It wasn’t long ago that Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood was a relative no-man’s land. But the city’s one-time ugly duckling has bloomed in recent years, and it’s got the restaurants, retail stores, and startups to prove it. In fact, Gastown has become an incubator for some of the city’s best boutiques. (It’s also home to our school headquarters!) From longtime residents like John Fluevog to relative newcomers like Truvelle, here are our favourite places to shop after class:
Opened by power couple Amy Renee and Noah MacNayr-Heath in late 2007, Nouvelle Nouvelle has become a Gastown staple. Renee, who previously owned Commercial Drive’s Prado Café, focuses on up-and-coming labels, along with sartorial contenders like Ganni, Steven Alan, and Won Hundred. In 2014, they opened their second location in Mount Pleasant. Head here for unique accessories and eye-catching apparel.
Oak + Fort
A Gastown original, Oak + Fort got its start in 2010 with a single Vancouver boutique. Today, the brand boasts companies across Canada and, more recently, in New York and San Francisco. This explosive growth might just have something to do with the company’s belief in clean, minimal design and its tendency to favour classic cuts over flash-in-the-pan trends. Whatever the reason, Oak + Fort is thriving, both at home and abroad.
Kit and Ace
Another international boutique that got its start in the heart of Gastown, Kit and Ace made a splash with its launch in 2014, likely due to its close connection with Lululemon founder Chip Wilson. The company is led by Chip’s wife Shannon and his son, JJ. The pair identified a lack of high end activewear on the market, and stepped in to fill that void with their proprietary fabric, technical cashmere. They offer a more stylish (but just as comfortable) remedy to Vancouver’s addiction to Lululemon pants.
A member of Gastown’s old guard of fashion boutiques, The Block has been around since 1999, before the neighbourhood became a place to be. Its seductive combination of well-curated fashion and nostalgic heritage building make shopping here an experience in and of itself. Longtime owner Jennifer MacKay stocks brands like Filippa K, A.P.C., and Loeffler Randall, along with a selection of Canadian designers.
John Fluevog is an unquestionable Gastown icon. Born and raised in Vancouver, Fluevog has been designing and selling shoes since the 1970s. His footwear has been worn by celebrities, musicians, and actors, and is recognized around the world. The Gastown location is bright, spacious, and chock-full of Fluevog’s whimsical designs.
Founded in Bondi Beach, Bailey Nelson has been selling affordable eyewear since 2012. It didn’t take long for the company’s unique business model—fashionable spectacles at wallet-friendly prices—to take off. In 2014, the Aussie came to Vancouver, setting up shop at the corner of Cambie and Cordova. The best place to browse stylish spectacles—even if you have 20/20 vision.
Recent addition Truvelle is Gastown’s only bridal store. Founder Gaby Bayona has been making and selling wedding dresses since 2013. The company takes an original approach to those big day gowns, creating pared-down made-to-order dresses that brides can select from the brand’s yearly collections, designed by Bayona herself.
Named by Highsnobiety as one of the best denim stores on Earth, Dutil has called Gastown home since 2006. Apart from its knockout selection of quality jeans, the store is known for its staff, all of whom seem to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things denim.
LYNNsteven’s modus operandi? Stocking fashion lines that might be hard to find anywhere else in the city. Named after owner Nicole’s mother (Lynn) and younger brother (Steven), the shop has built a solid reputation for itself. With its carefully curated offerings, charming interior, and dedicated owner, LYNNsteven is a staple go-to for fashionistas.
A collaboration between local stylists Lauren Clark and Lyndsey Chow, Hey Jude existed only as a series of pop-up shops before Clark and Chow opened a brick-and-mortar store in the neighbourhood. In an effort to combat the fast fashion epidemic, they wade through secondhand clothing to bring their customers only the highest quality vintage pieces. And Vancouver has responded with gratifying enthusiasm.