The Genteel
April 22, 2021


Topshop pop-up shop. Photograph courtesy of Topshop.

Heidi Klum's old adage that, "in fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out," has seldom been applied to the retail side of shopping - until now. The rise of the "pop-up shop" has emerged as a trend in shopping that, despite what its premise would suggest, has surprisingly maintained steadfast popularity. After all, fashion is arguably one of the most fickle and volatile industries out there, so it comes as no surprise that the stores that display its wares should come and go in the same manner. 

Pop-up shops, temporary stores that have sprung up in shopping destinations worldwide, have a tendency to draw in huge crowds, buzzing with exclusivity and spontaneity. After all, who can deny the inner hipster in us just itching for items that only a few thousand will have the opportunity to own? Veritably, pop-up stores are glorified "One-of-a-Kind Shows," in miniature.

Though pop-up retail has established itself in the industry as "hip" and "cool," it creates a frenzied experience and gives new meaning to the term "impulse shopping." There is a fine line between exclusive shopping and a hyped-up marketing stunt. Regardless of whether or not the pop-up shop will ever replace shopping at tried and true static outlets, these ad hoc retail installations are a mainstay for shopaholics and trend-hunters alike.

There's nothing more satisfying than landing a piece from a designer who may not sell in your city.

And it's not only shoppers who are drawn to the fleeting flame that is the pop-up. Notable designers have hopped on board the chaos that could rival a horde at the mall on Christmas Eve. Target, the American-based retailer comparable to Wal-Mart, is probably the last company you would expect to be a frontrunner of a chic trend like the pop-up, but think again! In anticipation of the impending launch of a slew of stores slated to open across Canada next year, Target held a one-day only pop-up event in Toronto in February. Amongst the 1,500 shoppers who were limited to a mere three items each (probably a good call from Target to mitigate the chaos), designer Jason Wu was also in attendance to promote his exclusive line for the retailer (which sold out shortly after it launched in the United States).

Probably the hardest part of determining what pop-ups mean for regular retailers is the fact that they are so hard to classify - anything goes. For instance, sisters Caillianne, Samantha and Chloe Beckerman, designers of the label Beckerman, hosted a pop-up lounge event at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto earlier this month. The "Summer Lounge" is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - a chance to sip drinks and enjoy music while perusing a curated selection of H&M's upcoming summer collection.

Others prefer a smörgåsbord of brands not readily available in the country; like Sauvage, which opened in Queen West's Burroughes Building, offering handbags and accessories from labels that have never made their way to Toronto. We've even seen the emergence of restaurant pop-ups, with celebrity and notable chefs headlining - the designers of the foodie world. It's the ultimate way for chefs to boost their personal brands, as young chef Matthew Sullivan did with his pop-up dinner series, Boxed. Even once-a-year-dinner-parties are gaining traction with celebrity chefs, in particular, the Banana Mafia. If their moniker alone isn't enough to sell you on the concept, these notable Toronto chefs, such as Nick Liu, Robbie Hojilla, Jeff Claudio and more, recently held their inaugural Asian Street Market party, which already has foodies' tummies rumbling for next year's event. 

The Target pop-up shop.

The benefits for retailers are unequivocal, especially for independent and lesser known designers. For one, only operating on a temporary basis means not having to fork out the cash for highly sought-after real estate in prime shopping areas - especially during slow months (because who wants to shop in January and February anyway?). It's our primal instinct to want the things we can't have. So it goes without saying that spontaneity, coupled with high-end designers and exclusive collections, will have us throwing cash at retailers. For shopping and fashion purists, pop-ups represent the hunt. There's nothing more satisfying than landing a piece from a designer who may not sell in your city (an all-too-familiar horror in Canada), and to rub elbows with the fashion industry's noteworthy insiders.

It's becoming evident that the pop-up shop has to keep up and deliver on the hype and buzz (as well as chaos and frenzy). The products themselves are only the beginning; celebrities, exclusive collections, lounges and parties certainly deliver on what they promise. The pop-up might represent a marketing agent's wet dream, but we're okay with that, since we get to reap the benefits too. So keep an eye out for pop-ups, well, popping. 



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