On Location: Montreal, Part I

Refinery29 explores the city's Mile End to uncover the style secrets of this burgeoning shop-friendly neighborhood. By Lisa Weatherby
montrealonlocation_openerIt's where Rufus Wainwright, Arcade Fire, and Leonard Cohen call home, where John Lennon and Yoko staged their infamous "Give peace a chance" bed-in, and where a University building is proudly named after William Shatner, Star Trek's Captain Kirk.
Montreal, founded in 1642 as a French colonial fortress, is now a bilingual, and très cosmopolitan center that thrives on cultural happenings. Music junkies flock to the indie extravaganza Pop Montreal, electronic event Mutek, hip hop's Under Pressure, and the city's beloved Jazz Festival, while foodies descend for the High Lights gathering and film buffs pile into theaters for a series of festivals that include New Cinema, Documentary and Art Films.
But Montreal is also a burgeoning fashion playground with some of the best-kept local style secrets to be found in two of the city's most vibrant areas: Mile End and Old Montreal (note: Old Montreal, "On Location, Part II" will be featured on Refinery29 in January). Both quadrants have undergone drastic urban revivals, catering mostly to its local fashion connoisseurs, and showcase the diversity of its blossoming artistic community.
Mile End
Musicians, filmmakers, and writers comprise the bulk of Mile End's dynamic residents. Formerly a stretch of old industrial factories and textile shops spiced with residential clusters of Greek, Portuguese, Italian, and Polish immigrants, the district is undergoing a transformation that has revitalized this quirky, anything-goes area. Boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and design shops have all staked their claim in the last few years. And three of Montreal's most prominent designers—Tavan & Mitto, Denis Gagnon, and Renata Morales—have all set up boutiques here. For Payam Tavan and Mike Mitto, it was "the creative energy and vibe and young, down-to-earth locals" that attracted them to this colorful neighborhood. Although it's more gentrified, the Mile End has preserved its cultural diversity and the markings of its past—graffiti-splashed walls and old advertisements on the sides of brick buildings are reminders of its storied, eclectic persona.
Denis Gagnon
A passionate thinker and designer, Denis Gagnon opened his eponymous boutique a little over a year ago, bringing his dark romanticism to this district of poets, painters, and writers. The minimal, glaringly white interior is the backdrop for his men's and women's lines in addition to jewelry by local label, Powerhaus. Gagnon's frayed dresses of ruffled chiffon are soft but a little rough around the edges while his airy jersey tunics and gathered dresses beautifully shape the curves of the body. Celebrated for his treated and dyed leather pieces, Gagnon's experimentation with hides yield supple, deconstructed jackets and coats that are on the lust lists of guys and girls alike. The store also houses the Denis Gagnon Edge line, a rack of reworked vintage pieces that emphasize the designer's creative eye and tailored fits. 5392a Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-279-1719; www.denisgagnon.ca.
Renata Morales
Mexican-born, Montreal-based Renata Morales is known for her singular manipulation of fabrics, and her whimsical yet expertly shaped pieces have made her a prominent figure on the Canadian fashion scene. Pleated hand-illustrated silk skirts ($225), modern accordion ruffled tops ($150), bib blouses, and effortless floral dresses with lace detailing are all on view in her ethereal boutique. Here, crystal chandeliers, an oversized mirror, and decorative wallpaper are all complemented by homegrown artwork, which rotates regularly. This month, the store is home to a hand-illustrated mural by local artist James Purcell, which will be on display until springtime. 5392 Boulevard Saint-Laurent , 514-271-5061; www.renatamorales.com
Only a year old, this design gallery and retail space selects objects based on themes that spotlight internationally recognized and emerging artists even before they hit Moss in New York. Rotating their inventory every three months, the space's dark walls and neon lighting capture the intensity of the objects that fill the store. Currently commissaires is exhibiting works based on the theme Madame Chose, pieces designed solely by women. On display are wallscape tapestries, a luxurious fur hammock by Berlin duo Bless, and Windsor chairs from Canadian designer Patty Johnson's award-winning "North South" project, a collaboration with design factories in Guyana, South America, and Botswana.5226 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-274-4888; www.commissairesonline.com
Vintage clothes with a modern twist are what Preloved does best. The Toronto-based clothing line works with garments from decades past such as vintage T-shirts, wooly plaids, chunky knits, and cast-off denims to create unusual reworked blazers, skirts, jackets, frocks, jeans, and accessories. Founded in 1995 by Julia Grieves, Preloved was one of the first retail spots to open in the Mile End. The warm mix of wood flooring and brick walls complements the infinite array of textiles that fill the racks. In the last ten years, the label has expanded, offering a menswear collection and two additional lines—Hand Cut and B loved. The store also carries jewelry by nearby designer resident, Nogah Rotstein. 4832 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-499-9898; www.preloved.ca
Tavan and Mitto
Since 2001, designers Payam Tavan and Mike Mitto have been a force on the Canadian fashion scene. The duo opened their boutique around the same time as neighbors Morales and Gagnon, and offer a sharp, couture-like point-of-view. Impeccably tailored pencil skirts, sweeping capes, and ruffled satin dresses hang beside a myriad of cheerful cashmere sweaters by local label Ca Va De Soi. In addition to the Tavan and Mitto line of sleek leather gloves, hand-woven scarves, and snakeskin belts, the store offers a selection of cool handbags by fellow Montreal designer Christopher Kon. 5334 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-279-1212.
MeatMarket Restaurant Cafe
Like the name suggests, scoring prime meat at this eatery is guaranteed. Owners David and Lucas have given their restuarant a "nouveau western" vibe with bar-room louvered swinging doors, wood detailing, and sun-bleached wall-mounted steer skulls. Locals tuck in for a drink at the bar and take home one of their homemade spice rubs or stick around for hearty sandwiches like the Emperor loaded with Calabrese sausage, salami, proscuitto, provolone, grilled eggplant, and tomato confit. For vegetarians, there are also plenty of options like the America, a sandwich composed of veggie pate, tomatoes, dill cucumbers, and guacamole. Dinner includes an array of spiced grilled meats and brochettes samplers. 4415 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Street, 514-223-2292.
On the threshold of the Mile End, the scent of freshly braised lamb chops with a rosemary is coupled with the whirr of an espresso machine churning out lattes and cappuccinos at Laika. This
spacious eatery is where the neighborhood's hip-class flocks from early morning to late-night. The retro yellow, white, and beige walls, DJ booth, and free internet access draw loads of locals who've adopted Laika as their home office. Grab a light nibble or stay longer for prime lunch dishes like the calamari, tomato, and fennel ragout or the fried bed of shredded potato with squash, Swiss cheese, and pancetta. At night the café switches to social hub where tapas are served and the habitués get their drink on to the sounds of local DJs spinning a web of moody beats. 4040 Boulevard Saint-Laurent , 514.842.8088; www.laikamontreal.com
St.Viateur Bagel
Open 24 hours, seven days a week, St.Viateur bagel is a 43-year-old neighborhood institution. Coated in sesame or poppy seeds, the deliciously soft, subtly sweet, chewy bagels are hand-rolled and baked in wood-burning ovens. Anyone who eats a Montreal bagel will surrender to its unmatched taste and texture. Eating one right out of the oven is a carb indulgence that needs no justification.
263 St.Viateur West, 514-276-8044; www.stviateurbagel.com
Refinery29 explores the city's Mile End to uncover the style secrets of this burgeoning shop-friendly neighborhood.

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