Discovering the Best of Vancouver's Boutique Side

by  Laura Kiniry | Aug 22, 2013
Vancouver / :MJ_Prototype/iStock

It's no secret that Vancouver, BC, is a great place to visit. This western Canada gem is known for having a vibrant nightlife, superb scenery, and a sustainably-minded way of approaching everything from outdoor recreation to the culinary arts (it's even home to an annual Eco Fashion Week in October). But some of the city's best assets are perhaps its boutique shops and restaurants, many of which highlight Vancouver's local flavor through their designs, collections, and cuisine. If you're searching for independent shopping stops and establishments that are distinctly 'Vancouver' in nature, here are five spots you won't want to miss:

Situated along Vancouver's bustling West 4th Avenue, Nicole Bridger Designs is the flagship store of the female clothing designer. Bridger, a 30-something-year-old local native, uses only high-quality, ethically responsible materials like organic cotton and Belgium-grown linen to create flowing dresses, cardigans, and tees that accentuate real women's natural curves. Along with Bridger's ready-to-wear creations, the shop highlights locally designed accessories, including Mala Collective's rudraksha bead necklaces and Knottycase's salvaged wood iPhone cases.

Opened in 2012 across the street from Nicole Bridger Designs is Vancouver's own rare tea bar, O5 Tea. The space features a long, low-slung counter made of reclaimed Douglas fir and lined with backless stools, specifically designed for savoring tea rather than hovering over laptops. Sample cask-aged tea from the Himalayas, sip yellow tea from Taiwan, or simply spend an hour listening to proprietor Pedro Villalo exalt on everything from the best aged teas to which varieties taste even better followed with a shot of sake.

Local entrepreneur Mark Brand took over the Gastown district's fledgling Save on Meats in 2010, gutted and completely revitalized it – transforming the neighborhood landmark into a community hub. Along with an authentic butcher shop, the expansive space features a retro-style diner perfect for sharing boozy shakes and big plates of poutine.

Another Gastown favorite, Dutil is denim central for Vancouverites. Along with original classics, the tiny boutique boasts dozens of custom designed denims, such as skinny leg wallpaper-inspired prints, green selvedge chinos, and ultra-soft stretchy indigo. They've even carried glow-in-the-dark denim (perfect for hunting down friends at concerts).

Combining Vancouver's sustainably-minded attitude with its penchant for functionality, West 4th Avenue's Hip Baby is a one-stop shop for modern parents. Along with cloth diapers, non-toxic tableware, and ecologically responsible toys like natural wood rattles, the store features a bevy of eco-friendly fashions and furnishings for both babies and toddlers.

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