Shop talk: Rue Pigalle—Toronto’s hidden gem for one-of-kind accessories.
Rue Pigalle, which is located at 927 Queen Street West, has unique and gorgeous accessories from designers from around the world. Photo courtesy of Rue Pigalle.
Rue Pigalle is one of my favourite accessories shops in Toronto—maybe my favourite anywhere. Its artful and gracious proprietor, Isabelle Fish, is as Parisienne as a Left Bank boîte. She’s also one of those women whose understated elegance induces serious envy/admiration. The former lawyer always dreamed of setting up an atelier with curated pieces from artists from around the globe. She opened her 927 Queen Street West store last year, and it has become a destination shop in the trendy district. Her collections include jewellery, scarves, sunglasses—and even select furniture pieces from the talented (and very charming) Toronto-based designer Jeff Forrest of StackLab. "You cannot resist but fall in love with the story of the artists and the pieces they lovingly create," Fish says. "It is important to me that the artists are always at the forefront of what I do."
The name—Rue Pigalle—is a clever homage to the famous Paris neighbourhood historically known for its dodgy, vice-ridden sex shops and can-can shows. It’s being gentrified—to mixed reviews—but for Fish it’s still a place that reflects her creative aspirations for her shop. "I like the name because it suggests temptation; you look in the window because you’re curious and then you come inside and fall in love with what you find!” And, sure enough, what you discover are not your mass-marketed baubles and trinkets.
What have I fallen in love with recently?
Jianhui inside his London atelier. His name means "to build a splendid life." Photo courtesy of Jianhui.
There’s a saying in the store that captures the ethos of the place: “I’d rather wear a unique story.” It is a credo that informs Fish’s purchasing decisions when she travels the world looking for the designers she’ll carry in her store. I’m taken by one particular piece—one that is now delicately wrapped around my neck. It’s a crocheted crystal collar from Chinese-born, London-based designer
Jianhui (pronounced Janway). I love its slender threads wrapped finely and adorned with glittering crystals. Fish discovered Jianhui while she was scouting for artists during the
Paris Fashion Week. "The inspiration for his work is the colors and scenery of his rural Chinese roots," she explains. "His pieces are created from sustainable or recycled materials, such as wood from furniture manufacturers. He also only uses organic dyes. Jianhui not only employs people to make his jewelry in an artisanal way in his workshop, but he also set up partnerships with schools and healthcare providers to ensure that his employees and their families have access to education and healthcare. He’s an incredibly passionate and emotionally involved with his work, his employees, his clients. To bring Jianhui to Rue Pigalle is not just about bringing beautiful pieces to the store; it’s also about being part of a social endeavour that I admire. Those are important values to me."
Rue Pigalle is located at 927 Queen Street West in Toronto.
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