Holts Pops Up Downtown

Posted by: on Dec 7, 2009 | One Comment
Holt Renfrew 560 King St W Poster

While Canada may often be a late adopter of trends, Holt Renfrew has hit at just the right time with their pop-up shop 560 King St West, which opened last Tuesday in downtown Toronto. As a fresh marketing concept, pop-ups are thriving in international cities like London, New York, and Tokyo. Even Hermès, the grande dame of luxury houses, staged a pop-up in conjunction with Liberty’s of London this past summer, so it’s refreshing to see Canada – and Holt Renfrew – following suit so soon.

Holt Renfrew 560 King St W Streetview

Located on Toronto’s youthful and hip section of King Street West between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street, favourite uptown luxury retailer, Holt Renfrew, has popped up a quaint downtown jewel box of a shop that will be gone as quickly as it arrived.

Stepping into the boutique is like sneaking into a secret stock room, filled with a treasure trove of fashion – that is, if your stock room happens to be curated by Barbara Atkin, VP Fashion Director for Holt Renfrew. I was lucky enough to have a tour of the shop with Barbara, who masterminded the project, along with Jackie Charest, VP Pop-up and Director Marketing – Beauty. Clothing, accessories, jewellery, beauty products and gifts are highlighted together in whimsical vignettes. Gone are the traditional tables and racks. In their place are stepladders, crates, and antique furniture – anything that works to show off the wares and contribute to the temporary look and feel of the boutique.

Barbara Atkin (Holt Renfrew), Eric Gooden (Luxe Lust), Jackie Charest (Holt Renfrew).

Barbara Atkin (Holt Renfrew), Eric Gooden (Luxe Lust), Jackie Charest (Holt Renfrew).

The merchandise is decidedly androgynous, though not in that sterile, Helmut Lang/Raf Simons way that the word frequently conjures up. Rather, the selections are simply pieces that would look chic and utterly appropriate on him or her. This is a carefully edited collection that truly bridges the gap between the men’s and women’s floors – something, which Barbara points out, can be difficult to achieve through merchandising in a traditional department store, yet really makes sense in this more intimate environment.

Selections for Him & Her at 560 King St W

Barbara and her team have chosen a wide range of pieces from many styles and price points, from Balenciaga bags and thigh-high Prada boots, to vintage Hermès silk vests, to a plethora of items from many burgeoning Canadian designers. Particular favourites include gorgeous wool coats from Smythe, and one-of-a-kind bowties designed and created by Fashion Television producer Christopher Sherman. (Barbara shares with me that Christopher stayed up all weekend hand-sewing the fabulous neckwear to be ready for the opening!)

Christopher Sherman's fabulous bowties

Christopher Sherman’s fabulous bowties

Thigh-high Pradas at 560 King St W

The future looks bright for pop-up shops in Canada, despite 560 King St West closing yesterday (just 5 days after its opening). Such is the way of the pop-shop though, which makes these ephemeral boutiques a win-win for the consumer and the retailer. Consumers – some of whom might not otherwise shop at the host store – get access to newer designers, one-of-a-kind items, and sometimes limited designer collaborations, while retailers can feature these items without the risks of alienating their more conservative clientele, or purchasing product to last an entire season.

Holt Renfrew fashion expert Natalie Lecomte

Holt Renfrew fashion expert Natalie Lecomte

“This is an experiment,” Barbara explains as Holts tests the Canadian market for this new style of retailing. Judging by the buzz around the city and the shop, the experiment has scored a great success, with many of the featured designers popping in to be a part of the excitement. From the advertising, to the merchandising, to the passion and personality exuding from Holts’ fashion experts, and even the live Twitter feed projected on the wall, there are few things I can think of that could have contributed to making an even greater success story. My hat is off to the fantastic team responsible for pulling it all together.

Watch out for more temporary shops – from Holt Renfrew and other retailers – that are sure to spring up across Canada. But you will have to be quick, and in the know, as the shops don’t last long and rarely do much in the way of advertising.

So, what’s the best way to get the inside scoop? Sign up on email lists for your favourite stores, follow them on Twitter, fan them on Facebook and of course, watch out for any subtle, yet telltale, guerilla advertising that might give away the secret.


Temporary Fashion

1 Comment

  1. shopsterium.blogspot.com
    December 7, 2009

    I was there on Thursday and I have some exclusives from Barbara Atkin (VP Fashion Direction) and Jackie Charest (Marketing Director).
    Come check it out!