Rue Sainte-Catherine is Montreal’s shopping Mecca—a Fifth Avenue of sorts that boasts mega brands like H&M, Zara, and American Eagle; however, often overlooked is Boulevard Saint-Laurent, a street that has more to offer than just Frappe, Biftek, and the ghost of Korova. With Urban Outfitter’s hipster energy and Forever XXI’s cheap prices, Saint-Laurent thrift shopping provides a far more eclectic look for your dollar.
KILO Fripe neighbours Cul-de-Sac, and the two often collaborate by hosting fashion shows together. Kilo Fripe, however, is noticeably more eccentric. It hosts a similar jacket collection, but also flaunts a rack of sequin tops, a shelf of cowboy boots, decorative ties, a pair of seventy dollar wolf-print pants. The decision to be expansive is intentional, explained sales assistant Penelope Hard.
“The customers are all ages, French, English, tourists,” she said. “You have to be open-minded, and the clothes are a reflection of that.”
Cul-de-Sac is a store ideal for university students—it exudes an alternative vibe not dissimilar to that of cult classic shows like Freaks and Geeks and My So Called Life, while maintaining relatively inexpensive prices. Cul-de-Sac has an impressive coat collection; the back half of the shop showcases denim, leather, army, and letterman jackets.
“I prepare all the clothes; I wash, sew, repair—I like the process,” explained store owner Melissa Turgeon, who is particularly dedicated to her stock. “New is new—you have to do nothing. Here, you have to work on it.”
The Beatles and The Police blast over the sound-system—just like with her clothes, Turgeon creates an aura that is retro, but not obnoxiously so.
Terry Westcott’s eponymous secondhand bookshop is perhaps the most picturesque storefront on Saint-Laurent, reminiscent of quaint British boutiques. His store is filled with books from wall to wall, novels dripping over the checkout counter, and reference books tripping customers as they scuffle through the walkways. Westcott’s genuine dedication to literature is a revolt against the faceless Barnes and Nobles and Indigos that use their square footage for faddish gimmicks and spaciously frivolous displays. “I just love reading,” said Westcott. “I was tripping over books in my apartment and my landlord was giving me the evil eye. So, I opened up a store.”
T. Wescott offers an expansive range of books—“The books just have to be interesting,” said Westcott in reference to the only qualifier for the books he shelves. Customers can find everything from Pretty Little Liars, to a McGill sociology course pack; from Shirly MacLaine’s autobiography to Agatha Christie novels.
La Boutique Du Collectionneur
The “La Boutique Du Collectionneur” knick-knack shop is whimsically disorienting; random suitcases, baskets, and chairs hang on the front window, and the sign is obstructed by a poster for the ’90s French film Laura Cadieux. A good place to find furnishing for an apartment or windowsill trinkets for a dorm room, the store has older, less fashionable light fixtures, but also zany finds, like an exit sign or the bottom half of a mannequin. Most alarming, however, is a wall of Nazi paraphernalia, an aisle that tends to unease customers.
“I’m actually Jewish,” explained storeowner Ivan Botines. “I think it would be a big mistake if everyone buried and forgot these historical items. It’s a sin—it’s part of history and it’s evidence.”
Botines’ whole shop is a family business, and he maintains the philosophy of holding on to the past.
Friperie Saint-Laurent is cozy and warm. The interior is papered in tiger-print wallpaper, Montreal Canadiens memorabilia line the ceiling, and the salespeople are helpful and personable. The store only sells merchandise that predates the seventies, so items that are stereotypically ‘thrift shop’ are slightly underwhelming—the letterman jacket collection is limited, and the shoe rack is dedicated mostly to monotonous pointed-toe kitten heels; however, they also have more unique and flashy buys like a rack of gorgeous ’60s shift dresses, and Oxford slip-ons. Unlike their counterparts, Friperie is willing to haggle, offering exciting bargains.
“When you go to the Gap it’s cold; people are scrambling to find something very straight,” storeowner Dider Duram said, beaming. “Here, people come freely looking for items that are unique and funny, or even to say ‘Why not?’”