Northern Exposure

Canada’s Holt Renfrew debuts a dedicated luxury men’s store in advance of approaching U.S. rivals
Posted July 20, 2015

The timing couldn’t have been better for last October’s opening of Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew’s first dedicated men’s store on Toronto’s trendy Bloor Street: In addition to competing with local retailer Harry Rosen, the upscale department store chain is facing a spike in competition from the Lower 48 as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom expand into the Canadian market. To meet the competitive challenge, the new store offers customized signature services from shoe shines and on-site monogramming to personal shopping suites, made-to-measure suiting and a dedicated space for bespoke tailoring.

The design concept for this new initiative appeals to the sophisticated, fashion-forward Holt Renfrew customer with its sense of space and an emphasis on architecture and design. “We wanted this to be a man’s space where he feels comfortable to move around and explore. We wanted to provide a club-like, residential feeling,” says Steven Scuro, partner, Janson Goldstein LLP, the New York-based design firm that teamed with Holt Renfrew on the project.

“The store was designed with a strong sartorial focus and driven to ensure ease of shopping. Clear circulation was integral to the store design,” adds Allan Tse, Holt Renfrew’s manager of store design and planning.

The two-level, 16,500-square-foot store, located on a prominent corner of Toronto’s “Mink Mile,” features a glass façade with twin stone piers at the entry.

In the front window, an ever-changing installation ranging from cars and art to guitars, serves as a “wow” factor, luring customers inside. At the store’s opening, a $355,000 bright red Ferrari Italia sports car was the star attraction. “Holt Renfrew is all about creating extraordinary experiences for our customers and this takes on many forms,” Tse says. “Throughout this new store, we’ve innovated with key design elements as a stage for unique in-store experiences.”

The joining of two adjacent spaces on the main-floor layout posed a challenge for the design team. A large opening was created to naturally lead customers from the leather goods, jewelry and furnishings area into the footwear area in the adjoined space. Previously, an escalator was positioned behind a wall, inhibiting circulation. The wall was removed to expand sightlines, promote movement to the second floor, and allow a spill of natural light into the space.

A deep blue color scheme serves as a common design thread, consistently present throughout. On the ceiling of the footwear area, it defines the merchandise zone, then curves down onto the back wall where a commissioned bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Dennis Lin elevates the customer experience.

An ultra-contemporary light fixture positioned over the stairwell provides cues to the second floor. A walnut floor and custom wood shutters greet customers on the upper level, housing men’s ready-to-wear. Vintage furniture, found objects and commissioned artisan pieces further promote the store’s residential feel.

A second-floor window offers a dramatic panorama of Bloor Street, as a curtain of metal beads controls the light and regulates the view. The metal beads are lit at night, projecting a shimmering beacon onto the street.

Being locale-specific, the store celebrates Toronto’s rich hockey heritage by displaying artifacts from the NHL, including trophies from the Conn Smythe collection and a mini Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup.

The store’s wide assortment of product offerings, made-to-measure suits and custom tailoring, combined with an eclectic display of expensive automobiles, art and hockey pucks, positions Holt Renfrew to appeal to and serve Toronto’s most discerning, well-dressed modern gentlemen.


Holt Renfrew, Toronto

Janson Goldstein LLP, New York: Mark Janson, partner; Steven Scuro, partner; Jason Spangler, sr. designer; Mary Ellen DiFalco, sr. designer; Taylor Wozniak, designer
Holt Renfrew, Toronto: Natalia Penno, VP network; Alla Tse, design manager; Camila Kwan, designer

Lighting Designer
Schwinghammer Lighting LLC, New York

All Wood Fine Interiors Ltd., Toronto
Forte Fixtures & Millwork Inc., Vaughan, Ontario

The Sullivan Source Inc., Toronto
Olympia Tile, Toronto

Sawkille Co., Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Avenue Road, Toronto
Louis Interiors, Toronto
Commute Design, Toronto
Geiger, New York

Eurolite, Toronto

Props and Decoratives
Dennis Lin Studios, Toronto

Daisycake, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kravet, Mississauga, Ontario
Holland & Sherry, New York

Project Architect
Chorny Associates Architect Inc., Toronto

M&E Engineer
Cronnox Inc., Oakville, Ontario

General Contractor
Rochon Building Corp., Toronto

Photography: Ben Rahn, A-Frame Studio, Toronto