Montreal is truly a city that loves fashion and design. Quebec’s biggest city has established itself as a creative hub where young talent thrives. Unlike cities like Paris and New York where fierce competition is part of the landscape, in Montreal, there is a certain kind of honest camaraderie going on between designers, which is not just endearing but it is also working in favor of the city’s fashion industry by pushing it forward.
For proof look no further than pretty much any independent boutique along Saint Laurent Boulevard (dubbed by locals ‘The Main’) in the hip Mile End neighborhood where local brands reign supreme. Another great thing about shopping local is that most apparel and accessories are also produced in the city (almost 60 percent of jobs in Québec’s fashion sector are in Montreal).
Of course, if you want to indulge in some high-end designer shopping, there is plenty of that, too. Head to the Golden Square Mile neighborhood, home to many luxury stores (Escada, Tiffany & Co, Hermès) and a brand new Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, Canada’s premier luxury retailer.
Without further ado, these are the boutiques not to be missed on your next shopping trip to Montreal.
Frank & Oak started out in 2012 as an online menswear boutique but quickly expanded its offerings to womenswear and now has brick and mortar stores all over Canada. The brand has gained a cult following among the younger crowd thanks to its easy-to-wear everyday pieces. Their aesthetic is rather classic (and super Instagram-friendly, by the way) with a nod to the past (90s mom jeans, wool plaid mini skirts, relaxed blazers reminiscent of the 80s, albeit sans the shoulder pads). Sustainability and ethical production is also a big part of the brand not only fashion-wise but when it comes to their stores, too. They are built with sustainable materials and in partnership with local Canadian artisans. Frank & Oak has three locations in Montreal and in all of them you can book an appointment for a barber, a stylist, or a custom suit fitting.
To get your designer wear fix, head to the new Holt Renfrew store that’s conveniently located in the same building as the Four Seasons Hotel Montreal (which is the perfect base for a visit to the city) in the Golden Square Mile neighborhood. The 40,000-square-foot hall is the epitome of sleek and luxurious elegance—white walls, high ceilings, arched windows letting in a ton of natural light. And the list of brands reads like the whos’ who of luxury fashion—Valentino, Givenchy, Gucci, Dior, Balenciaga. The beauty floor, located at the concourse level, is definitely worth a visit as well as it features several shops that are exclusive for Montreal such as Charlotte Tilbury, Christian Louboutin, and Chantecaille.
The store offers personal shopping and made-to-measure services as well as valet parking. 1307 Sainte-Catherine Street W., Montreal, QC
For over 30 years, this Montreal-based company (the “m” in the name stands for the founder’s last name, Mamarbachi, and 0851 stands for his birthday month and year) designs and produces—mostly in their atelier in Montreal—leather accessories and functional outerwear that transcend seasonal trends. Simplicity and sleekness permeate their designs. The company sources its fabrics (full-grain leather, cashmere, suede) and other raw materials (they even produce the furniture for their stores) from eco-conscious sources from all over the world. They have a large selection of travel accessories such as passport holders, toiletry cases, carry-all totes, and duffel bags that will last you forever. The company has three Montreal stores.
If the name of the brand gives you pause or if you are picturing a somber all-black collection, don’t. Even though Judith Desjardins’ label did go through an edgy phase 20 years ago, the brand’s aesthetic has evolved and it now caters to mostly young professionals with a penchant for urban chic. The designer puts an emphasis on the fabrics as much as she does on the design which means that every single piece you’ll find in her Mile End store is tailored in fabrics that look and feel great (she favors cotton). And of course, everything is produced in Montreal.
The boutique also offers a selection of accessories and jewelry created by other Montreal-based designers. Finally, if you’re not the kind of traveler who buys fridge magnets as souvenirs, pick up something from Desjardins’ 3-piece YUL collection that she created in honor of the city’s 375th anniversary. 17 Bernard West, (corner Saint-Laurent), Montreal, QC
Gentlemen, for the ultimate custom tailoring experience, look no further than designer Nathon Kong. His name may not be familiar on this side of the border (yet), but Kong and nine other Montreal designers were recently featured in an exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ accompanying the museum’s main exhibit: Thierry Mugler: Couturissime. It was a testament to Kong’s talent and skills.
Stepping into his showroom, located behind a hidden door in his office, feels a bit like stepping into a secret, decidedly more zen world—dim lights, Buddhist statues, and luxury furniture surround you. The Thailand-born designer uses a body scanner to get his clients’ measurements and once your custom suit is ready, you will forever be connected with Montreal’s art community thanks to the lining of the jacket that is printed with the work of a local artist. By appointment only; 372 Saint-Catherine St W Suite 201, Montreal, QC
Maguire is the brainchild of sister-duo Myriam and Romy who launched the brand in 2017. In their bright and airy boutique in the hip Mile End neighborhood, their chic (and very Instagrammable) footwear and accessories pop up against the whitewashed walls and furniture. The brand prides itself on being “transparent” with its customers—everything is designed in Montreal and produced in four factories in Italy, China, Ethiopia, and, of course, Montreal. They even list the production price of each pair of shoes they sell. We love their chunky heel Ravenna bootie that reaches just above the ankle and comes in several beautiful hues (yellow, royal blue, and brick red)—it is the quintessential fall style that you can wear with everything. 5365 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC
Les Etoffes may be a small boutique but it has a large following among Montreal’s fashion-savvy crowd and it’s all thanks to its impeccably curated selection of clothing, accessories, and lifestyle items. Owners Diana Taborsky and Christopher Girard handpick everything that is displayed in the store—clothing and accessories from Christophe Lemaire, the former Hermès designer, Maryam Nassir Zadeh shoes, Re/Done jeans, Saskia Diez jewelry, and menswear and footwear by Common Projects and Our Legacy. 5253 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC
Jennifer Glasgow, designer and owner of Général 54, opened her cozy boutique on Mile End’s Saint Laurent Boulevard with the mission to showcase Canada’s talent. Today, the chic space is brimming with apparel, beauty picks, and accessories by indie designers who favor sustainable practices. Pick up a pair of large hoop silver earrings by Annika Inez or a leather Erin Templeton bucket bag. Général 54 also carries Glasgow’s own apparel label, all made in Montreal in factories owned by women, as well as her sister brand, Lacroix. 5145 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC