It is generally understood that it would be better for us all—especially the planet—if we all resolved to buy less from fast fashion retailers, but the siren's song of seasonal trends can be hard to resist.
Find pieces for your latest fit du jour at a number of Montréal's vintage boutiques that keep the pace with contemporary looks, such as Mile End's Annex x LOCAL (5364 Saint-Laurent Boulevard), with its sweet and soft colour-coded selection of quirky mod or Little Italy's Ex-Voto (6534 Saint-Laurent Boulevard), where more 90s and Y2K silhouettes sit to a dreamy display of local, hand-thrown ceramics. Mile End's LNF (5319 Park Avenue) and Lau B (4302 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) in the Plateau both boast a diverse array of unisex cool, while Lazy Vintage (1682 Mont-Royal Avenue East, 3730 Ontario Street East) is worth a perusal for those particularly seeking modern-leaning menswear. On your way to some bagels? Pop into Bohème Vintage (206 Saint-Viateur West) en route and see why its earned its place as a neighbourhood staple for over three decades. Or, try your hand at the consignment game at Shwap Club (4710 Saint-Ambroise Street #265, 6682 Jeanne-Mance Street) or Empire Exchange (5225 & 6796 Saint-Laurent Boulevard), where you yourself are welcome to add to their curated racks by exchanging your own vintage threads for store credit (and lo, a cyclical addiction is born).
Restored & Upcycled
Another way to approach sustainable fashion is through re-worked vintage clothing and textiles, where secondhand pieces and repurposed fabrics are transformed into more contemporary cuts.
Citizen Vintage (5330 & 4059 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) wows with its hand-picked secondhand selections, reimagined vintage duds, and slow fashion offerings—notably all made within 5km of the store from recycled materials. Nearby studio Covet Vintage (5413 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) frequently has a few transformed garments on offer, whether its a silk chemise revamped with dye or cool two-tone denim. In Saint-Henri, ERA Vintage Wear (999 Du College Street, #41) displays present-day runway fashions juxtaposed against a selection of beautiful, refurbished vintage garments—from the 1920s through to the 1980s—from which their modern counterparts were inspired. Cul-de-Sac (3794 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) on the Main is a vintage depot offering a combo of upcycled retro and plenty unaltered original pieces; with most of its goods dating from the 80s onward, this is the place to hit for an authentic ugly holiday sweater or a loud, floral, summer BBQ shirt.
Looking to get lost? There's nothing quite like devoting an afternoon lost amongst the racks, on the hunt for a hidden gem.
Chaotic and beloved staple of the lower Main, Eva B (2015 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) is one such establishment to do exactly that. The now-iconic frip emporium is a Montréal landmark, first opening its doors in 1987 (albeit initially as a used bookstore). A few storefronts down you'll find sister location Eva D (1611 Saint-Laurent Boulevard), with a slightly more curated selection of bygone-era threads, including rentable gowns for special occasions that call for old glamour. Dominating both the t-shirt and jean jacket game with seemingly infinite stock is Hadio (314 Mont-Royal Avenue East), Montréal's physically largest vintage shop, and another Plateau fave packed to the gills is KILOFripe (3800 Saint-Laurent Boulevard); along with its great secondhand garments, this huge store is also meant as a multipurpose space for all manner of local artists to perform and showcase their work. The very name of Marché Underground (3731 Notre-Dame Street West) in St-Henri belies its vastness, with each room in this permanent flea market-style location sporting its own distinct theme. Further uptown, blink and you'll miss The Little Shop (1002 Ogilvy Avenue), an unparalleled treasure trove located in a residential apartment building in Parc-Ex. A staple in the neighbourhood for nearly six decades, its multiple tiny rooms packed full of treasure will keep you enrapt for hours.
Bring it to the Runway
If you're looking to invest in luxe labels, best to start with boutiques that specialize in sourcing vintage couture.
With a playful selection of pieces from the 30s through the 90s, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce's Rudston Brown (5879 Sherbrooke Street West) is the quintessential stop for luxury vintage. Over in the Plateau, runway labels are common at contemporary friperie Le Dressing (3854 Saint-Denis Street), and big names such as Prada and Dior can be seen under sneaky garment bags hanging kitty-corner to authentic 50s cocktail dresses at a true portal into a bygone Paris, Les Folles Alliées (371 Mont-Royal Avenue East). Mile End's Seconde (5274 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) serves up an array of irreverent and distinctly rebellious high-end vintage, while neighbouring store RUSE (5141 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) is every bit as sleek and chic as the garments it sells. Similarly minimalist and airy is Inedit.e (6370 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) in Little Italy, where you can feel the intention behind every piece on display.
Unleash the Niche
As thrifting continues to rise in popularity, so too has the market for extremely specific vintage goods; enough, in fact, for purveyors of such niche items to open brick-and-mortar locations.
Vintage workwear is the name of the game at Palmo Goods (263 Mont-Royal Avenue Est), where rancher duds, boiler suits, and French railway jackets reign supreme. Slinging similarly Western fare but with a more 70s rock twist is La Caravane Vintage (4116 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) on the Main, with its bolo ties and biker jackets, but real motorbike enthusiasts can't miss Boutique Le 63 (63 Mont-Royal Avenue Est), a place of pure garage and motorcycle culture with vintage pieces to match. Outremont's Mervmatsui (1025 Avenue Van Horne) is a menswear thrift boutique with a focus on both workwear and normcore (a little L.L. Bean, a little Danny Tanner), while the selection of predominantly men's/unisex clothing at Club Theos Montreal Inc (1134A Mont-Royal Avenue Est) is strictly 90s streetwear—vintage for hypebeasts. Then there is Ribotti Vintage (5149 Saint-Laurent Boulevard), whose primary focus is old school sport outerwear, be it for a day on the slopes or a night at Igloofest. And while not technically a thrift store, a special trip should be made to Kitsch'n Swell (4065 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) on the Main for their stunning vintage recreations that capture that 1950s sock-hop magic.
Home Sweet Secondhand Home
Lastly, should you be looking and able to expand your collection of secondhand and vintage items beyond your closet and into your home, Montréal has some truly incredible vendors of furniture and home goods, be they gently used or fully upcycled and refurbished. The vintage furniture and lamp selection at Style Labo (5595 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) leans more stylishly industrial, while Spazio Architectural Antiques (8405 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) boasts an incredible collection of antique stained glass amid more structural elements. The focus at the Re.ixue (262 Avenue Fairmount West) showroom is modern statement pieces, but if its carved Flemish scrolls and Tiffany lamps you're on the hunt for, check out the guide on how to antique by the Lachine Canal. Happy thrifting!