686 Yonge, 416-961-0555, www.propaganda.bz
Most shopkeepers specializing in local fashion designers are happy to trailblaze rusty neighbourhoods into gentrification, but Propaganda's Regina Sheung smartly settled her accessory boutique at Yonge and Bloor. Handbag, jewellery and giftware lines are hungry for Propaganda's mainstream exposure, so Sheung attracts the cream of the local finishing-touch crop.
Best art supplies
490 Yonge, 416-967-6666 and others, www.currys.com
Art kids, crafters and other creative types shop the aisles at Curry's to score supplies for their next big project. The selection is wide, the sales staff fun and fartsy, and we love the double price labels that show us the evil original full price and the happy discounted deal.
Best bike store
180 John, 416-979-9733
The most car-committed and happy-to-walk among us can't help but hear the call to pedal-pushing once we've browsed Urbane's cycle candy store. Staff can guide you toward the perfect two-wheeler, and bike mechanics in the back will keep it riding smooth for years to come.
Best Canadian fashion
BOUTIQUE LE TROU
940 Queen West, 416-516-7122
We feel the love for Boutique Le Trou owner Marlene Shiff, and she feels the love for all things Canuck fashion, ranging from eager upstart local lines like Karamea and Jason Meyers to national players Paul Hardy and Obakki.
Best children's clothing
926 College, 416-535-8506, www.bubbleface.com
Sylvie Monge's College-and-Dovercourt kids' boutique is loaded with wooden toys and whimsical mobiles to keep the kiddies distracted while parents shop through cuter-than-cute children's clothing (most made in the store studio by Monge herself). Finds include bite-sized raincoats with red fire engine buttons and striped apron-style dresses.
Best clothing collective
692 Queen West, 416-594-1313, www.freshcollective.com
Other fashion co-ops come and go, but the Fresh collective soldiers on with its crafty mix of clothing, accessories and jewellery. Toronto's signature do-it-yourself style found one of its first homes at Fresh. As its spot at Queen and Euclid becomes one of the city's most well-travelled shopping destinations, everyone will soon be in on its top-notch merchandise.
Best costume store
14 McCaul, 416-598-2581
This Toronto institution, known for its un-matched dancewear, stage makeup and costume selection, buzzes in October when grown-up trick-or-treaters flood in to try on Elvis shades and fairy tutus. The neighbouring costume shop is loaded with outfits ranging from medieval minstrels to alien overlords that guarantee Halloween party supremacy.
Best custom clothing
795 Queen West, 416-603-3369
One floor above Sydney's collection of menswear, womenswear and M08z51 leather goods is the shop's custom atelier where Japanese raw denim gets cut, stitched and riveted into perfect pairs of blues. The cut choices are endless, and jean master Sydney Mamane keeps your pattern on file so a second pair is easier (and cheaper) to order up.
724 Queen West, 416-703-7601; 201 Danforth, 416-778-7601, www.bodybluedenimlab.com
A trip to Body Blue is like a happy dose of Prozac for jean-shopping psycho-trauma. The denimful shops are packed with all the au courant brands (Fidelity, Earnest Sewn, Seven) and smart sales staff who are stylish, sympathetic and of-age enough to talk you into that new skinny pair.
654 Queen West, 416-360-7249, www.comrags.com
There's a level of ease, sophistication and intelligent flair in a Comrags collection that's hard to find in other local-designed clothing. Designers Judy Cornish and Joyce Gunhouse's fall line was a 23-year career highlight focusing on tailored stovepipe trousers, romantic lace and water-palette prints.
Best designer fashion
548 Danforth, 416-778-6820
We get all giddy when we walk in to Studio Labiri, because its mix of Canadian fashion and international styles makes the Danforth boutique one of our few truly cosmopolitan shops. No one should dress in head-to-toe anything, so pair that Arthur Mendonça blouse with a Tara Jarmon jacket and look gosh-darn fabulous.
Best designer furniture
867 Dundas West, 416-607-6384, www.madedesign.ca
MADE doesn't officially launch until November 4, but its gallery-like space full of Canadian-designed furniture has been luring Dundas Westers into the soft-opened shop all fall. Armchair decorators who worry that big mod pieces won't mesh with the living room's chintz sofa can ease into Canuck design with curious and clever interior accessories.
Best discount store
581 Bloor West, 416-537-1574
Wandering kitschy Honest Ed's maze of housewares, clothing, foodstuffs and every other imaginable buy is still as charming as scoring stuff at super-discounted prices. Rumblings in the Annex neighbourhood have the store's years numbered, so it's time to start stockpiling your deals.
752 Queen West, 416-603-0123, www.spectacle-eyewear.com
Our favourite find at Spectacle's Trinity Bellwoods location this year was its selection of vintage shades from street-cred labels like Cutler & Gross and Cazal. Its entire library of frames and sunglasses is so drool-worthy that another Toronto location in the Distillery District is planned for 2007.
Best fabric store
DESIGNER FABRIC OUTLET
1360 Queen West, 416-531-2810, www.designerfabrics.ca
If the library of decor fabrics on DFO's first floor doesn't get you, the bolts of checked wools and patterned silks upstairs will start you stitching. Queen West's fabric mecca can't be beat for its wide and well-priced selection and maze of rooms stocked with notions, hardware and decorative trims.
1094 Queen West, 416-538-2497
Flower shops stand out if they develop a signature style, and no arrangement is more recognizable than a Poppies bouquet full of frothy, colourful blooms and marabou feather sprigs. If tabletop posies aren't your thing, owners Laura Tarbat and Barb Goode also stock succulent jades, garden-ready plants and ceramic flowerpots.
Best furniture store
1239 Queen West, 416-532-5662, www.komadesigns.com
Koma added a basement gallery to its Parkdale space last February and started the charge toward educating Toronto consumers about the city's furniture design scene. Upstairs, you'll still find the groovy mix of vintage and modern housewares and interior curiosities that lure shoppers to Queen West's retail fringe.
Best gift store
24 Bellair, suite 6, 416-920-0100, www.rolostore.com
A giant poster on the door of Rowley Ocampo's Yorkville gift shop announces Rolo's win as last year's best gift store. The jam-packed boutique full of colourful watches, kitschy fashion accessories and home tchotchkes like a voodoo-doll knife rack has earned Rolo a second best-of term.
793 Bathurst, 416-516-1258, www.trove.ca
Bloor and Bathurst's Trove and Shoon used to have separate, across-the-road digs (we hear Shoon was commitment-phobic and needed its own space), but they finally shacked up in an expanded storefront on the Trove side of the street this past August. The handbag catalogue, including bags by Matt&Nat and Karen Wilson, is purse-erific.
Best home accessories
63 Jarvis, 416-868-0330, www.ma-zone.com
Ma Zone blesses bland, beige homes with shocking shots of bold colour. Cutesy desktop accessories by Koziol, ceramic and glassware by Ritzenhoff, and Alessi kitchen goodies are just three of many international design lines that add worldly flava to True North decor.
Best home electronics
BAY BLOOR RADIO
Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor West, 416-967-1122
The big-box electronics stores are migrating downtown, but Bay Bloor Radio hasn't flinched and continues to lead the way, hawking flat-screen TVs, tricked-out sound systems and all the peripherals from its Manulife Centre outpost. Personal service, top-notch selection and an on-site repair area keep urban tech shoppers coming back.
Best Ikea alternative
222 King East, 416-815-2002, www.eq3.com
If you love Allen key furniture assembly or riding the Sheppard subway for a wicked deal on 100 tea lights, please continue visiting the big yellow and blue box. If you'd rather buy smart-styled and -priced home stuffs that come ready-made from a convenient King and Sherbourne storefront, go to EQ3.
Best jewellery designer
184 Davenport, 647-438-4181, www. coletteharmon.com
Maximal necklaces featuring gumball-sized pearls, and sculptural capes woven with brassy metal are showpiece collectables scooped up by Harmon's costume-jewellery-coveting fans. For the frugal among us, drop earrings and simpler bracelet styles are equally unique and immune to any 'bling' references.
Best kids store
670 Queen West, 416-681-0368, www.kolkid.ca
Moms and dads who skip the supervision-via-video-game style of parenting shop Kol Kid for its charming, whimsical and brain-cell-growing mix of wooden toys, stuffed animals, books and children's decor items. Any spot that sells Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are and a matching Wild Things puppet is fine by us.
542 Danforth, 416-466-2727
IQ Living is a sea of stainless steel, with shiny metal utensils and kitchen accessories stacked on chrome bakers' racks. We love shopping its selection of pepper grinders, wastebaskets and mini espresso cups along with a catalogue of quirky cooking gizmos we didn't even know existed.
Best learn-to-sew studio
1184 Queen East, 416-264-6725, www.studioopal.ca
Shelves of vintage Singers and walls hand-painted with ladies in prim poof skirts give Studio Opal a 1950s-sewing-bee look. Workshops focusing on beginner stitching skills, clothing design and home decor techniques are taught by young, enthusiastic types eager to turn needle-and-thread hobbyists into lifelong garmentos.
920 Queen West, 416-588-7090
Lingerie boutique Nearly Naked shuffled itself west from its former Queen and Euclid location this year. Now that its selection of comfy, sexy and comfy-sexy bras, underwear and other silky, slinky things is selling happily at Queen and Shaw, Trinity-Bellwooders never have to venture east of the park.
Best local fashion event
TORONTO ALTERNATIVE FASHION WEEK
While still hitting the books during her last year of fashion school at Ryerson, emerging Toronto style impresario Vanja Vasic found time to plan Alternative Fashion Week's three flawless days of design, art and music. For recognizing that clothing lines can't thrive in a fashion-only bubble, FAT wins our top prize.
Best makeup counter
at The Bay, 44 Bloor East, 416-972-3417, and others, www.benefitcosmetics.com
We're dropping the Canadian content for a moment here to big up San Francisco-based Benefit and its mix of pro-style makeup kits presented in pin-up-illustrated packaging. Product names like Gettin' Steamy body wash and Curve Hugger eye shadow cheek up cosmetic consumption.
489 King West, 416-260-9696, www.gsmen.com
Gotstyle is the greatest gift Toronto's fashion-curious male shopper has ever received. Chilled-out sales staff help metros and guy's guys outfit themselves in well-tailored, mid-priced labels including Junk deLuxe and Cole Haan. In-house spa services range from haircuts to facials and our favourite 'handjobber' manicure.
Best museum gift shop
GARDINER MUSEUM SHOP
111 Queen's Park, 416-586-8080, www.gardinermuseum.com While the ROM and AGO are in flux, the Gardiner Museum's shop reigns supreme with its collection of ceramics and textiles by local artisans. We're betting its attention to Canuck creative types will keep art shoppers hopping back even when the big institutions reopen their swanky retail doors.
Best party dresses
SPA_CE VINTAGE CLOTHING GALLERY
608A Markham, 416-916-6219.
Spa_ce was our favourite style discovery this year. After a tip from a 50s-vintage-loving friend, we descended into the tiny Mirvish Village basement shop to discover a trove of frothy, flirty dresses that owner Ashlene Roberts rarely prices above $50. If you haven't visited yet, go now!
Best pet accessory store
TIMMIE DOGGIE OUTFITTERS
867 Queen West, 416-203-6789, www.timmie.ca
Timmie Doggie Outfitters is like Gap Kids for doting pet owners who skipped human reproduction to avoid SUV stroller ownership yet find themselves dressing Fido in matching doggie hoodies and booties. Embrace your raging pet parenthood and spend the week's beer money on Timmie's cutesy-wootsy stock.
Best place to jump-start your fashion career
TORONTO FASHION INCUBATOR
106 Dovercourt, 416-971-7117, www.fashionincubator.com
The alumni roster of TFI, which turns 20 this winter, includes big Canadian chic names like David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc and Crystal Siemens. Its combo of subsidized studio space, seminars and the annual New Labels Competition make it a must-have connection for any upstart style star.
Best shoe store
682 Queen West, 416-362-4335, www.heelboy.com
We don't think it's very responsible of Heel Boy to fuel our shoe-aholism with its seasonal two-for-one footwear sales, but we can't resist feeding our addiction on Faryl Robin, Fornarina and current season fave Firetrap. Booties, pumps and men's styles are always on trend without wandering into fad territory.
431 Richmond West, 416-364-0734
Sneaker culture is a curious club for us outsiders who ignorantly wander the streets in rundown Chuck Taylors and canvas Vans. We do know, however, that shoe shoppers who like their sneaks chunky, colourful and tricked out get 'em at Good Foot. Streetwear store Nomad (same address, 416-682-1107) is the icing on the fancy footwear cake.
Best small-space furniture
170-171 East Liberty, 416-922-2785, www.casalife.com
Casalife is home-outfitting ground zero for Liberty Villagers and further-flung apartment dwellers who need their coffee table to work as ottoman, stockpiled magazine stash and extra seating during over-invited condo warmings. The shop's clever solutions will make your teensy pad feel supersized.
Best sporting goods store
MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT CO-OP
400 King West, 416-340-2667, www.mec.ca
The athletic yet non-meatheaded among us dig
MEC's outdoorsy vibe and two floors of cycling, hiking, climbing, snow sports, water sports and camping gear. And you've got to respect a retailer that offers a service like OutdoorGearSwap.com, where second-hand equipment buyers and sellers connect for free.
249 Crawford, 647-436-4761
Clandestino brightens up Dundas West with its crayola-coloured banners and windows full of Mexicana (foam Mexico maps, sparkly Nacho Libre dioramas and chip-bag purses). Now that owners Cyndi Cornblit and Jeff Silver have added Southeast Asia to their annual buying globe-trot, they sell a serene mix of Thai jewellery and Buddha bags.
Best up-and-coming shopping strip
Western-centric Toronto's shopping habits are being tweaked by the Queen-and -Pape 'hood's growing retail population. Old standbys like Eye Spy (1100 Queen East, 416-461-4061), hidden gems like Winkel (1107 Queen East, 416-465-4247) and new arrivals like Nathalie-Roze and Co. (1015 Queen East, 416-792-1699) mean you won't think twice before riding the 501 over the Don. Best vintage 69 VINTAGE 1100 Queen West, 416-516-0669
69 Vintage headmistress Kealan Sullivan not only has a knack for prescient retro-picking (nubbly men's Norfolk sweaters and legging-friendly skinny boots filled the shop long before the fall trend reports came out), but her People's Boutique collective taps the city's best young design talents to sew up coveted reconstructed wears.
Best window shopping
151 Bloor West, 416-962-6647
Someone has to promise to buy something if we're going to send the lot of you to browse Noir's collection of higher-than-high-style fashion labels. Break the bank and wardrobe monotony with signature selections from brands including Blumarine, Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garcons.
913 Dundas West, 416-553-6632
When Georgie Bolesworth's Georgia Groom merged her boutique into Julian Fuego's Model Citizen, we faced the conundrum of which best-of title to award the shop. While Fuego's urban dandy menswear always earns an A-plus, Model Citizen's racks full of cult Canadian label Mercy mean the ladies win this one.
Best womenswear chain
116 Cumberland, 416-967-7890, and others, www.rkstores.com
RK's fall line of sexy, leather-detailed coats, gauzy dresses and wardrobe staple knits deliver high-fashion concepts that easily pair up with your closet regulars. And the price is right. The Toronto-based chain sells its smart day-to-evening looks with tags matched to any swishy international mass retailer.