Toronto Vintage Hipster shopping guide! Queen Street West, Kensington Market stores.

courage my love, toronto vintage

Shopping for alternative fashion in Toronto takes a bit of know-how. If you follow the tourists to Eaton Center or Yonge-Dundas Square, you’ll be disappointed (unless you enjoy Adidas and GAP).

Courage, my loves! In this article, we’ll explore the coolest vintage, indie and underground boutiques, mainly found in two areas: Kensington Market and Queen Street West.

black market, secondhand clothes

After our Gloomth fashion shoot, my local comrades Linda Tea, Mao and Ashavari took me to their favorite shops on Queen St W. This is the area that houses the OCAD art school (which looks like a brick held up by chopsticks) and MuchMusic studio.

First, we followed the arrow down the narrow stairs of Black Market Vintage (256-A Queen St W).

korean street style girl

If you see fellow shoppers like this girl, you’re probably in the right place.

pentagram pizza shirt

Black Market has an immense selection of secondhand clothes. Some are on the “80s soccer mom” side, such as sweatshirts with cheesy prints of dogs in baskets. However, there’s also a rocking selection of band tees and this “Pentagram pizza slices” wonder.

see no evil cats

This See / Hear / Speak No Evil shirt put the middle cat in headphones.

cat without ears on head

Instead, I think they should have printed a Scottish Fold cat, like my earless fuzz-face! (Tons of Basil Farrow photos on his cat blog.)

heart shaped hippie sunglasses

Two of hearts. Black Market has a wall of novelty sunglasses, studded belts and bracelets, fishnet tights, and other alt accouterments.

queen victoria dress

We were joined by Karen O’Keefe (singer of Amy’s Arms — remember my concert review?) How sweet, the pigtails and flowers in her hair.

borderline toronto goth punk clothes

Together, we ducked into Borderline (425 Queen W #217). As you can see from the display, Borderline sells brands like Lip Service and Hellbunny.

However, for a local designer who makes cyber-techno-Industrial fashion, I recommend Plastik Wrap. Designer Adriana is based in Toronto and sells futuristic gear for men and women through her site.

john fluevog shoes heel

Onward to a Canadian institution, John Fluevog Shoes (242 Queen St West). I’ve collected several pairs of Fluevogs over the years. They stand out for their workmanship and alt styling. Many have Victorian elements, such as these claw foot high heels.

fluevog banker shoes, Kitschy Boom

Fluevog carries both men’s and women’s styles. I’m particularly fond of his boots like the Swordfish Edwardian.

cameron house, insects on building toronto

Across the street, it looks like the live music venue, Cameron House, is having an insect infestation.

queen street west shops, moog audio

Lots of old-style buildings and cool stores (Moog Audio) on this street.

original toronto prom dress shop

Pastel stars and poofy gowns? Original Toronto (515 Queen St W) looks like my kind of party.

We goofed off at the entrance before heading in. Taeden Hall and I are wearing Lolita ruffle dresses by her clothing label, Gloomth and the Cult of Melancholy. How sweet of her to give me this Chrysanthemum dress, made of cotton and with tiers of ruffles.

spiked high heel shoes, rainbow corset

Original is possibly my favorite boutique in the city. The name speaks the truth: you’ll find one-of-kind garments, like hedgehog-spiked shoes and sequined tulle corsets.

irregular choice bunny rabbit heel shoes

Linda found these Irregular Choice polka dot shoes, with bow-tied bunnies for heels! This brand makes an amazing Tic Tac Toe platform as well.

rainbow wildfox sweater, puff dress

At the entrance, I fell for this pastel rainbow crochet sweater. On the upper floor, there is a dizzying selection of prom dresses and bridal wear.

queen street west prom dresses boutique

We saw girls trying on glamorous dresses and accessories that would make the Queen Mother proud.

original Donna Saslove owner, patricia fields bag

Like Patricia Field in NYC, owner Donna Saslove is the life of the store. Go visit Original and give her a hug for us.

kensington market hippie houses

A few blocks away lies Kensington Market, known as the most diverse, funky and historic part of town. The Victorian-style houses are painted with bright shades. Many have a hippie vibe, with Buddha statues and Tibetan flags.

mr rogers community protection sign

While officially a “National Historic Site of Canada,” Kensington’s real protector appears to be Mr Rogers and his trusty cardigan.

day of the dead skull ceramics

Anthony Bourdain would love the cluster of cafes, which include artisan cheese shops and gourmet coffeehouses. But we were here to shop — so we followed the row of cowboy boots that lead to Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave, Toronto).

dia de los muertos skull figurines

Taeden told me that she and her brother used to spend hours in this store, marveling at the 1970s lace dresses, yin yang buttons, Mexican mirrors, and other vintage oddities.

sugar skulls day of dead collection

We all stopped to take photos of the Day of the Dead skeletons. Haven’t seen so many sugar skulls since my adventures in Mazatlan.

kensington mural, alphonse mucha art nouveau

I recommend wandering through Kensington Market, sampling food and poking your head into the many little eclectic stores. Look for the mural influenced by my favorite painter, Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

shaking dog's paw

Chat with the store owners, and shake a paw or two along the way. Not bad for a walking tour, right?

toronto clubwear lingerie

I leave you with a few bonus photos. I ran into this clubwear / lingerie boutique while walking aimlessly around downtown Toronto.

gothic mannequins

Not sure what the mannequin boy did to deserve this punishment.

goth bra, lace bodysuit

What’s your impression of the fashion scene in Toronto? Are there any places you’d like to add to my list? Leave a comment and let me know.

For more alternative attractions, check out the rest of my posts about the city.

toronto vintage stores, used clothing shops

Don’t forget to follow my daily updates (such as the snaps above) on my @lacarmina Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

I’m currently in NYC – join my TV shoot and party with me on Friday the 13th! Full info here. Thanks for being part of my blogging journey!


Toronto Goth nightlife & concerts: Amy’s Arms live at Lee’s Palace, Gothic Industrial dance clubs.

alice's pig, off shoulder dress

I’m not your typical travel blogger. You won’t find me taking photos at Toronto’s CN Tower or Hockey Hall of Fame. Instead, I’ll be out at 2am, soaking in the city’s underground nightlife and culture.

Take my hand, and let’s explore Goth clubs, a Lenin-themed bar, and two Scott Pilgrim venues. Who’s with me?

lolita stained glass print dress, cat ears

On the first night, I took a taxi from my downtown hotel (One King West) to Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St West). Recognize the name? Lee’s Palace was the site of many an epic band battle, in the Scott Pilgrim movie!

I met up with Linda Tea, who you may remember from the Toronto Goth modeling post. Love the stained glass print on her dress.

black white victorian mourning dress

I also ran into Laura the Mistress McCutchan (editor of Morbid Outlook, management for Amy’s Arms, and director of tribal bellydance troupe, The Serpentina North Ensemble). She is wearing the “Odette” dress by Gloomth, the independent Lolita label run by our friend Taeden Hall. I love how she accessorized the high collar bodice with rows of ruffles.

karen o'keefe, gothic lolita singer

We were all here to see our comrade Karen O’Keefe, singer and founding member of Gothic band Amy’s Arms. Karen’s such a positive spirit, and has been involved in the Ontario Gothic Lolita community for some time.

amy's arms, live band performance

We swayed to their melancholy songs, which convey energy and passion through Karen’s vocals. All over the stage, she twirled with swan-like arm movements. Thankfully, nobody challenged the band to a “duel to the death” (as poor Scott Pilgrim suffered).

bokeh concert photography bands

Amy’s Arms had just finished tour dates in Ottawa and Montreal, earning new fans in every stop.

theramin performance, lee's palace toronto

David Owen charmed the audience with his Theremin theatrics.

purple hair goth boy, guitarist

A colorful stage presence by Justin David Minister (composer/guitarist) and Tyla Thea Bolte (vocals).

gothic boots on stage

The devil’s in the details, from the sound quality to the boots on their feet.

korg keyboard player, scott pilgrim concert hall

Brent Kervin on bass, behind a Korg synthesizer.

concert photography amy's arms

I haven’t been to a concert for the longest time, and Amy’s Arms reminded me of how uplifting a performance can be. For a taste of their Goth rock, you can check out their Facebook and site. (I also featured their music in my Vienna travel video episode!)

concert photography amy's arms

Amy’s Arms was touring with headliner David J, the legendary bassist of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. Moody, bluesy and classic Gothic… an honor to see him perform in the flesh.

sugarpill eyelashes, shrinkle false eye lashes

What I wore that evening: relatively neutral makeup, and spider-like eyelashes topped with gems, by my friend Shrinkle of Sugarpill Cosmetics.

pastel goth polka dot shirt, teal skull

My pastel Goth polka-dot top is by Spider Hong Kong (remember my Chinese Gothic fashion shoot with this label?)

pravda vodka house toronto

The next afternoon, I went for happy hour at Pravda Vodka House (44 Wellington St East)… a Communist-themed bar! You know I love weird theme restaurants, so this was right up my alley.

lenin head statue pravda toronto

Pravda is decked out in Russian Red memorabilia… including a giant, gold statue of Lenin’s bald head.

hammer sickle, pravda toronto russian bar

I saw hammer and sickles, a row of Russian dolls, and propaganda posters, and even a portrait of Chairman Mao.

interior communist bar pravda

The menu specializes in vodka, of course. Try the maple one, and the gravlax snacks. Nazdorovye!

sugar skull makeup dj, freaky fridays velvet underground

Later that evening, Karen took me on a Gothic nightlife tour. We started at Freaky Fridays, an alternative night at Velvet Underground (510 Queen St West). DJ Ivan Palmer was rocking the sugar skull makeup behind the booth.

nocturne goth club toronto

Down the road, we stopped by Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St W), a favorite bar for punks and underground types. The entrance, a mass of mangled bicycle parts, is easy to spot.

A few more steps, and we were at Nocturne (550 Queen St W) — home to one of the longest-running Gothic nights.

toronto Rave, Retro, Synthpop, Goth club

Nocturne holds a variety of nights dedicated to indie and experimental music, such as rave, lo-fi, synth and futurepop.

toronto ontario alternative clubs

We came for Black Friday with DJ Osaze. He played an extraordinarily fun mix of Goth, Industrial, hard rock, EBM… including forays into highland dancing and flamenco. I didn’t leave the dance floor for more than a few minutes, it was that good.

tattooed female bartender, punk toronto

Did you realize Toronto, Ontario has such a cool underground scene? What should I check out the next time I’m in TO?

PS: I also wrote posts about Montreal and Vancouver alt nightlife, which I hope you find helpful.