By Craig Patterson
Toronto-based Holt Renfrew recently launched the renovation of its 190,000 square foot flagship at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto and as a result, some departments are being shifted around as part of the store’s transformation. Several of the store’s street-level concessions have been moved upstairs temporarily, while other areas in the building prepare to be renovated as part of a project that is expected to be completed next year.
The store’s 25,000 square foot second level houses Holts’ women’s ‘designer floor’, and until recently it comprised primarily of ready-to-wear fashions that include a mix of wholesale departments and leased shop-in-store concessions. Last week, a significant portion of the floor was converted to luxury accessory boutiques for brands Gucci, Celine, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Miu Miu and Prada. All six brands will eventually be housed in their own dedicated leased hard shops on the store’s ground floor once renovations to that floor are completed.
Gucci and Celine now occupy the southeast section of the store’s second floor, located between concessions for Brunello Cucinelli and Prada womenswear. The second floor department formerly housed women’s designer fashions from brands such as Giorgio Armani (which have relocated), and the new temporary Gucci and Celine shops now feature an expansive range of accessories as well as some women’s ready-to-wear.
Gucci will relocate back downstairs in a substantially larger retail space than it had before, featuring the brand’s newest store design that is being rolled out globally. Celine will also have a boutique on Holts ground floor according to a representative at the store, and the boutique will carry a mix of accessories, leather goods, with ready-to-wear also available. The Toronto boutique is expected to be one of the first in the world to feature Celine’s updated store design as per the brand’s new creative director, Hedi Slimane. Celine also just converted its Vancouver operations at Holt Renfrew to a leased concession model as the brand expands its presence in Canada, which sources say will soon also include Celine’s new menswear line.
The northeast section of Holts Bloor’s second floor, which once housed an evening wear department next to an entrance to the store’s personal shopping suites, now features temporary boutiques for Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Miu Miu and Prada. The shops are simple in design which makes sense given that they are temporary, with the Miu Miu salon featuring the brand’s trademark blue design with carpeting as well as some fixtures, as seen in photos in this article.
Bottega Veneta will build a boutique on the ground floor of Holts that will be located immediately to the right of the store’s main entranceway — an associate at the Bottega Veneta area said that the temporary second-level shop is larger than what will eventually open downstairs. Burberry, Miu Miu and Prada will all locate in a fully renovated space on the west side of Holts’ ground floor — Miu Miu will double in size according to one source at Holts, with Prada and Burberry occupying a central area in the department that most recently housed Christmas-themed gifts, next to one of two entrances for the store’s recently opened Louis Vuitton shop-in-store.
When finished, the ground level of Holts on Bloor will operate almost as a hybrid shopping centre, with Holt Renfrew acting as the landlord and individual brands handling their own retail spaces. It’s a model more common in Asian and European department stores.
In order to accommodate the new ground floor boutiques, Holts is relocating most of its beauty vendors into a new space on the basement level of the renovated store. In the summer of 2017, Holts relocated its Vancouver beauty hall into the basement in order to expand its leather goods and accessory department, which is now the largest of its kind in Canada with more than 30,000 square feet of retail space. In Montreal, as well, Holts-owned Ogilvy is undergoing a renovation and expansion to 250,000 square feet as it prepares to be rebranded as ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, coinciding with the closure of Holts 83,000 square foot Montreal Sherbrooke Street store. As part of the Ogilvy building overhaul, cosmetics is also being relocated underground. Other luxury stores have done this — in New York City, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York both feature lower-level beauty halls. As a contrast, late last year Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled a second-level beauty hall on its second floor, which is flooded with natural light from windows that were exposed as part of the renovation and relocation.
At the Toronto Bloor Street Holt Renfrew flagship, some jewelry brands have also been moved to the second floor temporarily. One area currently housing jewellery was an entrance to a salon and spa that closed last year — one of the reasons it shuttered is because it also leads to nearly 30,000 square feet of un-used space that will be repurposed as part of the store’s overhaul. Downstairs on the ground floor, David Yurman will see a new inline boutique open in a space formerly occupied by Louis Vuitton, for example.
The ground floor of Holts’ Bloor Street store began renovations last year with the addition of a 3,000 square foot Saint Laurent boutique with a street-facing entrance onto Bloor, as well as a ‘world of’ Fendi concession that opened in December. Both will be the largest concession areas on the ground floor of the store which currently spans more than 35,000 square feet.
The women’s shoe hall was relocated into the basement temporarily while the mezzanine shoe hall was renovated and expanded to include four shop-in-store boutiques as well as designer areas for Valentino, Prada, Celine and Chloé, and also a selection of high-end handbags. The updated shoe floor reopened in November of 2018 with two footwear boutiques — Christian Louboutin opened its third Toronto boutique on the floor, and Holts also opened a dedicated Gucci shop-in-store. This spring, Dior will open a footwear concession in an area next to Gucci on the mezzanine, and Holts is also building a boutique for Roger Vivier that will be located next to an updated restaurant.
The current Café at Holts restaurant will close in April temporarily and will undergo a renovation that will last for several months, according to staff. When it re-opens as ‘Colette Grand Café’, the space will feature a new menu as well as glass windows facing south over Bloor Street West (with a great view of Eataly).
Menswear will also be moving back into the main 50 Bloor Street West store next year on the store’s 25,000 square foot third floor, which is currently dedicated to contemporary women’s brands. That will coincide with the closure of the 16,500 square foot Holt Renfrew Men store that opened at 100 Bloor Street West in September of 2014.