THE YEAR’S BIGGEST SHOPPING SEASON IS UPON US. IF YOU’RE FEELING THE PRESSURE TO FIND SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THAT ONE-OF-A-KIND FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER, HEAD TO THESE WELL-CURATED TORONTO STORES FOR UNIQUE HOLIDAY GIFTS, MANY OF WHICH ARE HANDMADE TO ENSURE QUALITY AND AUTHENTICITY.
The motto at Brika is “a well-crafted life,” which sums up the store’s concept: it sells well-made items designed by artisans instead of mass-produced goods. Originally an online business, there’s now a standalone store on Queen West, as well as a pop-up shop at Yorkdale Shopping Centre open through January 2016. Here, shoppers can pick up a beverage and baked goods from the café, and then peruse jewellery, home accessories and more from such designers as Cabin + Cub, Farewell Paperie and Most Modest. The Yorkdale outpost also feature a handy wrapping station for parceling up your purchases, as well as a colouring wall to encourage a bit of some self-expression.
Owner Brooke Manning’s Roncesvalles shop is a haven for treasures that are not only handcrafted but also made in an eco-conscious manner. The curated stock includes cosmetics, fragrances, children’s toys, jewellery, timepieces and vegan leather wallets. More than just a retail space, Likely General also has a small back gallery for rotating exhibits and occasional workshops. Drop by on a weekend and you’ll find fresh floral bunches, too.
CRAFT ONTARIO SHOP
Not-for-profit arts organization Craft Ontario’s cross-Canada members work in a variety of media, including ceramics, wood, textiles, glass, stone, paper and more. The group’s Yorkville boutique is packed with everything from a yarn bowl by Thomas Aitken to a hand-sewn and -beaded change purse by Sheila Klondike to serpentine stone carvings from Joanie Ragee to porcelain bowls from Lorne Kaplan. Your shopping options are doubled through to December 24 at the affiliated Craft Ontario Gallery in West Queen West, which hosts a holiday pop-up shop featuring the handiwork of 48 members.
TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES
Representing thousands of small-scale artisans—hence the name—from around the world, this fair-trade organization provides opportunities for men and women in developing countries to earn a living by producing and selling handmade goods. Coffee from Colombia, Peru, Ethiopia and Tanzania, as well as chocolate made by cocoa growers in Ghana, are among the store’s most popular items; they share shelf space with patchwork sari pillows from Bangladesh, embroidered wall hangings from India, woven baskets from Laos, bamboo bowls from Vietnam, tangines from Indonesia, as well as jewellery and toys. A Christmas collection is available seasonally, and includes ornaments made by Colombian artisans using discarded orange peels and angel statues made of abaca and sinamay fibres from the Philippines.
An unassuming converted bungalow in Leslieville is home to this ultra-hip shop, which proclaims itself a “fashion curator and coolhunter.” A department store vibe prevails, albeit on a smaller scale: shoppers can pick up anything from denim, kidswear, footwear, jewellery and backpacks to housewares, toiletries, cosmetics and greeting cards. Owner Aziz Alam travels the world to find products by an international roster of designers, which are showcased prominently alongside Canadian brands.
Hazel Chan describes her and partner Paul Wu’s Queen West outpost as a “cross-cultural lifestyle shop.” Home furnishings (dining and coffee tables, stools and chairs) and light fixtures take up significant floor space, but there’s also jewellery, skin- and body-care products, pottery and stationery from a predominantly Canadian roster of designers. Seeking some holiday stocking stuffers? Consider the likes of all-natural, vegan soaps and bath products from Buck Na.ked, soy candles from Scentful Escape, whimsical necklaces from Stick Man Creations and decorative vessels from Rewild Shop.
The mandate of Lisa Diamond Katz and Shira Wood’s Forest Hill Village gallery-boutique is simple: original art that is affordable for one and all, regardless of whether you’re an avid collector or an art-world novice. With that in mind, the works available at Art Interiors, which encompass paintings, photographs, sculptures, prints, drawings and mixed-media pieces, are priced from $25 to the mid four figures. Until December 24, the gallery’s annual Festival of Smalls showcases paintings and photographs that are $250 or less.
I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU
Amy Kwong’s hybrid gift shop, gallery and studio is tucked away on the second level of a Liberty Village low-rise, but it’s worth your while to seek her out. Kwong curates a curious selection of items she’s passionate about; there’s nothing in the store that she herself doesn’t love—be it books, travel accessories, mugs, coasters or other novelties. Each item is accompanied by a short, typewritten blurb explaining why Kwong chose to stock the piece. Kwong’s own Smitten Kitten line of cheeky greeting cards is also available: check out the Creepy Santa and Fugly Sweater series for the holidays.
MADE YOU LOOK
For eye-catching jewellery, there’s no better place to, well, look than this Parkdale boutique, which carries pendants, bracelets, engagement rings, wedding bands and cufflinks by more than 100 designers. There’s an imaginative bauble for every taste, though funky, eclectic pieces predominate: check out Wonder Woman cuffs, floral brooches made of polymer clay, necklaces designed in the form of caffeine and alcohol molecules, and an aluminum horse head rings. Can’t find the right piece? There’s an on-site studio where one of 20 in-house designers can help create a custom engagement ring, wedding band, necklace, bracelet and more.
BLACKBIRD VINTAGE FINDS
Give yourself some time to explore this small but very eclectic shop in the historic Distillery District: owner Paula DiRenzo has filled it to the brim with objects big and little, vintage and new. Filling every nook and cranny are antiques including cutlery, glassware, trophies, suitcases, matchbooks, religious relics and even typewriters, while contemporary items include candles, beautifully packaged soaps, shaving sets, notebooks and greeting cards from Rifle Paper Co.