There's something intriguing and exciting about an independent business that is tucked away in the city, waiting to be discovered. Chances are, you pass by a few during your daily routine without realizing they exist. It's this peculiar circumstance of the secret-in-plain-view that draws me into smaller boutiques, where personality, old-world construction, and the ethics of aestheticism melt together to form a unique retail experience. While their physical size may lead one to believe that the goods selection is minute, many small independents impress with regimented buying techniques and excellent branding.
This is where we come across, without a doubt, my favorite retail discovery in Vancouver of the past summer: Crome Yellow. Impeccably named after Aldous Huxley's first novel, the store harkens to the same level of attention to tradition and detail as its namesake. Touting brands and designers such as Yukio Mishiba, Kohshin Satoh, Officine Creative, Society for Rational Dress, John Varvatos, Belstaff, and Eton of Sweden, Crome Yellow merges a feeling of the refined classics with edge and modern design. Few small retailers I have visited manage to so seamlessly blend these elements together in such a way without seeming disjointed or over-anxious. In an apparel market saturated with overly produced replications and bland period pieces, having a selection of only exceptional works is authentic and refreshing.
In terms of pure production value, the store's catalog supports only pieces built to last: an often over-looked concept. When asked about the most important factors considered when buying for the shop, owner and buyer Michael Burt stated that the three tenets of their stock are "functionality, practicality, and durability", and they are very plain to see when walking into the space or trying pieces on. This style of sales can be a slow burn, as the average consumer can overlook more expensive international designs from smaller houses. However, combining these three factors is a testament to longevity, as once they start, people are unlikely to stray from purchasing well-made, aptly designed pieces.
...And that's only a quarter of them
Aside from the European and Asian brands on its roster, Crome Yellow also has a healthy flow of west coast and Canadian-made pieces. It can be a difficult task to allow local goods to mix with the international, but the shop manages to select pieces with aesthetic properties which work perfectly together, while still maintaining its mantra of function and sturdiness. A personal favorite of mine is local leather goods artisan Wülf, whose work compliments the outerwear and boot selection of the shop especially well. It's one of those few spots where you can walk out head to toe in Crome Yellow apparel and be more than happy with all of your purchases.
In order to better exemplify the Crome Yellow experience, I spoke to Burt further about the shop and what it has to offer:
Wood meets brick. Linen meets leather
DW: How does the aesthetic of Crome Yellow and its stock differ from the rest of Vancouver's retail options?
MB: We focus on functional fashion and multi-use clothing: clothes that can transition from business to going out at night, from East Coast to West, from North America to Europe. We have an even mix of North American, European and Asian designers as well as a blend of high-end commercial and truly esoteric brands. Common threads between brands are motorcycle and jazz heritage.
DW: In what ways have international trends influenced Crome Yellow's brand roster?
MB: We attend the major European shows as well as the North American ones. We try to synthesize everything we see in a way that is uniquely Canadian.
Shoot for Vancouver Fashion Showcase
(Clothing from Crome Yellow,
DW: How do Vancouver clients react to your inclusion of high-end international apparel?
MB: Very well. Yukio Mishiba, Officine Creative and Koshin Satoh - all esoteric overseas brands - have been perhaps my strongest sellers.
DW: What does the Crome Yellow brand plan to achieve for 2012?
MB: We want to continue introducing exclusive overseas brands such as Goti, Nicholas K, Unity and Alessandro Pungetti while growing our "locally" made and accessible brands such as 18 Waits, Prest and Field Scout.
Crome Yellow: 207 Abbott Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B 2K7, Facebook.
Vancouver Fashion Showcase: Website.
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