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Yorkville Is a Chic and Trendy Toronto Haven

June 18, 1989|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Toronto's Yorkville is a chic and trendy neighborhood, chock-full of shops that feature tasteful collections of merchandise.

Yorkville is a compact area in the heart of the city, with several important shopping streets, among them Avenue Road, Hazelton and Yorkville avenues and Cumberland Street.

The area's history goes back to the 1860s, when it was a separately incorporated village with townhouses, wooden sidewalks and a town hall. As Toronto grew, Yorkville became primarily residential, and, until the 1950s, was a conservative, middle class neighborhood.

During the 1960s, when Yorkville became a haven for hippies, many of the charming Victorian buildings fell into disrepair.

But in the 1970s, developers converted many of the buildings into shops and cafes and turned Yorkville into a shoppers' haven. Although the area is trendy, Yorkville has maintained its quaint, small-town ambiance.

Famous Shopping Stop

Yorkville's most famous shopping stop is Hazelton Lanes (55 Avenue Road), a cozy enclosed mall of refined boutiques with top-quality merchandise and hefty price tags. Famous purveyors include Versace, Rodier, Hermes, Joan & David, Turnbull & Asser, Fogal and Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.

Hazelton Lanes also has distinctive shops such as Chez Catherine, a boutique featuring a selection of fashions by such designers as Valentino and Vollbracht, as well as an intriguing bunch of newcomers.

Canadian designer Alfred Sung, whose beautifully-tailored couture clothes and trendy Club Monaco sports line are always in style, sells throughout Canada and in the United States, but his most up-market boutique is at Hazelton Lanes.

The latest Sung styles are handsome coordinates with a refined city-casual look, or classic smart fashions for gallery hopping or theater. Outfits are from about $200 U.S., slightly lower than their prices at most U.S. retailers.

For casual clothes, Hazelton Lanes has Beaver Canoe, with its popular line of sweats (about $20 per shirt or pants), T-shirts (about $17) and shorts (from about $16), and Roots Kids, with a complete line of tot-size sweats (about $12 per shirt or pants), T-shirts (from $10) and shorts (from $12).

Canadian Favorite

Just behind Hazelton Lanes is Hazelton Avenue, where outstanding shops include Bleu Nuit (No. 15), a favorite Canadian supplier of gift items, home furnishing accessories and luxurious linens, many of which are French imports.

There are smooth-as-silk sheets (from $35) to dream on, in pastel solids, stripes and prints, plus appealing lace-bordered pillow covers and shams and a large choice of serving bowls and platters, including reproductions of antique French plates with asparagus motifs (from $20).

Robin Kay (37 Hazelton Ave.) is a young Canadian designer whose youthful fashions are attracting a lot of attention. The look is a favorite with professional women who find value in mix-and-match versatility and comfort in soft fabrics.

The palette is often almost primary, with dashes of contrasting hues. Outfits cost about $90 and up.

Hazelton Avenue runs into Yorkville Avenue, with another set of stylish shops. Vivian Shyu (No. 104) is a Canadian designer whose collection ranges from slinky little high-tech dresses to layered fashions that look street-waif chic.

Divergent Elements

These divergent elements will suit fashion-conscious women with a wide variety of body types. The styles are shown in a modern minimalist environment, and prices for outfits begin at about $200.

La Cache (120 Yorkville Ave.) is Toronto's source for home accessories and linens with the country look--sort of a cross between Laura Ashley and Pierre Deux, but more reasonably priced. Mats (from about $12 each), clothes (from about $35) and other items for dressing the table are particularly pretty and appealing. There are also summery cotton dresses (about $120 and up) in a profusion of prints.

On Cumberland Street, which is parallel to Yorkville Avenue, Shoppe D'Or (No. 18) is a first-rate secondhand shop that sells slightly used but perfectly pampered designer clothing for a fraction of its retail price.

Dresses are from last season only and must be expertly dry-cleaned before they are accepted on consignment. Items bearing Dior and other top designer labels sell for $20 to $1,000.

Real Child's Play

The Toy Shop (62 Cumberland St.) is a child's dream come true. Emphasis is on educational and fun toys. The shop seems to stock the entire Fisher Price catalogue and other toddler delights. The complete menagerie of stuffed animals ($8 and up) includes standard and rare bears, plus penguins, zebras, giraffes and lions.

Rarest of all is a five-foot rocking horse that weighs 600 pounds. It's an English import, looks real (except for the fact that it has no hair) and costs $3,000. You can't ride it home, but the shop will ship.

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