While I love my vintage (obviously), I am constantly on the lookout for shops that carry some beloved designers, or can introduce me to ones I have never heard of. If I’m going to buy new I want to support smaller businesses and independent designers. So the last time I visited Ottawa (my hometown/city) during Christmas, a friend told me about a cool boutique called Victoire. Owners Regine and Katie opened Victoire’s doors in June 2006 and now have two Ottawa locations. Cut to February of this year, Victoire opens a Toronto location and it sort of felt like fate, or something like it. I knew I would have to pop by the shop sometime and meet the gals who run the show around these parts. Amber and Kristina, the boss ladies at Victoire Toronto, were kind enough to let me come by on a somewhat dreary Saturday, snap some pictures of their sweet little shop and ask them a few questions about themselves and running a shop.
Tell us a little about yourself, and how you came to run the happenings at Victoire’s Toronto location.
Amber – I started working for Victoire back in 2007 after running into Katie and Regine outside of the Elgin Street Diner in the early hours of the morning. I ended up transferring to U of T and moving to Toronto, but I couldn’t be happier to be back working with some super inspiring women doing our part to promote Canadian design.
Kristina – I’m Kristina. I recently moved to Toronto to help open up this new location. Before this, I worked at both Ottawa locations and had been at that for a few years. Victoire has been a great place for me because Regine and Katie (the owners) pretty much let you take as much initiative as you are comfortable with.
How would you describe Victoire’s aesthetic?
I think Victoire has dual aesthetics that are more split personalities than separate entities. One is sweet and the other is a little cheekier, both totally wearable and pretty reasonably priced.
Describe your personal aesthetic, and do you feel you bring a bit of that to Victoire?
A – My personal aesthetic tends to vary with the day and the practicalities of whatever I’m doing. I am, however, eternally in love with that 60s girl group, big hair, baby doll dress look. Lately I’ve been thinking that my look could be called like 70s mom. I just want to wear a turtleneck, super high waisted jeans, and some wood heeled sandals. I sure do bring it to Victoire.
K – My personal aesthetic lies somewhere between the practicality of Laura Dern’s clothes in Jurassic Park (denim, khaki, tshirts, PS how adorable is Laura Dern?) and wanting to dress like one of the brothers from the Jesus and Mary Chain (in the 80s). I feel that I need to be a little disheveled to feel like myself, so I like my ripped t-shirts and I wear a lot of black. However, I feel that as someone working in a boutique, I need to make some effort to be well-presented so I guess I have to pick my battles/t-shirts carefully. As a result of working at Victoire, I have definitely come to own and appreciate dresses more. I definitely bring my aesthetic to the shop and enjoy mixing it up with classic feminine silhouettes and some of the edgier/fun pieces.
What designers do you carry in the shop and do you guys help with the selection process?
Designers we carry in the shop include Valerie Dumaine, Eve Gravel, Betina Lou, Birds of North America, Dace, Dagg&Stacey, Minnow Bathers, Charziie, Rosehound Apparel, Leilanni, Samantha Pleet, In God We Trust, and more! Katie and Regine do the majority of the buying, but Kristina and I are starting to get more involved in it and are really looking forward to taking on that role.
Favourite item currently in the shop?
A – My fave item in the shop is the Ursa Minor Youki dress ($198) and the stunning Eleven Thirty Sari leather tote bag ($320).
K – The Samantha Pleet Scout dress ($260) – sold out online. I recently bought the Mountain print version of this dress and it’s just the best.
Best thing about running a shop.
A – The best thing about running a shop is for sure just meeting new people and interacting with them, helping them find an outfit and contributing in some way to making them feel well dressed! Second best is doing merchandising in the store to make everything look beautiful and exciting.
K – Meeting new people! It keeps me energized. I enjoy being a part of the “boutique experience” for customers. It’s more intimate, less aggressive, and generally a much more positive experience than managing a retail location in the mall or something (in my experience). Also, I probably get to meet more dogs now than ever before… Victoire has an open-door policy for canines.
A – My favourite designers are probably Samantha Pleet and Dace.
K- This changes all the time for me, but right now: Valerie Dumaine, Dace, Samantha Pleet, The Lost City, Eleven thirty, Birds of North America. I also love Dusen Dusen and Ovate.
Advice for anyone aspiring to open their own shop.
K – Don’t let anyone discourage you! There are so many negative Nancies and know-it-alls out there who want to bring you down and tell you all the ways you can’t do something. You CAN do it. Having said that, it’s easy to get overwhelmed running a small business (obviously it’s a lot of work and times can be tough) so it’s important to recharge and get support when you need it. Also, look for ways you can share knowledge with other businesses and create a sense of community around what you do. Like, look to involve yourself with other complimentary businesses by hosting events together, cross-promoting, supporting other people’s initiatives, and all that good stuff. And when you need a hand, reach out. Call me! We’ll hug and we’ll work through it. There should be a Women in Business Support Group where we all hang out and dish it out.
Your personal favourite shops in Toronto.
Our fave shops in Toronto are Philistine, Soop Soop, the Likely General, Easy Tiger Goods, Crywolf, The Chief Salvage, Silver Falls Vintage and Tusk, Chosen Vintage, Robber (RIP), Future of Frances Watson…
Where can we find you on a Sunday when you’re not running things at the shop?
A – On a Sunday (when I’m not at work) I’ll be out riding my bike around Parkdale, drinking coffees in the sun, reading my book, maybe doing the crossword, chatting people up, and probably trying to organize dinner with all my friends.
K – Usually wandering my neighbourhood alleyways with my handy Sharpie, listening to music on headphones, and stopping into June Records to spend money I don’t have on records. Or out on a bike ride with one of my gal pals.
Other than Victoire, is there anything else you guys do? Creatively, academically etc.
A – I’m part way through a post-grad in landscape design and I’m pretty always down for odd jobs. Sometimes I babysit, sometimes I do gardening, sometimes I grocery shop for seniors, etc.
K – Matthew McConaughey stole my idea to start a company called JKL (Just Keep Livin) to finance my various projects. I don’t get paid to read books, listen to records or to just keep livin’, but it’s what I enjoy doing outside of work. I’m pretty inspired by comedians and musicians, so I try to check out new comedy and music online and around the city. I wish I had more cool stuff to say here…
Thanks so much to Amber and Kristina! Ya’ll are rad babes!
If you live in Ottawa or Toronto be sure to check out the shop(s)!
129 A Ossington Ave.
246 Dalhousie St.
1282 Unit B. Wellington St.