Will West Queen West’s cool factor expire?

Anne Hung at work in her  boutique on 829 Queen St. W. (Stephanie La Leggia / Ryersonian Staff)

Anne Hung at work in her boutique on 829 Queen St. W. (Stephanie La Leggia/Ryersonian Staff)

Locals knew West Queen West was trendy long before Vogue’s “Global Street Style Report” ranked it the second hippest neighbourhood in the world.

“We’ve always known this street is cool,” said Anne Hung, a professor at Ryerson’s School of Fashion who is also a designer and the owner of Anne Hung Boutique on Queen Street West.

According to Vogue’s September issue, “Toronto is currently enjoying newfound prominence — amongst globe-trotting tastemakers.”

The magazine describes Queen Street W. as “a verifiable artery of indie patisseries, homegrown labels, and hidden-from-view galleries.”

With Shimokitazama, Tokyo, in first place, West Queen West outranked 13 other prominent neighbourhoods in cities such as Stockholm, Milan and Los Angeles.

“People in the outskirts never knew what to expect, or realized how cool this neighbourhood really is,” Hung said. “It’s been written about in NOW Magazine, but still, people outside of the downtown area don’t really know that this even exists here in Toronto.”

Eleven years ago, Hung set up shop a couple of blocks away from Trinity Bellwoods Park. The neighbourhood changed drastically over the years, with a number of independent boutiques and restaurants that have come and gone.

Hung said Queen Street W. is worthy of being mentioned in Vogue because of its unique shops and because of how far the neighbourhood stretches — from Bathurst Street to Gladstone Avenue.

However, as with anything officially declared cool, fame comes with a price, and business owners wonder how long it will be before people move on to the next hip neighbourhood.

Hung worries that increasing rent will drive many of the businesses out. While her own landlord encourages independent boutiques, she worries other renters may not be so lucky.

Lawrence Altrows, a Ryerson professor of urban and regional planning, says that with no rent control in Toronto, the cost of running a business in West Queen West will inevitably increase, “not just because the value of the property will go up in general, but simply because the rental situation in Toronto is tight.”

Altrows said that Queen Street between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street once had many independent stores, but recently has been “chainified.”

“That whole area, Queen and Spadina, it’s like an outdoor mall, and I’m scared that’s what will become of Queen West,” Hung said. “I mean, there’s a Virgin Mobile not too far and there’s talk of opening an Anthropologie near Tecumseth (Street).”

Altrows said there are many ways locals can preserve what they love most about West Queen West.

The neighbourhood supports Canadian designers, art galleries and small coffee shops. Altrows said he wants people to think twice before buying a shirt at Gap or drinking Starbucks coffee, and to engage with local independent vendors.


Interested in stopping by? Take a peak at what to expect from Anne Hung Boutique!

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