A daughter of world-travelling diplomats, Grace was exposed to the international fashion scene, where style was a way of conversing with others.
“My eyes were opened to the way people engage in culture, liberate their traditions, and express their own personalities through fashion,” says Grace. She explains that viewing fashion as a tool for social interaction was key in shaping the concept of Alfie Italia.
From Anti-Hero to Alfie Italia
Of all neighbourhoods, Grace felt Gastown was the right place to plant the roots of her latest fashion venture. “There was a sense of distinct community with independent-minded businesses and denizens,” says Grace. “It’s a place where personalities don’t make excuses.”
“I had a desire to create a place where people could interact with garment design, and culture, in a fun and accessible way,” Graces notes.
Grace took ownership of a discount all-Italian fashion boutique, known as Anti-Hero. She has since re-launched the boutique as Alfie Italia, focusing on exclusive designs. Taking inspiration from ‘sprezzatura’ – the art of looking effortless at all times – Grace retains the boutique’s Italian roots under a new manifesto that caters to the confident dresser, daring at heart and tactful in nature.
The Art of Sprezzatura
In Vancouver, fashion isn’t quite anchored on trend – but driven towards lifestyle and function. As a style-conscious boutique with sociable attitude, Alfie Italia is a refreshing addition to the Vancouver’s mix of ‘help-yourself’ retailers, where shoppers seldom talk to staff and head straight to the fitting room.
A candid attitude to fashion is what makes her shop distinct. “We take a no nonsense approach to outfitting our customers,” Grace notes. The environment is designed for socializing – shoppers are guests who can lounge on their sleek sofa, enjoy sips of freshly brewed coffee while receiving styling tips and wardrobe consulting.
Browsing through the racks, menswear items are tailored for dapper, hardworking man, while the women’s selection has an edgy, fashion-forward aesthetic. Both Italian and Canadian designs are represented in the carefully selected stocklist of young, emerging designers. To keep things exclusive, Grace travels to Italy and beyond in search of stylish threads that have yet to set foot on Canadian grounds.
“We like to find pieces that reach back to the old world, and forward to the adventurous nature of our customers,” says Grace. “We came across designers who have the chops, and taste, but not necessarily the reach to branch out into North America.”
Taking a Collaborative Approach to Fashion
With the advent of online shopping and fast fashion, today’s shopper might be itching for a more personal exchange. Being a natural connector, Grace creates a convivial dynamic with the intent of developing a stronger creative community in Gastown.
“Alfie Italia is not just a clothing store. It’s intended as a creative space for artistic collaborations on a personal level, as well as a cultural scale.”
“Our people are tactile, and have an understanding that fashion is interactive, and analogue. In its best form, clothing is bought by personalities from personalities.”
Grace keeps the culture bubbling by hosting bi-weekly soirees that bring together likeminded creatives. In the spring, she welcomed guest stylists, Nicolette Lang-Andersen and Jason Sarai of Style of Sarai, for a fashionable evening revealing tricks of the trade. And during Vancouver Design Week, Alfie Italia played host to an after party that united key players in independent fashion and interior design.
Later this month, Alfie Italia will revive the classics and launch an old school Chicago-style shoe polish lounge. You might notice a rustic, industrial-looking workshop near the back of the store. Grace is collaborating with designer, Daniel Bowman Dudley, to develop an in-house collection of custom leather goods inspired by an urban Viking aesthetic.
And for Valentine’s Day weekend, Alfie Italia will host ‘Rosé with Roses’, a full-service social shopping event that welcomes Olla Flowers, along with locally roasted chocolates and Italian espresso by East Van Roasters. To stay up-to-date on Alfie Italia’s events, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.