Location: 1010 Queen Street West, Toronto
Toronto hours of operation: Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday to Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The first time I heard about gravitypope was during a conversation I had with Anita (I Want – I Got) a few years back. She told me that they were based in Western Canada, carried some amazing brands and were known for their shoes, which of course, had me looking them up online at the first opportunity.
Ever since then gravitypope has been bookmarked as one of my favourites and from time to time I would visit their website to check out their latest wears with the hope they would eventually open up shop in Toronto. The time has now come and in late November gravitypope opened its first Toronto location at 1010 Queen Street West (Queen Street W and Ossington), the company’s largest business expansion to date.
To say that this store is beautiful would be a complete understatement, at 4,000 square feet it’s absolutely stunning and is a shopaholic’s dream come true with ornate furniture, 1920s French chandeliers and a reclaimed 1930s Art Deco brass staircase from the Buenos Aires Paramount Theatre.
The beauty of gravitypope’s Toronto store doesn’t camouflage the equally amazing selection of men’s and women’s clothes, accessories and, most importantly, shoes. So many shoes in fact that when I attended the store’s opening party I stood dumbfounded for several minutes and then darted from one end to the other taking pictures and checking out all the brands: Adidas, Clarks, John Fluevog, Frye, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mr. Hare and so much more.
The opening of the store comes at a perfect time with the 2012 holiday season well underway and gravitypope’s highly curated wears hitting the streets of Toronto months before U.S. retailers Target and Nordstrom begin their a northern invasion.
Wanting to know more about gravitypope I had the immense pleasure to sit down and speak with owner Louise Dirks. We immediately bonded over our love of shoes, clothes and the retail experience. And after speaking with her for 14 minutes and 56 seconds I felt like we could have talked all night, she’s that nice, smart and passionate about her company.
The Souls of My Shoes: I’ve been waiting for gravitypope to come to Toronto for years.
Louise Dirks: We’ve been looking for a spot for years but my biggest issue is always storage space. I was looking for somewhere on Queen Street but every time I looked at a space it was always the same issue, we had no place to put the shoes until I found this brand new building with a basement that has 16 foot high ceilings.
What’s different about the Toronto store versus the ones you have out west?
This is our first all-in-one store, it’s sort of a mini department store where we have men’s and women’s footwear, clothing, apothecary, accessories and a capsule collection of house and gift wares for the holidays. This is my first full on foray into a micro department store setup.
When you started out was there an intention to focus solely on shoes and then move towards clothing?
When I opened my first store in 1990 I had only footwear and a café in the back, which at the time was quite progressive, an anomaly for Western Canada. It closed and I took the opportunity to open clothing in that space.
Footwear took off because it was a larger section of product and we imported styles from all over the world back then, which was also another anomaly, and it just grew quicker.
Thinking of the evolution of gravitypope from one store in Edmonton, expanding to Vancouver and now coming over to Toronto, how would you describe the company now?
It almost has its own cultish feeling, people love it because we offer such a wide array of product and we always try to choose the fashion out of every brand; we look at its pieces, pick the best and then build a collection of the fashion pieces from all the different brands we can find, it’s a different approach to offering footwear. I can tell you this (the Toronto store) is about 70% of what we carry in our other stores.
As long as we have people buying the brand and loving the product we will grow it. We really like to nurture the brands we carry, we don’t buy and drop them very easily hence why we have so many shoes is because I keep accumulating.
That’s interesting because some of the designers you have, in the selection here, have a very specific look and not everyone is going to want to wear, say Cydwoq or Jil Sander, etc.
Yes, but we also sell a pair of Clarks to the same woman who we might sell Chie Mihara to because she needs them for different purposes. Instead of going to two or three different stores she can find the most fashionable pair of Clarks and Chie Miharas together in one quick fell swoop, that’s what I think people love about our store.
It seems more inclusive in terms of style.
I can tell you that I have my fingers in the pot of buying about 98% of everything for our stores. I like to buy brands that I can repurchase year after year.
Is there a footwear brand that you don’t have here but you’d like to add sometime in the future?
Last year I would have said Marni but we’re carrying it out west now; there’s always new shoe brands coming into the market place and new designers to look out for.