Christina Bellevue, Toronto Genie

Christina guides us on where and what to shop, eat, and explore in Toronto.

Christina is the sort of friend you wish you had in every new city you visit – someone who is passionate about her city and constantly exploring the cultural and retail landscape, is willing to share tips about hidden gems and shiny new things to check out, and has great taste so you know you are hearing about the best. The goods that Christina has posted on Geniegoods are some of our most popular. We are so thrilled that she agreed to do an interview/guide for Geniegoods so we can learn more about Toronto. You’ll see why she’s a consummate local genie from her recommendations below!

What brought you to Toronto?  

CB: I moved to Toronto for work 5 years ago after completing a master’s degree in Montreal. I’ve been living and working in the city ever since!

Who/what are your favorite 3-5 makers/artists/stores in the Toronto area?

CB: Toronto has so MUCH to offer when it comes to the local artistic and maker scene. Some brands have made it big and expanded outside of Toronto or even Canada, while other brands remain fiercely niche and local. The good news is there is a market for all of it. I enjoy going to local markets on the weekend to discover new local brands, and there are many more opportunities to buy local now than there ever was – whether in person or on the internet. Smaller events like pop-up markets, and larger scale events like the One of a Kind Show or INLAND, an annual event showcasing Toronto and Canadian fashion designers, are all part of the Toronto cultural landscape to make local fare more accessible to everyone.

Photo Credit: oneofakindshow.com

Some of my favourite stores and makers in Toronto are:


Store:
Tanya Heath Paris is an extraordinary maker of handmade luxury shoes with interchangeable heels. While Ms. Heath hails from Ottawa, Canada, her shoes are handmade in Paris where she now lives, and her operations have expanded internationally to include stores in Paris, Mexico and the Middle East. The eponymous Tanya Heath Paris store in Toronto is located in Yorkville, the city’s luxury mecca. Inside the store all the heels are displayed like a candy bar — it’s a feast for the eyes for any shoe-a-holic! The cool thing is that once you’ve bought the actual shoe, you can pick up heels of different heights or colours to mix and match at will. This shoe system is perfect for baller jetsetters, fashionable minimalists or busy women on the go! Instagram: @tanyaheathparisofficial

Store: Pearls & Pockets: Full disclosure, I’ve become friends with Martha, the owner of this cute little shop on Queen Street West, so I’m a bit biased! I could say at least one out of three pieces of clothing in my wardrobe is now from Pearls & Pockets since the store opened a year and a half ago. Pearls & Pockets is full of fun, feminine items with a hint of modesty and classic English class sourced from all over the world. Whether you’re a young bride looking for a unique wedding dress, getting ready for a Gatsby-inspired summer garden party or love a good vintage hunt like I do, you will find something lovely to wear at Pearls & Pockets. Nestled between the innumerable fascinators are gorgeous flapper dresses, intricately embroidered evening gowns, one of a kind vintage and preloved pieces, cute clutches and handmade jewelry from Martha’s home province of Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada. Bonus points for the fact that the store carries only one size of each item, so you know very few people in the city will be rocking what you bought! Instagram: @pearlsandpockets

Maker: Uppdoo is a Toronto-based maker of some of the best-constructed purses, backpacks and satchels you will find in Toronto. The leather is smooth, the construction is well-made and the colours are rich and poppin’. They recently opened their flagship store, which is chockfull of bags, bath & body products and accessories from other Toronto-based makers. Guess what I’ll be getting myself for my birthday?! Instagram: @uppdoo

Maker: Encircled, a Toronto-based company that specializes in minimalist, reversible, multi-usage and versatile pieces for your wardrobe. Their clothes make for great additions to any capsule wardrobe or when you want to travel light. All the items are designed and manufactured in Toronto. I own their Reversible Pencil Skirt and I always take it with me when I travel because it’s light, reversible, easy to clean and quick to dry! Instagram: @encircled_

Maker: The Saucy Milliner, a bespoke millinery shop and company located in the Distillery District of Toronto, a lovely pocket of shops, restaurants and condos with cobbled streets and a popular Christmas Market during the Holiday season. The owner and milliner-in-chief has worked in the movie industry and now designs bespoke hats for celebrities and regular folks alike. She was recently commissioned by to make a bespoke hat for Blake Lively who was filming a movie in Toronto, how exciting! I’m still saving my bucks to have a bespoke hat made by her because I know it will be one of the most timeless, fashionable pieces in my wardrobe. Instagram: @thesaucymilliner

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A few things to try in Toronto while visiting the city:

  1. For bragging rights: Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese cheesecake. Even the lineup is an experience (hilariously captured by this now-defunct Twitter account). Thankfully, the chain opened a few new locations across the city, but the OG location next to the bus station remains the most popular and lineup-y location!
  2. King of the 6ix: Drake’s OVO flagship stores on Dundas West or at the Yorkdale Mall, the fourth largest mall in North America and the top luxury mall in Canada
  3. Food on the go: Where to begin? Could be a pork belly banh mi at Banh Mi Boys, a delicious healthy smoothie at Fresh, homemade cinnamon buns at Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, cupcakes or ice cream at Bakerbots, vegan patisseries at Sorelle and Co, gourmet crème brulee at Craque de Creme, the creamiest hot chocolate ever at Bobbette & Belle, a delicious shawarma (or shawarma poutine) at Laziza Mediterranean Cuisine, or try any of the wonderful Toronto food trucks circulating across the city, especially during the summer

Where do you recommend that they shop?

CB:

  1. Chinatown and Kensington Market. I love both areas, which are literally across from each other. I’ll typically start off in Chinatown and grab a bubble tea at one of the numerous bubble tea places that line Spadina Avenue, then will cross over and walk all over Kensington Market. The Market is particularly great when it offers Pedestrian Sundays every last Sunday of the month during the summer, so you can roam freely in the streets. A few places I love to check out in Kensington Market include:
    • Grey Gardens, a hip, Instagram-friendly restaurant owned by Jen Agg, one of the most prolific female restaurateurs in Toronto
    • Fika Cafe, a Scandinavian-inspired coffee joint famous for their lavender white hot chocolate
    • Pancho’s Bakery, a Mexican bakery known for their hollow churros filled with with your favourite filling…soooo gooood!
    • All the fun vintage and secondhand shops along Augusta Avenue and Kensignton Avenue. My go-to’s are Sub Rosa Vintage, Courage my Love, Cinderella Vintage, and Vintage Depot, which has a few locations across the Greater Toronto Area, but the one in Kensington Market is my favourite
    • Sweet Olenka’s for decadent ice cream desserts and gluten-free treats
    • Poetry Jazz Café for jazz and live music lovers
    • Veggie D’Light was a wonderful culinary surprise! It’s a tiny spot on Baldwin Street right at one of the entrances to Kensington and their Caribbean-inspired vegan fare is by far one of my favourites in the city. Blink and you’ll miss it, so be on the lookout!

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  2. Queen Street West all the way West, which was named one of the coolest streets in North America by Vogue Magazine. What I do in the summer is start at Queen Street West and John Street near the famous MuchMusic Headquarters and slowly make my way West, stopping along the way to eat, shop and enjoy the surroundings. This walk may take a couple of hours, so make sure to wear good shoes. My favourite spots along Queen Street West are:
    1. Tribal Rhythm Vintage for some funky, vintage wear
    2. F as in Frank for awesome vintage streetwear (can you tell I love vintage?)
    3. Pearls & Pockets
    4. Jacob & Sebastian and The Cure Apothecary, two lovely green beauty shops with tightly curated list of natural and green cosmetics, many of which are exclusive to their respective stores
    5. Oak + Fort, a Vancouver-based line of casualwear with versatile, everyday-wear pieces
    6. BRIKA, a cute gift shop highlighting local and international artisans and makers
    7. Nadege Patisserie for French macarons
    8. Trinity Bellwoods Park to rest and sunbathe before walking further west on Queen Street
    9. Garb Consignment and Consign Toronto for gently worn designer
    10. The Devil’s Workshop for cool jewelry and an afternoon silversmith class
    11. House of Vintage, a popular and Selena Gomez-approved vintage shop
    12. Drake General Store for souvenirs and all things Canadiana
    13. Hollywood Cone for a mutant shake, including their infamous Froot Loops milkshake
    14. Kick back and relax at the Drake Hotel after a long day of walking. Finish things off with a nice drink at the bar, or simply take a break before you continue walking further west to Parkdale, one of the city’s funkier neighbourhoods.

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What is your favorite country/city that you have traveled to?  

CB: My favourite country is Costa Rica. I love to travel, but I get home sick quite quickly. This is one of the reasons I prefer shorter, fun and fast-paced trips to longer bouts of travel abroad. But after spending three weeks in Costa Rica, I simply did not want to return home. The weather, the scenery, the people…forever engraved in my heart and my memories.

My favourite city is Tokyo. It’s cliché and often-said, but this city is amazing, so vibrant, culturally-fascinating and oh my God, the food!

What is your favourite item that you have purchased on a trip?

CB: There are too many to choose from! If I narrow it down to a few favourites, the ones that make me travel back there without leaving my bedroom, I would say a pair of Alias eyeglasses found in a small consignment shop in Tokyo, this fantastic THREE Balancing Cleansing Oil bought at Narita Airport on my way back to Canada, a delicious Musc Noir perfume oil from now-defunct concept store Colette in Paris, and a gold designer ring from Israel (designer unknown). Every time I touch, smell, use or wear one of those items, I can vividly remember where I was, and most importantly, how alive and happy I felt on those trips. 

What projects are you working on currently?

CB: I’m really into thrifting and vintage wear, and I’m currently building my own vintage resale online store (@thriftingmytruth) and I want to specialize in vintage wear for petite sizes 10-20. My dream is to travel the world to curate a fantastic collection of clothes in great condition, with fantastic construction and a really cool background story. Because what I have found with vintage wear in particular is that people will purchase the clothes, but in the end they’re truly buying a story, and nostalgia for a bygone era they would’ve loved to experience.

I’m also getting ready to complete a Vipassana meditation course in Spain in mid-March. Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique, and the course in itself requires 10 consecutive days of complete silence. You are allowed to break your silence vow on the 10th day, which will be my birthday. What a wonderful birthday gift that will be!. Then I’ll spend the rest of my vacation discovering Madrid and Barcelona. I’m so excited!

GG: Thank you for this wealth of recommendations and leads! We want to get to Toronto pronto. And we can’t wait to hear more about your online vintage store!

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