By YP Contributor

Worldly Designers

Stepping into this cozy shop on Queen West is like stepping into another world, or at least another city — Paris and Milan come to mind. The sophisticated space has high ceilings, crown moulding and painted wood floors that are elegantly roughed up to give that Old World feel. Racks display a range of coats, blouses and dresses in colourful fabrics from difficult-to-find European brands like Les Prairies De Paris, Roberto Collina and Indress as well as the in-house line, Mercy. “Richard and I have travelled extensively over the last 20 years and we wanted the shop to showcase the treasures from our travels,” explains Gaspard co-owner Jennifer Halchuk.

Jennifer and her partner-in-design Richard Lyle have been working together since 1996 producing Mercy, a locally designed clothing brand known for quality fabrics. “We feel that all good things come from quality ingredients,” says Jennifer. “Good clothing needs to feel good to make you want to wear it again.” Both their local line and roster of international brands share a focus on timeless elegance and pieces that transcend seasons.

We feel that all good things come from quality ingredients. Good clothing needs to feel good to make you want to wear it again. - Jennifer Halchuk, co-owner
Gaspard West Queen West dresses fashion French designer
Sophisticated fashions at Gaspard (photo credit: Simone Olivero)

Fashion with a Story

European inspiration is nothing new in Canadian retail but Gaspard really sets itself apart with clothing that tells a story. “We seldom buy through agents,” say Jennifer. “We think it’s important to meet the designer, see their environment and learn their story before carrying them in the store.”

After working 20 years in wholesale with Mercy, Jennifer and Richard consider themselves experts in customer service and knowing what it takes to create a unique shopping experience. The first year the store opened happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic so to celebrate, Jennifer and Richard planned a party for customers complete with costumes and a string trio. “We researched the playlist on the final voyage and created life vests from distressed muslin,” explains Jennifer. “It was a very special event.”

The name Gaspard is not without significance. A tribute to the 1974 French comedy, Les Gaspards, the film follows a group of Parisian merchants protesting the urbanization of the city. In the case of the shop, the name is an homage to a traditional sensibility regarding customers and clothing “As a specialty boutique, we focus on clever design, quality pieces, and ethical craftsmanship,” says Jennifer.

Gaspard West Queen West Toronto Jewellery Designer
A jewelry pop-up collection from Wouters & Hendrix (photo credit: Simone Olivero)

Investing in Style

“Most of our customers have a confident sense of style,” says Jennifer of Gaspard’s sophisticated clientele. Amongst the well-heeled Toronto regulars, a number of celebrity clients have frequented the shop over the years, including Claire Danes, Linda Rodin and Kim Cattrall. Both the shop and their in-house line Mercy have been featured in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post and Toronto Life.

“Our clientele appreciates our buying process,” says Jennifer. “While it may take a few visits to covet an item, once a customer decides to purchase, it’s with a confidence that they have invested in a quality piece — a future classic!”

Gaspard West Queen West Designer Fashion French European Womenswear
The French-inspired interior at Gaspard (photo credit: Simone Olivero)
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