Last Thursday Victoire celebrated the 1 Year Anniversary of opening their Toronto location, so Ryan and I headed over there to enjoy some Mermaid-themed goodness (well, I mostly enjoyed that) and to finally meet the owners, Regine and Katie who reside in Ottawa. It was pretty excellent to run into some ladies I hadn’t seen in awhile and to check out all the babes adorned in pastel hues. We didn’t snap too many pictures, but I hope you enjoy the few that we did.
Sylvie and Shimmy is an adorable fashion boutique located in my old neighbourhood of Parkdale. They opened their doors in February 2013 (very nearly two years ago, woohoo!) and have been such a wonderful addition to the neighbourhood. Since independent businesses are very near and dear to my heart I thought it would be nice to show you guys around this adorable shop and get to know it’s owners, Caroline Sylvester and Kyungjoo Shim.
Tell us a little about yourselves, and how Sylvie and Shimmy came to fruition.
We met in Fashion School at George Brown in 2011. Caroline was involved with creating her own jewelry line, which used to be presented in local boutiques. Shim has a variety of experiences in the fashion industries of both South Korea and Canada. We both shared a dream of creating our own space, and finally had a chance to put forward all our effort and were able to realize our ambitions and open our first brick and mortar shop in Parkdale in 2013.
How would you describe Sylvie and Shimmy’s aesthetic?
We did a lot of research into fashion trends, consumers’ shopping patterns, and so on and wanted to create a unique and comfortable boutique, where people can enjoy their shopping experience. The concept for our store is a dream apartment, which is mixed with classic and simple components. The majority of our beautiful furniture and props, such as tea cups, are from Caroline’s grandmother, and are very meaningful to us. We added vintage and modern items to represent our personal tastes, like old cameras, LPs and frames.
How would describe your personal aesthetic?
Caroline: I often type myself as a chameleon. Overall, I’d say I like to add some vintage flare to my daily outfit. It depends on my mood or current inspiration. Some days I like to dress very feminine in a girly dress, others I like to be comfortable in loose pants and a basic top. Some days I’m inspired by mens fashion and will dress like a tom boy.
Shim: I like feminine, classic but fun items. I love colour, patterns and different textures, but I also like simple and classic styles as well. I like to mix colours and different patterns along with simple items so I often enjoy layering different pieces.
Do you carry any local or independent designers?
We import our clothing mainly from Korea. Most of our Korean clothing is from independent designers or small brands. We do carry 3 local clothing designers including Sara Duke, 1% Talent and Crywolf Clothing. The majority of our jewelry is from local/Canadian designers including Moonrox (Toronto), Liana Marie (Toronto), Kara Yoo (Vancouver), Type B (Vancouver), Tilly Doro (originally from Montreal but now based out of Brooklyn, NY), and COVEN (Toronto) just to name a few.Favourite item currently in the shop?
Its hard to choose just one piece of clothing. We have recently started to bring in our pre-spring items. The spring collection has not been completely set, but a lace fitted dress is our favorite from the pre-spring collection. We carry a lot of different designs which are updated on a weekly basis, but there is no doubt that lace items are often our favorites.
Best thing about running your own business.
Caroline: Its great to be your own boss and make decisions about the shop, we only have to consult with one another. Personally, I love getting to know our customers individually and their needs and wants within the fashion we sell. I love to pull a piece for someone I have in mind and am so delighted when they walk away a happy customer and a piece of clothing has a new happy home.
Shim: There are tough and difficult moments of being a small business owner, but at the same time I believe we do not have any limitations in developing ourselves and our brand. I believe that any small business owner has a lot of potential for growth. We are very grateful for the opportunity to work with different individual designers or brands and we are very pleased to be able to introduce small or independent brands to customers who are looking for unique items which are not mass produced.
Advice for anyone aspiring to open their own shop.
There are many rewards to opening your own business but there are also many sacrifices one must make as well. Choose something you are very passionate about and focus your energy on being the very best in that particular sector of business. Always learn from your mistakes and strive for growth.
Your personal favourite shops in Toronto.
We love the other shops in our neighbourhood – we all try to help out one another and support each other wherever we can. Check out our friends and neighbours North Standard, Jinks Coffee, Kitten and the Bear, Cambie Design, Kid Icarus, Coriander Girl, West End Comics, Glory Hole Donuts, Skeir Gallery, Quinn West Hair Salon, This Little Piggy and Crown Flora.
Where can we find you on the weekend if you’re not running things at the shop?
Shim: I love to spend time with my friends and family, we often invite each other for dinner or out for drinks. We love visiting new places. I also like to visit downtown or queen west to researching trends or street fashion.
Other than Sylvie and Shimmy, is there anything else you do?
Caroline: My hobbies include crocheting, reading and music. I used to be a jewelry designer but now there isn’t enough time with the business to design jewelry. I find that crocheting allows me to be detailed oriented, creative and focused as I used to be with jewelry design. I love a good book, a story can take you away from everyday life and transport you elsewhere. As stated previously I really like checking out bands and I like a wide range of music.
Shim: I have already attended school for fashion design and for fashion management; however I would love to study marketing and advertising. Another interest of mine I hope to pursue would be fashion and lifestyle blogging. I have a keen appreciation for elements of design, especially in housing, classic and modern art, photographs, and cuisine. So I would like to create a lifestyle blog in which I can share the things in which I’m interested.Thanks to Caroline and Shim for letting me snap some photos of your sweet shop and taking the time to answer some questions.
Sylvie and Shimmy
1640 Queen St. W
If you are interested in seeing some other Toronto shops I’ve featured, you can fine them here.
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?
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.
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…
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.