The Best Shopping in Montreal
Far from an excessively consumerist city, Montreal likes its goods select, well designed and generally not too showy. Bling has very little place here, where status tends to be demonstrated with understated finds rather than a season’s international It piece. That means that the best stores around carry small, recherché brands, with a focus on things made here or near. From clothes to design objects to homeware, here’s a list of shops that will inspire you to keep room in your luggage.
6906 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2S 3C7, Canada
This enclave on upper Boulevard Saint-Laurent in Little Italy emanates style from the front window on, with a quirky and impeccable approach to layout. Its rich wooden tables and modernist shelves are rife with unique, collectible objects and everyday useful things. Some are wearable, like silk scarves, merino wool sweaters and designer galoshes, while others exist to embellish living spaces, like beautiful metal bowls and hand-painted birch branches that serve as sculptures. There are even edible things, like artisanal lemonade syrup and fancy teas. The focus is on locally made goods with a smattering of international purveyors too, who fit within the store’s general earthy-chic aesthetic.
5253 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1S4, Canada
You know that person who’s so nonchalantly well-dressed she makes everyone in the room look like they’re either dressed on potato sacks or tarted up, Vegas-style? She shops at Les Étoffes. “Measured” is the name of the game in this unisex clothes shop, with carefully selected pieces from all over the world and brands like Samuji, Apiece-Apart, Christophe Lemaire and Dieppa Restrepo. No matter the brand, the palette is understated and neutral, featuring grays, navies, browns and blacks, and the detailing is subtle; think texture contrasts, geometric cuts and tone-on-tone superposition. The store itself is a design beacon decorated with warm amber wood and tile.
160 Rue Saint Viateur Est
Did you know this is a Montreal-based brand? This menswear maker, specializing in shirts and suits hip professionals actually like to wear, has conquered indie circles all over the world with its web store, but over the past couple of years it has also opened flagship stores in Vancouver and Toronto. The Montreal store was the original, though, and you can soak up that cred in a stylish wood-and-iron shop on Mile End’s Rue Saint-Viateur. You’ll find Frank & Oak’s signature check shirts in both long- and short-sleeve, as well as suits and accessories like ties and a beautiful range of house-designed bags, whose combination of rugged canvas and thick leather has made them a favorite among women, too. Photo: Jocelyn Reynolds
418 Rue Saint-Sulpice, Montréal, QC H2Y 2V5, Canada
This is the storefront to the internationally known high fashion web empire that few people – even Montrealers – know is based Montreal. SSENSE has been selling brands like Erdem, 3.1 Philip Lim, Givenchy, Chloé, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and dozens more élite designers for years now, bringing the world of fashion to Montreal in a way even department stores Ogilvy and Holt Renfrew haven’t been able to. In contrast to the web store, this stylish storefront on fashion avenue – where local designers Denis Gagnon, Rad Hourani and more have their boutiques – is the place to go to try some designer items on in the flesh.
4855 Rue Sherbrooke, Westmount, QC H3Z 1G9, Canada
Despite moving down the street and making the transition from independently owned hardware store to a franchise of the Home Hardware chain, Hoggs has kept the spirit that distinguishes it alive and well. This is much more than a hardware store, and locals have come to depend on it for great gift ideas and a regular supply of British imports, like Yorkshire tea, Scottish caramels and Wellington boots in all sizes. What’s handy is they still sell hammers, ladders and anything else you may need for home improvement.
4910 Rue Sherbrooke O, Westmount, QC H3Z 1H3, Canada
You’ll want to spend hours in this cheerful second-floor boutique, trying on everything in sight with the help of the knowledgeable staff. The unique collection of goodies includes Montreal fashion brands like Pajar alongside international favorites including Citizens of Humanity, James Perse, J Brand and Free People. The seasonal lookbook is casual, sophisticated, adaptable and fresh, with a focus on natural, flowing textiles and muted colours, with a few punches of high-octane hues. The accessories collection alone is worth the trip, especially the handbags.
4875A Rue Sherbrooke, Westmount, QC H3Z 1G9, Canada
The cute pun of the name (“chouchou” means “favorite” in French) will give you an idea on the appealing collection within this Rue Sherbrooke shoe store. They carry some standard brands, like Stuart Weitzman, but also a bunch of unusual ones that it’s nearly impossible to find in Montreal, such as Ash, Neosens and Barbara Milano. They specialize in Italian designers, and feature a wide range of shoe, from the most vertiginous stilettos to totally wearable – yet chic – walking shoes. The prices are reasonable to boot, which is always a nice surprise in this neighborhood.
4410 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1Z5, Canada
The stretch of Boulevard Saint-Laurent between Rue Marianne and Avenue Mont-Royal is known as furniture alley, for all the furniture and home appointment stores that exist there. Latitude Nord was among the first to move to the area and remains the best spot to spy cutting-edge contemporary design items like lamps, chairs, rugs and couches. The focus is on European imports, particularly Italian brands like Cassina, Bisazza and Cappellini, but there’s also minimalist American ware from the likes of Emeco (makers of the ubiquitous Navy Chair) and cushy rugs made in Spain by Alpujarreña. The slick showroom is worth visiting even if you don’t intend to buy.
211 Rue Bernard Ouest
Possibly the most important and influential publishers of graphic novels in the last 20 years, Drawn & Quarterly has a must-visit shop in the cool Mile End neighborhood. It sells work from the extensive D&Q catalog (which includes Joe Sacco, Lynda Barry, and Adrian Tomine) and from other publishers. Check out 184 Rue Beaubien by local graphic artist Cyril Doisneau.
It may not have the design flair of the nearby Magasin Général Bélangermartin, but this home ware store on Rue Dante is beloved citywide for its amazing selection of appliances, cooking tools and all-around useful stuff. Whether you need a meat cleaver, a new Le Creuset or an old school pressure cooker, you’ll find anything you need in the cooking department and more (there’s even a firearm counter dedicated to hunters). It’s become a true neighborhood social club over the years; manager Elena Faita-Vendittelli (mom to Stefano Faita, of the nearby restaurant Impasto) hosts popular cooking classes at the neighboring cooking school, Mezza Luna.
1307 Ste Catherine O
The duo of José Manuel St-Jacques and Simon Bélanger is made in heaven. They design graceful, luxurious clothes for the modern woman who aims at Marlene Dietrich elegance in her every gesture. From crisp white crêpe suits to flowing pleated lamé skirts, their designs are the sort that make you walk taller and feel like you’ve arrived, whether it’s on the red carpet or at a soirée among friends. UNTTLD are masters at blending textures, like see-through evanescent silk worn with a structured cotton pencil pant, and they are known for their unique prints. They sell directly out of their Mile End loft (upon appointment), or through exclusive stores such as Ogilvy.
3526 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
The worldwide success of this Montreal-born leather goods brand, which now has stores everywhere from Paris to Tokyo to Hong Kong, is no secret: m0851 bags are beautifully crafted here in the city by artisans who have worked for the Mamarbachi family for decades. The no-sweatshop mentality surprisingly doesn’t equate excessive prices, and the best thing is, these bags are designed to last, made in materials that change and improve as they age. Every year brings a new palette of beautiful earthy colors, and in addition to the bags and travel gear, there are coats and clothes perfectly suited to any Canadian season. This is the flagship location, but you’ll find three other sales points within greater Montreal.
170 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal, QC H2Y 1Z7, Canada
Montreal’s very own Prince of Darkness is best known for his mastery of soft, buttery black leather and his play with textures and details such as zippers and horse hair, but he’s expanded his recent collections into a less gothic and more widely accessible styles that have even branched out into color ¬– albeit dark browns and blues. The women’s wear designer has created collections for off-the-rack store Bedo, but to get a real sense of his unique vision and approach to form, best head down to his sleek boutique on chic Rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal. Here you’ll find statement pieces to be worn to your next gala as well as rugged wear you can integrate into your everyday.