There's never a bad time to shop in Montreal. During the typically harsh Canadian winter, Montrealers escape to the Cite Souterrain, a 7-square block "underground city" in downtown. Come spring and summer, avid shoppers head aboveground to scour the boutiques for all that the city's youthful creative scene has to offer---avant-garde fashions, hand-crafted jewelry, antiques, leather goods, and sleek home furnishings.
Garments & Fancy Footwear
The cutting-edge fashions sold at Scandale are all originals created on-site by Quebecois designer Georges Levesque. In keeping with the name, the window displays are always lurid. 3639 blvd. St-Laurent. 514/842-4707.
The three expert kiltmakers on hand at Chas. Johnson & Sons can cut any tartan to any size. The shop also rents Highland formal gear for all occasions and sells sporrans, skean-dhus, doublets, and day jackets, as well as a full line of classic British menswear. 1184 Phillips Pl. 514/878-1931.
Jean Airoldi, the shop that bears the name of one of Quebec's most talented clothing designers, specializes in classic yet chic women's fashions. Made-to-measure is available. 4455 rue St-Denis. 514/287-6524.
As its name suggests, Deuxieme Peau (Second Skin) sells lingerie so fine you don't notice you're wearing it. While you're feeling brave and beautiful, kill two birds with one stone and try on a bathing suit. 4457 rue St-Denis. 514/842-0811.
In business for about 50 years, Boutique Encore has retained its popularity by maintaining a good selection of designer labels. Although best known for its nearly new women's fashions, it also includes the big names for men. 2165 rue Crescent. 514/849-0092.
Browns is a local institution that stocks fashion footwear, handbags, and accessories for men and women. As well as the store's own label, it stocks such well-known brands as Manolo Blahnik, Prada, Chanel, DKNY, Costume National, Dolce Gabana, Christian Dior, and Tods. 1191 rue Ste-Catherine Ouest. 514/987-1206.
The soaps, shampoos, and body lotions on offer at Bella Pella are all handmade by area artisans, using organic ingredients such as olive oil, goats' milk, and cranberries. 3933 rue St-Denis. 514/845-7328.
Cutesy Oink Oink carries fashions as well as toys and books for infants and children. It's fun to hear the staff answer the phone. 1343 av. Greene. 514/939-2634.
At Cerf Volanterie, you can pick up a sturdy, gloriously colored kite built by craftsman Claude Thibaudeau. He signs the kites and guarantees them for three years. Visits are by appointment only. 2019 Moreau. 514/845-7613.
In business since 1983, Antiquities Phyllis Friedman specializes in 17th- to 19th-century English and European antiques. Offerings include English hunt tables, Empire-style nightstands, Anglo-Irish glass, ceramics, and crystal. 1476 rue Sherbrooke Ouest. 514/935-1991.
Nostalgic for the 1950s? Cite Deco is just the place to pick up a chrome-and-Arborite dining-room set and an RCA tube radio. It also has art deco furnishings and accessories from the '30s and '40s. 1761 rue Amherst. 514/528-0659.
Ruth Stalker made her reputation finding and salvaging fine pieces of early-Canadian pine furniture, but she has also developed a good instinct for such folk art as exquisitely carved hunting decoys, weather vanes, and pottery. 4447 rue Ste-Catherine Ouest. 514/931-0822.
The Written Word
With its selection of imported and handmade papers, L'Essence du Papier is a reminder that letter-writing can be an art form. Here, scribblers can finds pens, as well as waxes and stamps with which to seal their romantic prose. 4160 rue St-Denis. 514/288-9691.
Stubbornly independent until 2003 when it was bought out by Archambault, a Montré¡¬ chain of music stores, Paragraphe carries the usual selection of best sellers and thrillers, but also stocks Canadian works and histories. 2220 av. McGill College. 514/845-5811.
Deep in the McGill University neighborhood, The Word is a timeless shop with sagging shelves that specializes in used books on art, philosophy, and literature. The owner here tallies his bills by hand. 469 rue Milton. 514/845-5640.