Text and photos by BEATRICE S. PAEZ
Korean fashion is having a moment in Toronto.
Thankfully, the mercurial Canadian weather suits girls with split style personalities, broadening the range of statements clothes make at any given season.
Year-round, Boutique Cherie and its sister store, House of Rinka, stock their racks with both frilly finds and edgy ensembles to make a play for the “girly-girl” and the “sophisticated girl” and those in-between.
Jiang’s idea of a hyper-feminine girl is someone who doesn’t shy away from going overboard with embellished and pastel-toned garments.
Boutique Cherie’s affable owner Bing Bing Jiang is is still trying to “differentiate” the two stores, but she sees customers popping in and out of both to mix styles.
Jiang’s Asian clothing stores are strategically located in the heart of Korea Town, smack right where U of T students, Asian-Canadians, foodies and culture seekers meet.
She cultivated her business savvy at Montreal’s Concordia University, where she took up management. With the help of her parents, she set up her own boutique.
Boutique Cherie quietly expanded its territory late last year, occupying the space above it and filling the minimalist styled shop with sweet eye candy. The nondescript signage may throw off the most observant, but luckily its inviting display draws window shoppers in.
The clothes themselves provide the decorative touch: a palette of pink-toned blouses and dresses to choose from, an array of patterned, Peter Pan-collared blouses and a selection of brogues and flats.
The new store adds a well-heeled shoe collection, a popular request from loyal customers, mostly in their early 20s who are perennially on the lookout for classic, pretty, work-friendly wardrobe. A must for Jiang is stocking flats in a variety of styles – with graphics, prints, patterns and studs – and in different shades of seasonal colours.
While Boutique Cheire carries the latest trend imports from Europe and the U.S., it has a distinctive Asian slant that accentuates the femininity of a design. Classic pieces are layered with lace, ruffles and flowery patterns. Take for instance, the unisex, striped tee embellished with lace and bows. Though it indulges in the girly side of young women, the chic cuts are fit for any working girl or student.
The whirl of trends that inundate the market can make fast fashion the default choice for style conscious women on a budget. Though delicately stitched, Cherie’s goods have an enduring quality in their make. Not bad, considering the price points won’t damage your credit rating.
Reasonably priced, the store is a solid alternative to the giant fashion chains, carrying seasonal staples and a healthy stock of dresses even in the wintry months – making them one of her best sellers.
Japan may reign as the capital for East Asian fashion, with its Harajuku princesses posing as style icons, but Korea and China are also on the ascent. Most of Cherie’s goods are sourced from local Korean and Chinese brands.
But in such crowded marketplace, what helps is having a good eye for assembling a fashion collection drawn from different designers.
Jiang who grew up in China, was obsessed with Asian fashion magazines as a child, and knew Toronto would embrace a store with just a hint of something different.