I met Marlene Shiff and Boutique Le Trou many fashion seasons ago. I had just left a job managing a shop a few storefronts west of her Queen and Shaw location and she took me in, inviting me to help her scout Canadian designers.
I landed at NOW a few months later but I still spent more time on her store's couch, brainstorming ideas for the style section and shopping for chic and local clothing and accessories to feature in the magazine, than I did at my new desk.
On the first Nuit Blanche, we kept the store open until morning and quickly realized that serving prosecco to shoppers strung out on art well after midnight equaled half empty racks and a tall stack of receipts come 4 am. She hosted my boyfriend Philip Sparks' first fashion show, allowing us to empty out the store to make room for the runway. And while she nurtured an entire generation of Toronto designers including Jason Meyers, Karamea's Michelle Turpin and Lucian Matis, she never stood in their way if jumping ship to another store meant growing their businesses.
She lured people in with a few international labels like Sarah Pacini and Penny Black but made sure they, at least, tried on a Zoran Dobric, Obakki or Juma before they cashed out. Vogue singled Boutique Le Trou out as a shopping best while Wallpaper's Toronto city guide succinctly sums up the store:
"Stylists and reporters, young and not-so-young socialites and anyone else along for the ride drop by to share the fashion gossip that is often dispensed with the latest outfit."
If this sounds like an obituary, it kind of is. Boutique Le Trou will be closing at 940 Queen West this Sunday and Shiff is holding one last "Final Days" sale where everything is under $100.
"I feel like we've done everything we can from the front lines," said Shiff yesterday and she's refocusing her attention on behind-the-scenes efforts like Emerge, an emerging designer award.
I have no doubt that the tributes and the last minute purchases will pour in over the next few days and Shiff deserves all the love headed her way. Look for monthly Boutique Le Trou pop up sales in the coming months.