Montreal is known for its abundant thrift stores (called friperies), which offer unique looks at great prices. If you don’t consider yourself a bargain shopper, take heart: these are not typical Goodwill shops.
In fact, the city has elevated vintage to an art form. At some boutiques, collections are curated to match the store’s distinct style, and original jewelry and clothing– by local designers– sit side-by-side with 1960s dresses.
As a guest of Montreal Tourism, I had the chance to visit several boutiques during a recent girl’s getaway weekend. Read on for my favorite vintage shops, all of which combine art, sustainability and style.
Scroll to the end of this post for store addresses and contact information.
#1 – Folles Alliees
Price point: Moderate
Top pick: Handcrafted jewelry made with vintage beads
Payment: Canadian cash only– credit cards not accepted
This is the funkiest vintage boutique I have ever seen. And I live in Manhattan! Surrounded by street art, Folles Alliees is a tiny shop bursting with mint-condition jackets, dresses, shoes, hats and jewelry.
Every inch of space is covered with merchandise or surrealist art, including a mannequin wearing a pork-pie hat with a horn jutting from its forehead.
A number of pieces caught my eye– a fur vest (the hot clothing item this fall), a ’60s A-line dress and a pair of ’70s heels– but I shied away once I saw the price tags. While the clothes were amazing, I wasn’t prepared to spend $100+ for a vintage jacket.
Folles Alliees is a densely packed store so it takes a bit of time to comb through the merchandise. If you are in a shopping mood, you could easily spend an hour just browsing through the racks.
Having fallen in love with the store, I was determined to leave with a memento of my visit. I spotted a rack of colorful earrings with reasonable prices– around $8-$15– near the register. The artsy guy at the counter said that his mother crafted them using vintage beads.
Folles Alliees only accepts cash (Canadian, not American), so I scrambled to exchange US dollars with my traveling companions. For $25, I purchased two sets of dangling silver earrings.
I was pleased to have a souvenir from this unique store, where even the window display is captivating!
#2 – Retromania
Price point: Low to Moderate
Top picks: Skirts, dresses, jewelry
Payment: Credit cards and Canadian cash accepted
Retromania is a hyper-organized thrift store located in Montreal’s trendy Plateau neighborhood (the local equivalent of New York’s East Village). Clothes are organized by style and size, making it easy to hone in on relevant items. In fact, it’s a bit too easy– I ended up spending $150 in one visit!
All of the clothing is impeccably cleaned and most pieces look brand new. The majority of merchandise is vintage, but original dresses, jewelry and purses by Montreal-based designers line the register.
Retromania is an intriguing boutique: while the clothes are clearly curated, the store manages to have something to suit every style.
My two traveling companions– fellow writers from New York– each has a unique look. I’m attracted to unusual materials, while Amber favors tweeds and Charu has a penchant for mod dresses. Somehow we each found outfits suited to our personalities, and no one came away from Retromania empty-handed.
Like a supermarket, this vintage boutique stocks impulse items by the register. The faux-alligator skin clutches in bubblegum colors, clunky jewelry and scarves are hard to resist.
#3 – Harricana
Price point: High (but not bad for a furrier)
Top pick: Braided fur hat
Payment: Credit cards and Canadian cash accepted
You don’t have to feel guilty about wearing fur. That seems to be the theme behind Harricana, a Montreal-based furrier that transforms old fur coats and used wedding dresses into cutting-edge designs.
A true advocate of recycling, Harricana even uses vintage lining and buttons collected at the company’s flagship store.
Looking at Harricana’s merchandise, it is hard to imagine its humble origins as traditional fur coats. At the boutique, fur is twisted and woven into unfamiliar textures– like in the braided hat, below.
Harricana clothing is available in select boutiques in Canada, Europe and Japan, but the Montreal flagship store is worth a visit for its museum and workshop tours.
A friendly saleswoman led us through a stockroom where rows of fur coats hung from the ceiling. Some are dropped off by women who inherit outdated styles; it’s possible to bring in a fur coat and have a new design custom-made from the material.
The museum included before and after images showing how a small piece of a fur coat can become trim for a winter hat.
I was drawn to a rack of brightly colored silks– vintage linings rescued from old coats.
When we visited Harricana’s basement workshop (atelier), tailors were putting the finishing touches on raccoon tails. Apparently, snapping a furry tail on a purse strap is the latest trend.
As a vegetarian, I’m not comfortable wearing fur but I appreciate that Hurricana uses recycled animal products. The museum’s grand showpiece– a Canadian blanket refitted into a coat, topped with a fox head– was a bit much for me, but it had a mesmerizing effect on my travel companions.
365 Av. du Mont-Royal Est
Montréal, H2T 1R1
Phone: 514 843-4904
Web: Surprisingly, no website!
820 Av Du Mont-Royal E,
Montréal, H2J 1X1
3000, rue Saint-Antoine Ouest
Montréal, H4C 1A5
Toll free: 1.877.894.9919
Click on #MontrealArts to read my other Montreal posts.