Vancouver-born businesses dot the map—and lead the resurgence—on “Vancouver’s runway”
Robson Street has long been a shopping destination known around the globe as one of Vancouver’s must-visit neighbourhoods. Visitors flock for the fresh air, café culture and fashionable finds. In recent years, the addition of pedestrian-friendly outdoor seating areas and international retailers like Muji (coming this fall) have continued a vital expansion and diversification, with six locally-born retailers ushering in a new era...
1. Arc’teryx – 813 Burrard Street
The outdoor enthusiasts behind clothing and equipment manufacturer Arc’teryx have come a long way since they launched as purveyors of climbing harnesses in 1989. Still proudly based in the Lower Mainland (their design centre calls North Vancouver home), the company has massively expanded its offering to cover everything from ski and snowboard gear to trail-running apparel. And its Robson location showcases even more: there's a dedicated desk for warranty queries and repairs, and a community space with a newly devised map of local trails to provide terrific insight for—and from—active locals and tourists alike. “We build tools to inspire people and enable them to get outdoors,” says Beau Johnson, retail community marketing manager for the brand. “To achieve that goal in store, our trail map and ‘Beta Board’ complement the knowledge of our staff to motivate people to explore our surroundings.”
2. Plenty – 1107 Robson Street
Plenty's communications and marketing manager Jenna Tuazon once worked at the company’s Broadway boutique, and her history with the locally run chain is reflected in the experience of many of the store's loyal shoppers. “We become friends with a lot of our regular customers. We know what they’ll like before they even walk in,” explains Tuazon. “Plenty was born in Vancouver and has grown as the city has. We maintain that West Coast vibe by having pieces that you can wear casually but also dress up for a night out.” (With headquarters in East Vancouver, Plenty is so connected to the local community that one line on offer at the Robson Street location is even named for the dogs of Vancouver-area employees.) Menswear fills the upper floor while incredibly versatile shades currently cascade through women’s pieces on the ground level. “Fall is the best season for fashion. Hands down,” declares Tuazon. “Our colour palette includes a lot of neutrals and deep, rich tones that were made for feeling warm in cooler months.”
3. RYU Apparel Inc. – 805 Thurlow Street
RYU bills their wares as “urban athletic apparel” and their street-front workouts literally stop traffic in the courtyard of their flagship Kitsilano location. But the Robson Street store—just steps from the intersection of Robson and Thurlow—fosters a strong sense of downtown community. Run clubs and boot camps bring together fans of the activewear line and familiar faces find the shop’s location—right between West End residences and downtown offices—incredibly convenient. “It’s the 'coming home’ feel,” explains manager Carman Dalla-Vincenza. “We want every member who walks through the door to immediately feel as though they are walking into a friend’s home. Some stop in just to chat and say hello. It's a wonderful feeling to have created that environment for our RYU members.” The company’s design studios are still located on Vancouver’s west side and the Robson-adjacent store is stocked with products that reflect a structured, practical sensibility. “We try to avoid what we call jellybean colours,” says Dalla-Vincenza. “You can’t sacrifice aesthetics for functionality.”
4. Couturist – 1085 Robson Street
Opened in 2016, Couturist—and its three co-owners—are governed by the principle of the three Cs: contemporary, chic and comfortable. One might be tempted to add carefully curated. The store’s collection reflects a dedication to accessible luxury. “We saw a specific need for smaller boutiques—affordable prices, good quality but really chic style,” says executive director Riko Wang. “We don’t see that combination often in Vancouver.” Couturist also showcases a small but impressive collection of their own designs as well as creative eyewear from South Korea and even Danish raincoats to tackle the West Coast’s wet autumn in style.
5. Boys’Co – 1044 Robson Street
Boys’Co is a Robson Street staple: a locally birthed clothier with enough foresight and style to result in more than three successful decades among the world of local menswear. Hugo Boss and Versace are among the major brands that still line the store shelves, but the Vancouver team’s Robson Street location has plenty more on offer. “Boys’Co has been blessed to have wonderful relationships with great brands, particularly from Italy,” says owner David Goldman. The stylish spot has long excelled at combining classics with trends—so much so that even Drake is a fan…of sorts. The Canadian-born hip-hop star can often be spotted wearing Stone Island apparel—and the line is now carried at Boys’Co’s Robson Street location. “Stone Island’s current fall ‘17 season is showing just how much this brand resonates with our clientele,” confirms Goldman.
6. Canadian Crafts – 1071 Robson Street
Tourist culture is an integral part of Robson Street’s history, but Canadian Crafts’ customer base extends beyond the visiting throngs from cruise ships. “We actually have a steady base of locals as well as corporate customers and clients from across North America,” says manager Chris Cheung. “They have purchased from us previously and love dealing with us so we ship to them!” The store’s newer location, opened just this past May, stocks familiar souvenir items (the requisite maple syrup and maple leaf hats), but also local artwork and unique gifts. “I think we bring some character to the street,” surmises Cheung. “It’s always nice to have a mom-and-pop-type of store to provide something different.”
CREATED BY BCLIVING IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE ROBSON STREET BUSINESS ASSOCIATION.