July 22 2014
Endless Options at Gastown Button Shop
Written by Gastown Admin
Tiny sweaters bearing playful buttons greet customers as they pass by the store’s picture window on their way inside
Who comes through your doors every day?
This is the best part of having the shop – every single demographic shows up. Young-old, rich-poor, men-women-children, local-foreign, conservative to highly imaginative. Everyone. Not too many shops have that wide a range. Shows you just how ubiquitous a button is!
What types of buttons do men look for?
About 20% of my customers are men, which was a big surprise to me. Sometimes they come because they’ve lost a button, say on a tuxedo, but most often it’s because they want to upgrade a garment. They change ordinary buttons to horn or mother-of-pearl for suits and shirts, a more suitable metal button for blazers, and wood or leather buttons for sweaters. They use buttons to make highly original cufflinks. Some guys want more authentic buttons for vintage clothing or a reproduction costume. The more adventuresome will even change a single button on a suit sleeve to something more interesting.
What inspired you to open a button store?
I had lived in many different countries around the world and there were always interesting buttons available. When I came back to Vancouver I kept wondering when someone was going to bring that kind of button here. Finally I realized it would have to be me.
How many buttons do you have in store?
There are about 9,000 styles, and lots of mixed oddments, such as the bin with 50,000 buttons.
Tubes and boxes of buttons line every available space inside the store
You carry a very unique collection of buttons from around the world. How do you find these treasures?
They really do come from all over the world. Except for buttons made by local artisans, there are no buttons manufactured in Canada. Most other countries do make them, and I scour the world for companies that will send me samples.
What are some of your favourite buttons?
Probably like most shop-owners, I like the latest delivery! It’s so much fun to open a box and see what’s new. I like the really tiny ones. But generally I like a well-made button that wouldn’t be used by the garment trade.
What is there about buttons that most of us would be surprised to learn?
People might not know that even though buttons have been with us since prehistoric times, it is only since the mid-1850s that women wore buttons. Until then, only men wore them, and they were very fancy.
Metal, ceramic, wicker, plastic, and even buttons made from antlers, are just a few of the items available
What are some of the most creative ways your customers are using buttons?
Earrings, cufflinks, wedding button bouquets, rhinestone-quilted headboards and other upholstery, book-binding closures, fascinators, burlesque glitter, interior designed cushions. The film industry uses buttons in crazy unexpected places, for space aliens and chess sets, etc. Young people do wonderful things with steampunk buttons. And of course, I see a lot of beautiful First Nation’s work on button blankets.
How are people using buttons today as a fashion statement?
There are seemingly endless way. A more interesting closure for a handmade beaded bracelet. A great big button on knitted scarves and neckwarmers. Dotting them on backpacks, sewing onto shoes & boots. For the last few years women have been changing a button to a much larger size to make the garment look more contemporary, and now men are doing the same.
What do you love the most about working with buttons?
I love to see what people do with them. They bring in their garments and get so creative in their choices. They splash a few buttons on and play. They can see that they can be more imaginative with a button than they might be with their clothes in general. With a new set of buttons you can rejuvenate an old garment and personalize an off-the-rack piece of clothing. And buttons lend themselves to many different functions beyond a mere closure. Really, for such a puny little item, I can’t imagine selling anything more interesting.
Displays within the store provide inspiration for future projects
Button Button is located in the mezzanine at 318 Homer Street, easily found thanks to a sidewalk sign in the shape of two buttons. With so many interesting options, it may be worth losing a button on purpose!