Walking in to the century-old building that houses Montréal’s chic Boutique U&I, a mix of old and new appears before you. Rustic brick walls and hardwood floors contrast with a modern ceiling design and carved metal accents, which creates an ambience reflective of the shop’s range of goods – a mix of classic and trendy everywhere you look.
The boutique opened in 1997, and has grown to include menswear as well as their impressive stock women’s clothes, shoes and accessories. Owner Eric Toledano believes that beauty comes in many different forms, whether contemporary or timeless, and the collections carried are eclectic, ranging from Ralph Lauren’s all-American charm to L’Agence, a trendier, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired brand.
Toledano’s women’s collections embody elegance, sophistication, sex appeal, and must always be colourful! “I’m not into black, I’m the anti-black. I love colour,” he says. His favourite women’s label is the Parisian brand Carven, whose line of lust-worthy goods are on everyone’s must-have list for summer. As for men, Toledano chooses collections with a classic Americana feel that are also colourful and comfortable. He especially loves plaids, and the Japanese designer, Mihara Yasuhiro.
Toledano ensures two things when acquiring a collection. First, it is important that the pieces are unique. “The pieces must have personality, originality, and a twist. I look for designers that have their own ideas, opinions, identity, and that are inspired to create, not imitate. You see imitation a lot in fashion. We’re not interested in that,” he says. Furthermore, he values brands that have a history behind them. “If things have more appeal after 20 years, that means they are truly beautiful.” He gives the example of the classic Levi jean, the Sperry Top-Sider original boat shoe, or the desert shoe by Clarks. “We’ve got the first, the original,” Toledano notes. Boutique U&I has also long sold the popular brands Canada Goose and Montreal’s own Mackage (two lines especially important for those long, cold Montréal winters).
U&I’s pieces appeal to all budgets, as the boutique is not price but quality-oriented; items range from $80 to $800. Toledano admits that it is important to have a part of the store that is accessible to all types of shoppers, and to not “alienate the essence and appeal of fashion today.” He explains, “Fashion is all about the streets, not all about the runway. Streets used to be inspired by the runway and now it’s the other way around.” No matter what your budget or inspiration, Boutique U&I is sure to fit the bill.
U&I, 3650 St. Laurent Boulevard, Montréal.