Phoebe in Fabricland: The good kind of materialism comes to Toronto’s Mink Mile

Phoebe in Fabricland. (Credit: Jo Bovy)

When I saw that the H&M and Bloor and Yonge in downtown Toronto was closing, I wondered what might replace it. Never in a million years would I have guessed it would be a fabric store, but sure enough, that there most certainly is!

Fabricland is a Canadian retail chain selling fabric and associated materials (zippers, buttons, and more). Its first store, in 1968, was located at the intersection of Queen and Roncesvalles. There’s a longer retail backstory to the chain’s presence in this high-end, high-foot-traffic area—for two decades it occupied a former nightclub space in the Hudson’s Bay Centre across the street—but I set out in search of material. Material in, I suppose, both senses of the word.

Here is where a confession is needed: I have no immediate personal use for fabric. I cannot make my own clothes or curtains. But… what if I could?

I’ve often looked longingly at the fabric stores around Queen and Spadina, wishing I had the crafting skills necessary to fill my home with exactly the items I wanted, as versus whatever was least objectionable at (say) Ikea or Uniqlo. Imagine the customization possibilities! What if, what if?

So off I went, to browse the fabrics that took over where the Swedish fast fashion left off. As it is no longer 1968, I needed to take a slightly longer TTC route from my home along (the unfortunately now Fabricland-free) Roncesvalles, over to a part of the city I think of as the area between the Eataly and the (good) H Mart—even if the neighbours on the other side include Holt Renfrew and Prada.

The view from across the street.

And the name doesn’t lie. Fabricland is a fabric-filled paradise. Velvet that would doubtless have the potential to turn this semi-detached abode into a palace from a British murder mystery. Florals, some of which I am vowing to turn into a skirt that I will I suppose hand-sew, neither having nor knowing how to operate a sewing machine.

It seems unlikely that society will embrace D.I.Y. as an alternative to the fast-fashion industry (and indeed, the fabrics themselves have to come from somewhere; a purist in this area is presumably buying strictly second-hand), but think of the gorgeousness that would result if it did. Cherry-blossom chiffons! Sequins, but tasteful! And various textures in just the right shade of neon pink.

That said, aware of my own limitations in time and ability, I wound up buying a non-fabric item instead: a rainbow feather boa. Sold for Pride, I think, but of likely interest to a four-year-old, long before June comes along.

The CJN’s senior editor Phoebe Maltz Bovy can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @bovymaltz