Canadian Fashion

The idea of an identifiably Canadian style, other than the red-coated Mounties, is not significantly advanced by the recent arrival in SoHo of Aritzia, a popular midprice chain that started in Vancouver. But our neighbors to the north certainly bring a fresh perspective to that oft-botched space, the dressing room.  canadian-fashionWhile Aritzia’s lack mirrors, a seemingly callous omission that can force more interaction with a commission-hungry salesperson than one wants, they do open onto a private and well-lighted area of communal self-inspection, whose opportunities for eavesdropping rival a scene from Clare Boothe Luce’s “The Women.”  “Key-oot,” was the most common refrain bouncing around this — well, this hall of mirrors.  “Those look really key-oot,” said a saleswoman to a young Arden Wohl look-alike in a feathery headband. (At least I think it was a look-alike; I daresay that Ms. Wohl, the bohemian socialite and part-time pastry chef, isn’t shopping in these parts, though who knows.)  “It’s key-oot either way, but that one is definitely whiter,” a customer told a friend comparing two lacy blouses.  “Those are super-warm, and the forest green is sooo key-oot.”  This last remark I overheard from within the confines of my curtained chamber, where instead of a bench there was a varnished tree stump (over which I’d tossed a pair of leopard-printed Current/Elliott slim-cut dungarees, $198).  If Aritzia has any unified aesthetic, it’s a Romantic one, in the 19th-century sense of worshiping nature. A chandelier resembling C. Jere’s “urchin” sculptures overhangs the changing area, which is walled in raw, fragrant wood, as at a sauna.  On the walls are murals of Niagara Falls, including one of a man parachuting into the surf as sharks circle — symbolic, perhaps, of how it feels to enter Manhattan’s cutthroat retail topography.  At the front door: a stuffed eagle nested near a set of jumbo crystals. Large wooden toadstools are scattered about. The staircase leading to a second floor is printed with blue hoof prints. Giddyup, girlfriends!  But despite a lot of parkas, duffel coats and chunky camping-ready knits (“So many nubby sweaters! Is it ever going to be that cold again?” wondered a friend who met me there on one unseasonably balmy day in late September), Aritzia seems more oriented toward our mean city streets than to a ski trip to Whistler. At the back of the store is a large bin of smartphone cases ($30) sorted by model. A prominently featured in-house line, Wilfred, included a body-con dress ($135) in a gentle-sounding “heather camel” that barely grazed what Fergie would refer to as “my humps.”  The stereo, incidentally, was blasting bouncy pop; what misbegotten market research leads merchants to think this makes people want to whip out their wallets? It makes me want to go hide under a toadstool, and surely it is wearing on the staff?  The plentiful personnel of Aritzia, however, were as sweet as maple toffee, to each other as well as their clientele. “Honey!” they could be heard cooing. “What do you need help with, Malia? … Corinne, do you mind helping Malia out? …”  “Don’t worry, I’m not going to wear these together,” I said to one of these Maids of the Mist, after emerging in the leopard-printed pants — which had one of those grievously prefaded seats — with a preppy cream-colored lamb’s wool cardigan ($145).  “I wouldn’t judge you if you did!” she replied acceptingly. I felt warmed to the marrow but looked less haute than Hot Topic.  UPSTAIRS, an even more touchy-feely New Age mood prevails, with cactuses plunked willy-nilly on top of credenzas and blank journals stacked for purchase ($25) among the folded clothing.  My friend, who strives to wear only organic fabrics, was steered toward another in-house line, Community. “I think it has hemp in it and stuff,” our guide said.  Other Aritzia brands include T. Babaton, sort of a mirror-world Banana Republic, and the avant-garde Moveable Feast, exemplified by a top with a pointed neckline resembling an unsealed envelope ($125). We shoppers turned it over confusedly, seeking points of entry. Likewise one of the store’s more premium offerings: a black Rick Owens Lilies dress ($550) with a Morticia Addams neckline and sleeves long enough to wrap around all of Angelina Jolie’s progeny.  Neither item was Canadian, nor particularly key-oot, but both passed for adventure on the increasingly barren plain of lower Broadway

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