand’s jewellery collection, the store also houses an in-house collection of Murano-glass vessels and white ceramics.
Montreal-based designer Habi Gerba opened her first storefront for her high-end clothing line designed for the modern working woman this year. Customers are invited to make an appointment at the boutique located in Montreal at 3859 Saint-Denis for a personalized shopping experience, where they can choose between custom-made or ready-to-wear clothing options by Gazelles.
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