Do unto strangers, do unto neighbours. After four years of success with Gastown menswear store Neighbour, owner Saager Dilawri decided to expand, opening Neighbour / Woman, located just down the street from the original, in March. “It’s similar to what I had started off with the men’s store, which was about bringing something I thought was needed to the Vancouver community, bringing some brands that I’ve always admired, whether it’s from a fabric standpoint, or a design standpoint, or the story [behind it],” says Dilawri. “I think my idea was just to be that kind of neighbourhood store and be friendly and approachable but also give things to people that maybe they haven’t seen before.”
Much the same as the men’s store, Neighbour / Woman carries mostly European brands, though there are also offerings from other fashion hubs, including Japan and New York. When asked to suggest a few current favourites, Dilawri wastes no time before rattling off an expansive and thoughtful list: 1205 from London (“There’s this one skirt where it’s pleated but when someone wears it, the way they move makes it look like it’s a part of them. To me that’s interesting because it’s sort of beyond clothing”); Lemaire from Paris (“[The designer] works with these flowy garments that take on shape once people wear them”); Acne Studios from Stockholm (“A classic”); and Sunspel from Nottingham (“A womenswear and menswear basics line”). His knowledge of fabric and fashion runs deep, immediately evident in the artfully curated collection of goods, be they shoes, bags, or garments, found in store.
The small space is light and airy, the simple decorations as carefully chosen as the items for sale. The result is a store focused on providing Vancouver with something different, and helping turn the page on the city’s maturing aesthetic. While Dilawri did consider finding a bigger space and putting the men’s and women’s clothing together, he ultimately decided to keep them separate and “have them find their own identity.”
To discover brands worth carrying, Dilawri often looks through magazines from outside of North America. If he sees something that piques his interest, he’ll start doing research to learn more about the clothing and whether or not it is already well carried in this part of the world. “I used to work in wholesale and deal with a lot of menswear shops; you’d ask about the brands they’re carrying and they’d all say the same thing,” he says. “My scale of shop, it’s not a huge money-maker; it’s kind of more of a passion thing. So why would I want to carry the same things as everyone else? Otherwise I would just go get a desk job.”
Dilawri seems pleased without said desk job, though, happily chatting about his excitement for the fall purchases to come next season. Of course, with every business come challenges, big and small: “It’s really hot in there right now so we’re trying to figure out the air conditioning side of it,” he says with a laugh. Overall, he feels his new little store has been welcomed quite well into the area. “I think with Gastown, at least, there’s such a balance with the menswear stores where you can kind of get anything you want within that market or price point,” he says. “But with women’s, I feel like there’s a little bit of a void. So I’m hoping that we can at least help in filling that a bit.” It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood.
Photos by Ian Lanterman.