Best Decor Store: Koma Designs 1239 Queen West, 416-532-5662, www.komadesigns.com
Photo: Kathryn Gaitens
What with Ikea gentrifying our homes with its patented affordable minimalism, the need for decor individuality couldn't be stronger. Enter Koma Designs . The West Queen West shop offers an eclectic (meaning a stylie mix of old and new, modern and rustic, locally made and imported) grouping of items destined to make your pad look like anything but a blank slate. There's good stuff, too, at Hardware and Flik and Company .
Best Accessories: Propaganda 686 Yonge, 416-961-0555
Photo: Kathryn Gaitens
If you didn't know already, Toronto has a thriving local accessories scene. We love the stuff at Trove , but designers consider Propaganda the retail epi-centre. So whether you're looking for totally on-trend jewellery of every ilk or charming little pursey wallets, if you're buying for a picky girl - and you need it to be good, really good - make this your one-stop shop.
Best Place to Buy Technology: Active Surplus 347 Queen Street West, 2nd floor, 416-593-0909, www.activesurplus.com
Photo: Mark Coatsworth
If you like to buy your stereos and computers in pieces, without an instruction manual, then get lost at Active Surplus . The new digs are above and next door to the old location at the foot of Beverley on Queen, but rest assured, they've still got the iconic gorilla at the front door, plus a gazillion boxes of random junk perfect for the basement engineer in you. Browse through bins and buckets teeming with wires, piping, LEDs, medical supplies, computer junk, old key chains, motors, gears and super-balls. And look closely at the labels on the bins for some creative decorating and droll humour. If you're a teacher looking for cheap lab materials or strange and wonderful additions to boring science classrooms, $20 will take you a long way.
Best Bath and Body line: Cake Beauty 416-201-0486, 1-866-648-2843, www.cakebeauty.com.
From humble origins in a Toronto kitchen to the million-dollar skins of the world's hottest A-list celebrities (and boutiques worldwide), Heather Reier 's Cake Beauty line of bath and body-care products has come a long, long way. But what do you expect when you pair a solid concept with cute-as-hell packaging and downright delicious dessert-themed products? Really, like, how could you even think about resisting?
Best bike repair: Biseagal 388 Carlaw, Unit 102H, 416-466-2212, www.biseagal.ca
From fixing flats to hand-brazing frames, Biseagal (Scottish-Gaelic for bicycle) offers a range of services rarely found in neighbourhood bike shops. Even rarer, you get the same welcome whether you walk in with a $6,000 Colnago or a CCM beater. It's kinda hard to find, hidden at the back of an east-end warehouse, but make the effort. If they can't fix it no one can.
Best Designer furniture: Italinteriors 359 King East, 416-366-9540, www.italinteriors.com
Outfitting the city's decorator elite with the best designer furniture from Italy (read everything from sofas to dining sets, from beds to wall units, plus kitchen and bath by Boffi) for more than 25 years, this family-owned business is the place to be if you're looking to add high-end names like Cassina, Flexform, Moroso, Molteni & C, Cristian and Matteo Grassi to your collection of contemporary modern.
Best Facial: Pure + Simple 27 Bellair, 416-924-6555; 2375 Yonge, 416-481-2081, www.pureandsimple.ca
Skin in crisis mode? Book an appointment at Pure + Simple ASAP. Pairing Ayurvedic skin care principles (enabling the technician to read your skin condition from the inside out) with Western esthetics techniques (and all-natural botanical skin care products) means the services here give you the best of both worlds. There's also an excellent retail selection of all-natural skin care and mineral cosmetics.
Best Gift shop: Rolo 24 Bellair, 416-920-0100, www.rolostore.com
If you're, like, a gift certificate away from being labelled a generic-gift bore, hit Yorkville's hottest gift-getting destination, Rolo . Jam-packed with everything from designer jewellery to cutesy knick-knacks, colour-morphing lighting, chocolate-covered cherries, computer bags and scented body care, no matter what the situation, occasion, relation or motivation, you will find the perfect prezzie here. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year is another long-time fave in this category, Red Pegasus , known for its jewellery cases and kitsch-chic accessories.
Best Housewares: Artemide 20 Camden, 416-628-6718, www.artemide.ca
If you're looking to save a few bucks on home decor, then for sure, Honest Ed's is an excellent place to source your housewares on the cheap - ditto for Dollar Joint . But if you've got the dough and you're ready to trick out your pad in designer home gear, Artemide - part lighting store specializing in highbrow designer illumination, part homewares gallery featuring gorgeous stainless steel kitchen necessities by Alessi - should be your first stop to shop.
Best Lingerie: Linea Intima Lingerie 250 Wincott, 416-245-3633, and others, www.lineaintima.com
You go to a specialist for every part of your body from your hair to your toenails, so why skimp on giving your breasts the special attention they deserve? At Linea Intima , one look from expert owner Liliana Mann can change your life (including posture and perk factor) simply by switching the alpha-numerics on your back. The boutique is also known for its skilled prosthesis fittings and wide range of lingerie styles. Looking for trendy sets and T-shirt bras? Start your search at Secrets from Your Sister .
Best Manicure/Pedicure: Polish Beauty Bar 20 Camden, 416-203-0014
Everyone has a favourite cheesy discount nail bar, which is great, really. We won't knock a deal. But if you're not into slumming and want something truly different in your mani-pedi experience, book an appointment at Polish , pronto. From the très stylish interior and brand-name products to - here's a concept - the über-hygienic services, cool tunes and lovely staff, it's the thinking gal's nail bar. (They even have hardcovers in the wait area.)
Best Menswear Retailer: Model Citizen 913 Dundas West, 416-553-6632
Everything a guy could need to look good (as in scenester good) can be found at Model Citizen . Custom-made jeans, check; silk-screened blazers, Ts and ties, check. Add to the list the fact that this is the retail launching point for much of the city's up-and-coming design talent and you've got a hotbed of cool menswear. Tom's is the place for two-for-one suit deals and Uncle Otis has terrific scenester clothes. And don't forget Off the Cuff for second-hand loot.
Best Party Dresses: Studio Labiri 548 Danforth, 416-778-6820
Whether it's for a gala, graduation, garden party or just going out with the gals, you can count on Danforth designer darling Studio Labiri to have a stunerrific dress to impress. Familiar with the wardrobe needs of Toronto women, owners (and sisters) Mary and Tia Labiri have done a stellar job of consistently stocking the racks with ultra-wearable fashions.
Best Shoe Repair: Market Square Shoe Service 80 Front East, 416-763-6137
While disposable fashions may rule our retail landscape, most shoes (thankfully) have retained their semi-permanent status. A hero to the fashionista set, Peter George of Market Square will make you believe in miracles when he fixes the impossible (which, is like, all the time), but will also advise you of a lost cause when your shoes just aren't worth saving.
Best Shoe Store: Zola Shoes 1726 Avenue, 416-783-8688
While you wouldn't use "spacious" to describe the interior of Zola Shoes , the massive selection of designer heels more than makes up for wimpy square footage. Prices are high - as are most of the heel styles - but since many of the stellar international brands are exclusive to this shop, some fashionista individuality is an investment worth making. Short on funds? Do not miss the annual January sale, when you finally get your chance to leave the shop without bare arms (I mean feet). Good options for mid-priced shoes can be found at Studio Labiri or Heel Boy , and for budget shoes there's always Joe Singer .
Best Sneakers: Goodfoot 431 Richmond West, 416-364-0734, www.getonthegoodfoot.ca
Don't want to dress like the masses? Start from the bottom up at Goodfoot . HQ for the sneakerphile community, Matt George 's specialty sneaker store features a selection of exclusive kicks including rare limited editions, one-off samples and unusual colour combinations, making it a must shop not only for local diehards, but for international collectors as well.
Best Sunglasses: Spectacle Eyewear 752 Queen West, 416-603-0123, www.spectacle-eyewear.com
Easy-to-manoeuvre merchandising is always helpful; even more so when you're catering to the visually dim. So we're especially thankful to Spectacle for shedding some light on the eyeglass shopping experience with its bright backlit wall displays and slick, clubby interior. Its clear focus on fashion and more than 1,300 designer frames to choose from (they also do contacts) make this is the place to score those trademark shades (á la Jackie O, Bootsy Collins, Nicole Ritchie) or at least have a riot trying.
Best Swimwear: Melmira Swimsuits 3212 Yonge, 416-485-0576, www.melmiraswim.com
Considering that shopping for a bathing suit is hell on earth for most people, in our books Melmira Swim is shopping heaven. Where else can you book an appointment, discuss what you're looking for with your sales associate and then wait in the change room while they navigate the warehouse-like back room and return with several versions of your dream-suit-to-be? And keep at it until you leave totally happy? Best part: sizes range from AA to H cup and from 4 to 26. PS: We're also hot for Beaches bikini-central Ups and Downs . The selection of sexpot-worthy designer imports is not to be missed.
Best Used Furniture: Haute & Humble 653 Queen East, 416-461-2475
If you're stuck in furniture limbo (meaning you've outgrown slumming it on Sally Ann hand-me-downs but you're still not ready to cough up the cash for brand spankin'), Haute and Humble can help. Featuring a solid selection of resale mint-condition or gently used modern/contemporary furnishings, the shop offers an economical way to upgrade to something newish without actually going all the way.
Best Vintage clothing: Melanie's Closet 146 Brock, unit 302, 416-532-4231
We all know Toronto isn't lacking in the vintage department. You can buy pristine well-merchandised vintage (and pay for it) or dig to the bottom of the grimy bargain bins for less-than-a-buck luck, but for a fresh approach to shopping second-hand you need to hit Melanie's Closet . Which really is Melanie Janisse's closet. Yes, in her home. Years of collecting have built her clothing cache into a shopper's fantasy, and she'll even brew you a cuppa while you peruse.
Best Yoga Wear: Dear Lil' Devas 416-716-8098, www.dearlildevas.com
Oh, stretch fabrics, how we loathe thee. Which is why we love, love, love the baggy cotton (and now hemp) one-size-fits-all stylings of Dear Lil' Devas yoga pants. Breathable, movable, washable, rollable (thats a lot of -ables), these pants are a gift, especially if youre ready to get your body moving and want to avoid the sausage casing effect that comes with most workout wear. Lulu Lemon used to be the only game in town, but that's all changed now.
Best Womenswear retailer: Georgie Bolsworth 913 Dundas West, 416-703-7625, www.georgiebolsworth.com
One of the first retail pioneers to launch on the still-blossoming strip of Dundas West a few years ago, the Georgie Bolsworth boutique is now considered a Toronto landmark in some fashionista sets. Owner Georgia Groom , a strong supporter of made-in-Canada fashions, has cultivated a roster of local design greats, which makes her charming boutique a must-hit if you're looking to invest in the future of Canadian fashion - and the state of your wardrobe.
Best Comic Book store:
The Beguiling 601 Markham, 416-533-9168
For the person who doesn't want costumes, action figures or playing cards; for the person who wants some of the best reading material, from salespeople who know their stuff without making you feel dumb. For comics, graphic novels, books on art, music and whatever else people obsess about. - BROOK ALVIANO
Silver Snail Comics 367 Queen West, 416-593-0889 The cashiers are hot girls who read comic books, and I can pretend they like me. - BARRY SANDERS
Vintage Clothing Store:
Cabaret 672 Queen West, 416-504-7126
A beautiful blend of clothes from the golden age of smoking jackets, pillbox hats, mink stoles and monogrammed hankies. Thomas, the owner, is incredibly friendly and will also entertain you with philosophical musings and stories about his travels around the world. - MICHELLE CHO