When one thinks of pretty and clean Toronto, Canada, a darker and rougher fashion aesthetic is probably not the first thing that will spring to mind. This is precisely the reason that the boutique Serpentine is such a fresh and welcome destination there. Opened August 21, 2009, this shop at 18 Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville specializes in an international “combination of rugged, darker fashion looks that take elements from the avant-garde, rock ‘n’ roll, and vintage motorcycle culture” says Paul Mailing, who co-owns the specialty shop with Stephen George and Jeff Karp. Here, Mailing shares the lowdown on Serpentine’s success.

“The concept is a creation of our personal aesthetic styles and our vision for what fashion in Toronto needs.

We are becoming very known for having unique standout fashion pieces within each season, as well as some exclusive accessories and jewelry. Some of the bestselling brands are: Boris Bidjan Saberi (Spain), Rick Owens (Paris), Julius (Japan), Atelier Ruby Helmets (Paris), WM Atelier Candles (Paris), Werkstatt München Jewelry (Germany), Luke Satoru Jewelry (NYC) and Natallia Brilli Leather Accessories (Paris).

Our ‘typical’ customer is the ‘Business Guy’ who wants to express himself during his non-work hours, or add some edge to his work wardrobe. For example stockbrokers, lawyers, investors, doctors, entrepreneurs and others who appreciate quality, construction and limited pieces.

The main things that differentiate Serpentine in the Toronto fashion scene are: the blend of exclusive brands from around the globe which include footwear, collections, jewelry and accessories. Secondly, the interior aesthetic of the space creates a vibe and a mood that when combined with the pieces in the store...it really creates a shopping/ art experience. The shops decor is a combination of industrial antiques, custom art murals and one-of-a-kind fixtures.

Our favorite finds at the trade shows during last week’s NYC buying trip were S.N.S Herning knits from Denmark, Wolverine 1000 Mile boots and M. Cohen Handmade Designs Jewelry from LA. [But] most of our business is done at showrooms or at direct appointments with designers.

We feel that customers are looking more for quality over quantity. They seem more interested in spending on big pieces...and looking for bargains on others. More men seem to be taking pride in developing their own individual style. Serpentine offers them brands from all over the world that are often exclusive to us or have limited distribution. We focus on products with high quality construction and fine details that make the products special.”