Lavish & Squalor – fashion hot spot!
Queen West used to be the spot to find fashionable wears, but with the influx of big-box stores, many admit Queen West has lost some of its appeal. Yet indie clothing market Lavish and Squalor manages to hold on to a classic Queen West address and its cred. Curious as to what makes Lavish “the little indie shop that could,” Queeries sat down with part-owner Anne Middleton to find out why it’s such a hot spot for stylish queers.
Queeries: What is the story of how Lavish and Squalor came to be?
Anne: Lavish opened in October 2006. L&S is a mixture, bringing all of my past conceptual stores into a larger “marketplace” environment of fashion and lifestyle.
I used to have SpyLab, two doors east of here, and WhiteLodge across the street. I have admired this building for years and jumped at the chance to take it on when the opportunity became available. Within a year, I closed four locations and focused on restoring and redesigning this heritage turn-of-the-century garment factory.
My business partner, Sandro, our contractor and some of our longtime staff and I all pitched in. We gutted the space and renovated [it] to create a raw but cozy retail marketplace.
My desire was always for this place to feel like a forest. When you enter a forest it has no owner. You enjoy and seem to want to take something from it with you when you leave. A stick or a leaf or a special rock. And when you enter Lavish and feel its connection between it and yourself, you want to leave with something.
Q: What inspires your love of fashion?
I originally had a vintage clothing store. I recreated vintage pieces that I sewed myself, and I mixed them up with fun styles that were current at the time. I started to sell some small designers that I knew around the city, then some bigger ones followed. Then by having a full range of small and big designers, tons of accessories and vintage, it just kind of evolved itself.
I had no retail training but had education and was working in graphic design at the time. I feel like all of my stores took on their own lives stemming from the product, customers, staff and ambiance of the spaces. I love the aspect of fashion that gives you a feeling of connection to how you look.
I love quality clothing, opposed to disposable mass-produced garbage clothing. I respect clothing design as an art. A way to clothe the human body to fit and feel well. I also respect and appreciate the diversity of our brands and the communities that they represent in their own countries. How these brands influence pop and street culture and vice versa.
Q: What is the must-have Lavish item for queers this fall/winter?
Good denim! Baggy with tapered leg or good skinnies. Lots of scarves for every outfit (fancy, simple or big chunky-knit circle scarves), army boots (vintage or new), parka-style coats.
Q: Why do you feel Lavish is so appealing to queers?
I guess it’s because when we buy for the store we understand many different kinds of people, including creative people that don’t have preconceived boundaries of what they are supposed to dress like but would rather look and feel good in how they choose to represent themselves on the outside.
We encourage all to mix it up and just buy clothes that make them feel good, that look good and last more than a season!
Q: What celebrity do you feel would be an ideal Lavish customer, or who best represents the Lavish style?
Hmmmm…. toughy. Any indie rock bands, really. Any stylish fringe celebrities. No-brainers like Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
Q: How or why did you get involved in hosting events like Laughter and Squalor?
I love comedy! And I wanted to give people something else to do besides going out for dinner or to a bar or movie. Comedy is so, so fun, and many don’t go to comedy clubs.
I wanted to reach my beloved customers and share something awesome with them.
Lavish & Squalor is in Toronto at 253 Queen St W.
It can also be found online here.