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International online clothing retailer SSENSE does a real good job at providing cherry-picked YSL and Alexander McQueen pieces on their website, but now that the company's opened its first boutique in Montreal, Canada, things have gotten serious. There was a soft opening a little while back, but on Wednesday night, we flew out to Montreal to check out the official grand opening of the store.
Sitting quaintly on the corner of St-Paul West in Old Montreal, the store occupies two floors, one dedicated to each sex. Womenswear gets the top floor, and the first thing to greet you upon entering is a Balmain fur-trimmed jacket that is just as expensive as you think it is. Hanging on the racks are carefully selected goods from McQueen, Margiela, and Matthew Williamson, as well as lines that hover at a lower-price point, like Helmut Lang. Whether your heart's set on a wispy Wililamson dress or a navy leather McQ bomber (two things we were afraid to try on lest we realize we need them), you'll most likely find it inside.
Whereas the women's floor is done up with sleek and shiny black fixtures, the men's area downstairs is a lot more rugged, with exposed concrete and dimmer lights. We found a lot of Philip Lim down there, as well as not one but two variations of Givenchy's Rotweiler print shirt—in a sweater that zips up the sides as well as a button-down—which CEO Rami Atallah says has been one of the company's best sellers. (Let's just say they had to reorder more than once.)
While hobbling down the cobblestone of Old Montreal intersections, we were already thinking that this part of town had a bit of a Meatpacking vibe to it, and Atallah made a similar comparison when talking about the essence of the neighborhood and why they chose the location: "It's like in Meatpacking where everyone is selling meat and then there's a fashion store."
And while high-end fashion boutiques have been springing up in the area much like Meatpacking, one of the key factors that will most likely attribute to SSENSE's success is that anything you want on the website you can have sent to the store without any obligation to buy it. Meaning you can go and try on that Rotweiler doggie in the window before deciding it's something you need in your closet. Basically, this means that SSENSE is like a free-standing version of luxury Internet shopping, something we could definitely get behind if we lived up North. For now, weekend trips and e-commerce will have to do.
· SSENSE [Official Site]