Until recently I hadn’t spent much time in les friperies (thrift stores). I grew up in Toronto and of course I knew of places in Kensington Market and on Queen St. I even remember going to Courage, My Love (I wouldn’t want to date myself!), but I never paid close attention. However, since living in Montréal, where street-style and vintage are huge, I have become more interested in this whole phenomenon!
It amazes me how many vintage stores there are in Montréal and they are everywhere! Some, however, stand out as very high-calibre. It certainly adds to the experience when the people behind les vitrines are accessible and want to chat and tell their stories. Such was the case when I dropped in at Friperie St-Laurent in Le Plateau.
At first my old mind-set made me doubtful, but when I spoke to Didier, the owner, and Frédo, I began to see the light. Specializing in vintage for over twenty years, Frédo made me realize how much these “collections” represent the individuals who curate them. He drew my attention to very rare pieces and spoke passionately about hunting these items down. At once, I felt as though I were in a museum learning something of the history of Fashion itself.
On display, high-up, was a Pierre Cardin dress, a WWII bomber jacket, a Swedish army jacket, tails from the early 1900’s and a rare silk peignoir from the 1930’s. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine the pilot who wore that jacket or the starlet who might have worn that glamorous robe.
As I perused the inventory, I spotted an old light grey-blue leather jacket that made me think of Marc Jacobs himself. The details and stitching in the pockets and the quality of the buttons reminded me of one of his creations. This led to an entirely new conversation regarding haute couture designers looking to vintage garments for inspiration. All of a sudden, I understood why they have a celebrity and discerning clientele here. Those who already have access to haute couture would naturally want unique, one-of-a-kind things.
The Levi’s jean jackets from the 1930’s are very popular because they are so thick that they will last a lifetime and I couldn’t help but laugh at the “Craven A” bowling bag sitting on a shelf. It was so obviously from another time – how odd it seemed in this “anti-smoking” age! Also of note: a leather jacket just like the one my dad used to wear with wool sleeves, and a great selection of plaid shirts.
He explained the process of raking over huge quantities of items all over the world just to find the best there is. They have paid their dues scouring places like les marchés au puces in Paris, the rest of Europe and Japan, but the pieces in the best shape are found in the U.S. from a variety of sources. Check out this fur coat and these purses!
For the hockey fans, there is a great selection of jerseys, including one of the Bruins’ from the 1950’s as well as a real Expos baseball jersey. I saw quite a few unique items such as a Burberry raincoat, and an entire bin of beautiful, bright scarves, including ones from Gucci and Christian Dior behind glass.
Turnover of stock is high, and they have recurring loyal clients, so grab something when you see it! Prices really vary – the more rare the item, the more expensive. I can’t wait to mix it up with designer and vintage pieces now!
Merci pour la leçon, Didier & Frédo!