Indigo Launches First Cultural Department Store for Booklovers

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When I was a teen the mall was everything. It was a meeting ground for my friends, a place of escape from our parents and teachers. We’d troll through the same stores again and again, inspired by things we thought defined the people we were and would become.

Today the mall is struggling. Kids connect over social media. They’re inspired by YouTubers. The rise of e-commerce plus our growing desire for experiences over things has chipped away at mall traffic, endangering its survival. Retailers are being forced to rethink their brick and mortar locations as more than a place to house stuff. It has to be a destination. They must learn how to embrace the omni-channel approach – providing a seamless user experience across all channels – while increasing a customer’s dwell time in store.

Retail is far from dead. It just needs to be refreshed.

Enter Indigo. The Canadian bookstore chain opened its latest location at CF Sherway Gardens this summer. The 30,000 megastore brands itself as the “first cultural department store for book lovers.” That isn’t just a tagline. It’s a bold move into the future.

Bookstores have always been categorized by interest, but this store takes it a step further with “shop within shop” boutiques catering to various interests such as health and wellness, home and cooking, fashion, art.

Indigo tapped customer data for insights that resulted in a seamless integration of books and lifestyle products. For instance, people interested in Wellness books are also a likely demo for products like the wildly popular FitBit, Swell water bottles for the ultimate style in on-the-go hydration and even chic, reusable food containers, which you’ll find stacked among the book titles.

Joy of the Table mixes recipe and home decor books with luxuriously homey cookware and table accents. Around the corner, Indigo brings the Canadian Home to life with cozy seating featuring on-trend pillows, throws, candles and a curated selection of 200 single titles that make up the best personal library.

A Room of Her Own is a shop inspired by Virginia Woolf’s famous extended essay “A Room of One’s Own.” This section offers fashion and beauty accessories including scarves, bags, jewellery, watches, eyeglasses, and lotions all surrounded by one of the largest selections of fashion, beauty and style books, in addition to titles by strong female authors including Joan Didion, Mindy Kaling and Shonda Rhimes.

It’s nice to see Canadian brands such as Pluck Tea, Matt & Nat handbags and Jenny Bird jewellery front and center. The store is also home to Indigo’s exclusive Read the North book gallery. #ReadtheNorth is their recent movement designed to inspire Canadians to fall in love with Canadian literature. Through the end of July you can enter to win one of two $500 gift cards in their #ReadtheNorth Instagram contest. Check out some of the familiar and famous helping to promote here.)

The Paper Shop (one of my favourite areas) takes up a massive corner stocked high with Moleskin journals, greeting cards and writing instruments. To add a personal touch to any gift, Indigo offers a complimentary embossing station to monogram journals, pouches and totes.

For the parents, a significant portion of the store is devoted to kids with books and edutainment. Every Tuesday and Saturday they host IndigoKids Storytime with readings for kids up to six years old.

Indigo is one of the best things at CF Sherway Gardens, a mall that boasts luxury shops like Saks and Holt Renfrew with Nordstroms a planned addition this fall. While other bookstores are tanking (talking to you, Barnes & Noble), Indigo is one of the rare success stories in retail, consistently showing revenue increases across all channels. Perhaps it’s because they’ve capitalized on the one area where Amazon can’t compete — the store experience.

Down the Vintage Shopping Rabbit Hole (Giveaway)

Luxe Touch vintage bags

Luxe Touch vintage bags

Anyone who knows me knows my love of vintage. It’s a good bet that almost any outfit I wear includes a fashionable nod to the past.

When scouring shops for vintage, you can’t have expectations. Perhaps this is why vintage fanatics like me love it — the sense of adventure, of discovery, the thrill of coming across something so unique, so interesting, so potentially now again.

These days, unfortunately, great vintage finds are hard to come by. As the Globe and Mail reported last month, the availability of high-end designer vintage has changed. Trolling through thrift stores today rarely reaps more than fast fashion cast-offs. Many vintage shops have evolved into high-end contemporary resale stores in order to maintain a viable business.

Well, get ready vintage lovers, this year’s annual Toronto Vintage Clothing Show is coming. And it’s going to be bigger than ever.

Featuring:

Luxe Touch, an independent Canadian based reseller of authentic luxury handbags and specializing in pre-owned and vintage Chanel flap bags in particular.

Ian Drummond Collection, a legendary fixture in the local vintage scene. Ian has been a passionate collector of vintage clothing since the early 1980s, and was responsible for the costuming of 3000+ background performers in HAIRSPRAY and CINDERELLA MAN.  Indulge your love of the 80’s and 90’s – this year Ian will be featuring a huge selection of outfits from a recent purchase.

If Victorian period is more your speed, The Fashion History Museum (located in Cambridge, Ontario) will be participating for the first time offering a one-time-only sale of some excess inventory (nearly 10,000 garments in the regular museum collection). This year guests can also explore a treasure trove of hand-picked antique and vintage decor at the Toronto Antique & Vintage Market.

Toronto Vintage Clothing Show
Admission $10 (cash only)
Saturday, March 5th 10am-5pm
Sunday, March 6th 10am-4pm
Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place (map)

Enter to win a pair of tickets to the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show by sharing your love of vintage on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #vintagelovah (a la Carrie Bradshaw’s “Hello, lovah”) by 11:59PM on March 2nd. Feel free to tag me @TheFList. Two winners will be contacted March 3rd to claim their prize.

Are you a vintage newbie? Here are my top tips for successful shopping:

  • By nature vintage is one-of-a-kind, so shopping is competitive. Arrive early.
  • Bring cash. Not all vendors take credit cards, and while there is an ATM on site you don’t want to miss out on a purchase while waiting in a long line-up.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle! This is why you bring cash. Prepare to cut a deal, but know when to walk away.
  • Inspect an item thoroughly before buying. Natural wear and tear on vintage may not be immediately visible, so be sure to check for loose seams, missing buttons, stains and such.
Photo courtesy the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Photo courtesy the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Can Celebrity Mugs Mask Poor Quality?

I confess, I don’t care about celebrity style. Outside of the major red carpet moments, I generally don’t care what a celebrity is wearing. But I do believe in tastemakers. I listen to restaurant recommendations from my friends who frequently dine out for work and pleasure, for example. Same goes for that girl in yoga with the great nails. Where does she get that killer mani? I need to know.

But tell me what jean shorts Kristen Stewart wore last week? YAWN. So when the celebrity styled BeachMint invited me to test drive a few of their lines now available in Canada, I agreed to set aside my lack of enthusiasm over the celebrity quotient and just think about the fashion.

The BeachMint properties are free to sign up. Each month the sites offer an item based on your personal style. You can choose to buy that month or skip it. According to the site, subscribers pay $30 for pieces that the company says would normally retail for a multiple of that price. 

Anyone who knows me knows my love of accessories. (I live by the line from Steel Magnolias, “the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”) BeachMint’s first vertical, JewelMint, features curated jewelry from celebrity duo actress Kate Bosworth and her stylist Cher Coulter. My ring, below, was actually five separate rings, or stackables, that could be combined in whatever combination of color I was feeling that day. Unfortunately the woven metal came with harsh edges around the beads and after continually catching it on my clothes – and worse, my skin – I tossed it. 

Jewelmint’s stackable rings didn’t last long

Next up was ShoeMint by celebrity Rachel Bilson, Nicole Chavez, and Steve Madden. The two-toned sandals were cute, but I couldn’t ignore the visible wear on the (brand new!) straps where they had been buckled prior to meeting me. Their cuteness was quickly downgraded to a cheap, “made in China” vibe. I was torn. Truthfully you can’t see the damage if I’m wearing them. And while they may be from China, they are still cute. And since I have no other cute brown sandals…well, now you see how fashion decisions are often made.

My Shoemint shoes

Finally I checked out my StyleMint t-shirt, endorsed by Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. Definitely cute, definitely comfy — frankly it’s hard to go wrong with a t-shirt. And they don’t. But how many t-shirts with budget-friendly prices does a girl need? Wisely, StyleMint now goes beyond basic tees to offer some ready-to-wear items, cashmere options and even sunglasses. It has inspired another celebrity-backed t-shirt start up. The LA-based Teeology.com, from a couple of whiz-bang tech entrepreneurs and Jennifer Lopez launched earlier this month. 

Still not sold on the celebrity factor, I do see the appeal of having an item curated for you each month for your taking – or not. Since announcing they ship to Canada, BeachMint has added HomeMint and IntiMint to keep your home style feeling fresh. Let’s hope their quality lives up to the names on the business.

 
Mary Kate & Ashley. Or Ashley & Mary Kate. Who knows?
 

F-listed Auction is Live

 Happy birthday to me! For the next ten days explore F-listed, the first online auction of its kind. Browse and bid on fashionable goods donated by Canadian designers, retailers, tastemakers and celebrities across Canada. 

New items will be added throughout the week, so check back frequently. Are you on the mailing list? We’ll notify you when new items go live. Sign up here.

Proceeds help support Dress for Success Toronto, a cause I feel passionately about because we all deserve to look and feel our best. Dress for Success not only outfits disadvantaged women in professional attire, it helps them enter the professional world with mentoring
and job interview training. It’s a volunteer organization with outlets all over North America.

For more on F-listed, click here. Shop, browse and bid now, click here!

Holiday Wish List: Item #12

Pamela Anderson, kindly avert your attention for this blog post.  This one is about fur.
I adore fur.  It’s only since moving to Canada that I even gave fur any thought.  Canadians love their fur.  It’s part of the history and well-accepted here.  Not so where I come from.  In fact, while visiting friends in Pennsylvania I discovered (and quickly snapped up) a mint condition fur shoulder wrap at a flea market.  My American friends were aghast, questioning “You aren’t worried about wearing fur? Won’t you be attacked?”  “Are you kidding?” I replied adding, “in Canada?!” As if.
Yes, I unaplogetically wear vintage fur.  In the words of Rachel Zoe: It’s vintage, so it’s okay.
That’s why I love Montreal’s Rachel F.  She is a practical yet imaginative designer of accessories using recycled leather and fur.
“I only use recycled animal skins and other materials that come from second hand clothes, production waste, and material samples that were not used from large manufacturers. Because we live in an over consumption world, we should take advantage of this opportunity to renew existing materials.”
– Rachel F.
And when I stumbled across her latest fall line at Shopgirls earlier this year, I knew these earmuffs would haunt my dreams.  I decided to put them on my Christmas list.