After years as a graphic designer, Monique Nanton embraced her dream and opened Boutique Monique Vintage in 2012. Since, Nanton has earned a loyal following who look to her not only to pick out one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, but to help them fit, style, and build outfits from the items in her generous collection.
What Nanton does differently, however, is offer clients an experience. Whether by keeping an array of sizes (everything from size 0 to 14+), or treating clothes like pieces of art, her store is a testament to her passion for both vintage clothing and her customers. We had a chance to speak with Nanton about Boutique Monique, as well as the importance of style.
Why do you think vintage has gone so "mainstream"?
MN: It's pop culture. It's pop culture and shows and people who like the words "trend," and "in," and "colour of the moment." Those people? They're people who are onto [vintage] because it is the colour of the moment. But it's always there. It's not so much about fashion, it's about style. You have an essence if you have style, and I don't care if that person likes it, or that person likes it, or whatever — I can see, when you walked in here, that have a style. That you have style. So it doesn't matter if it's the fashion of the moment or the style of the moment, to me? People who have style stand out.
And for me, that's what it's about. I'd rather watch somebody who has style than look at a million Kim Kardashians. Because that's just fashion.
So is that the ethos of your store, then? Because the clothes in here don't adhere to a specific era.
MN: I'm not sticking to an era. If you pigeon-hole yourself like that, then you definitely don't have any style. Nobody with style would do that. [However], my favourite happens to be the '40s, but I'm not dressed like I like the '40s, but I just like it, I don't know!
Well that goes hand-in-hand with what you carry. You have everything from Prada to Naturalizer —
MN: It doesn't matter. Style. I'm not interested in labels. Everything in here was picked without knowing what the label was. I don't look at labels.
Do you look at fabrics?
MN: Yes, fabric. Quality. Cut. Fit. Form. If I looked at only labels, this store would be empty. If you're only looking for labels, how many are you going to find in Value Village? That's where people make the mistake — it's not about the label. I could show you something, and you'd think it was Prada, but you don't know the difference.
I don't know the difference!
MN: Most people don't! I'll look at the label eventually, and what's really important to me is a label of the fabric. You can usually tell what it is, but I like to confirm to see the content. And eventually, I'll look at the label/label, but it's not my main focus whatsoever. And that's not to say I won't look at a Burberry Prorsum coat and think, "Oh my God I have to have that" — but I'll do that because it's beautiful, not because it's Burberry.
How do you figure out the era of the clothes?
MN: You have to study it. Through books, I try to educate myself. I also get information from my customers, and I grew up in Toronto, so I know about Toronto labels like Lipton's, and The Room — so it's a little bit of history, a little bit of knowing, and knowing what fashion looked like from specific eras. And then I'll sometimes look online of course, but that's not my mainstay because most of what's online [isn't true].
So what was your mindset going into opening Boutique Monique? That you wanted it to be more of an experience than just a store?
MN: It's an experience. And it's my passion, it's not just a store.
People who just have a store wouldn't be in the fitting room, making recommendations, fitting, and helping to build outfits the way you do. Most would just sit there and let customers wander in and out.
MN: I'm not going to do that. If you want that experience, then go to the mall [laughs].
Do you have plans to expand in the future?
MN: No, because it's not so much about me wanting to make a million dollars. It's about intimate, personal shopping that I can help people with, and I can't split myself in half. So I don't have plans to expand, per say. The only thing I'd want to expand on is — like, I'd love to be a picker for a company that sees my vision, and I could make a collection. That's how I see "expanding," but not expanding the store. Everything's about quality to me, I'm not interested in quantity.
Boutique Monique is located at:
1024 St. Clair Ave. W