Cheryl Shops...Montreal (again!)

It was almost exactly four years ago that MW and I made an impromptu trip to Montreal; we ended up there last week on our mini-moon of sorts (MW was actually there for a conference; I tagged along). We were in more of a university neighborhood this time, which was fine with me--it was more quiet than downtown, but easy to get nearly everywhere we needed to go. My shopping trips were basically conducted in short bursts while MW was off giving a reading or panel discussion, but here's what I hit this time.

While I normally do a lot of research on where to shop before leaving for a trip, my Montreal prep work consisted of crowd-sourcing on Twitter and looking stuff up on my phone at the airport before we left. Needless to say, my last-minute queries turned up TNT, which was conveniently a few blocks away from our hotel. Sort of like a mini Barneys, TNT has an appealing mixture of avant-garde fashion like Comme des Garçons, contemporary lines like J Brand and Elizabeth & James, and the best selection of French labels like Sandro, Isabel Marant, and Maje that I've seen outside of Paris. The lower level was all sale merchandise, currently 30-50% off. One thing to note: Here, as in many stores in Montreal, I found the salespeople to be rather prickly. But when in doubt, head next door to Calories, where service is much more friendly, and drown your sorrows in some tasty apple crisp or cheesecake. 4100 Rue St. Catherine Ouest, Westmount

MW's conference was close to Holt Renfrew, which is kind of like the Neiman Marcus of Canada. The Montreal store is much smaller than the Vancouver location, with the usual beauty and accessories on the first floor, designer on the second, and shoes, contemporary, sportswear, and lingerie on the third. You can find the major American players here--Marc Jacobs, DVF, Tory Burch, Michael Kors--but also European designers like Erdem, Marni, and Dries Van Noten. I fell somewhat in love with a bandage skirt by Pleasure Doing Business but decided against it due to its length, which left little to the imagination, and its price, which was still $99 Canadian. I also tried on two interesting Rick Owens-esque dresses by Line, which might be a private label; both were very drapey and flattering, but one was too small and one was too large. Service here was much more pleasant, perhaps due to its tourist-friendly location; then again, it was here that I perfected my first-speak-French, then-speak-English technique. 1300 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

Ssense, which is kind of like the Net-a-Porter of Canada, has a fairly new two-story boutique in the Old Town (which, strangely enough, is not listed anywhere on the ecommerce site). They carry everything from Proenza Schouler and Givenchy for the ladies to Topman for the guys; unlike the excellent website, most items were of the full-price variety (except for some several-seasons-old Balmain, which, at $3,000 and up, was still way out of my price range). Considering its location is in a rather touristy area, I kind of wonder who shops here. 90 Rue St. Paul Ouest

One of my favorite shops, also in the Old Town, was Espace Pepin, equal parts art gallery and clothing boutique, showcasing the work of local artists and designers. The vibe is very artsy, with lots of relaxed crinkled linen clothes and oversized jewelry, but prices were reasonable, and I think it's always important to support local talent. It's also worth a visit alone for the adorable Saint Bernard who presides over the store. 350 Rue St. Paul Ouest

And while you're in the Old Town, I highly recommend stopping for a bite to eat at Olive & Gourmando. True, I hadn't eaten carbs in 2 weeks, but their sandwiches tasted like a little bit of heaven and their iced tea was like ambrosia. They also have pastry, homemade granola, jams, and Savon de Marseilles products for sale. 351 Rue St. Paul Ouest

Finally, our trip coincided with the opening of the Jean-Paul Gaultier retrospective at the Musée des Beaux Arts, so of course I dragged MW there on our last day. I would highly recommend visiting if you're in town (it runs through October 2nd); the exhibit focuses mainly on Gaultier's couture work, and the placards note how many hours each garment took to construct--being able to examine these works of art up close is truly a treat. The staging, if you will, is really innovative too--one section features looks rotating on a runway, and throughout the exhibit, talking faces are projected onto the mannequins' heads, which is kind of freaky at first, but an interesting way to present information and set a mood nonetheless. And because Gaultier is nothing without Madonna (or so she seems to think), the exhibit also includes several of the famous costumes he designed for her infamous Blonde Ambition tour. But bustiers are just a small (albeit important) part--it covers everything from punks to sailors to futurism, and all of it is exquisite and provocative. It will be interesting to compare with the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, which, hopefully, I'll see this weekend; though both designers leave a lasting legacy of extraordinary fashion, both were considered the enfants terribles of their day. 1379 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest


Leny G said...

Look great place

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