Where can Canadian women get a pair of $1,400 shoes by Pierre Hardy? Or some Belgian footwear from design guru Dries Van Noten? There's only one spot: Mona Moore.
This chic Montreal boutique on Sherbrooke Street West caters to the rarefied world of shoe fanatics who value comfort less than killer art.
Skeptics wonder if we have the market to sustain such a high-end shoe store. Apparently so. Backed by private venture capital, Mona Moore opened in November, stocking more than 30 styles. They sold out.
"We sold over 36 pairs of $1,100 boots by Ann Demeulemeester," reports Anna Maria Varriano, who co-owns the store with Lisa Bush, a former fashion journalist.
For spring, the store displays more than 50 styles on an elegant, white-stained floor. The long, narrow space, painted powder pink, also features a dramatic red boiled-wool couch by Paola Lenti. All the better to lounge on while slipping on the latest slipper.
To hook its niche customer, Mona Moore secured exclusive Canadian retail deals with Hardy, Van Noten, Veronique Branquinho, and Marc from Marc Jacob. Browsers -- and there were browsers on a Monday afternoon -- fondle brown leather Jesus sandals by Sigerson Morrison, moving on to discover pink ballet shoes with a kitten heel by Chloé.
"Our goal is to become the shoe store in Canada," says Bush, a hardened shoe horse with 30 pairs in rotation. "When I was 4, my grandfather gave me a pair of black patent go-go boots and I was hooked. His father started a shoe store in Virginia, which is still run by the fifth generation of our family."
Varriano, for her part, owns 300 pairs of vintage running shoes and keeps 150 pairs of regular shoes in their original boxes. She worked in Milan for eight years as a distributor for fashion designers like Rick Owens and Jean Paul Gaultier, so her contacts helped to secure Canadian exclusivity with high-end footwear labels.
"I kept hearing that Montreal lacked a good shoe store," recalls Varriano, a city native who met Bush through the owner of their favourite clothing store Les Crateurs -- located, conveniently, above Mona Moore. Within two months, Bush and Varriano signed a lease and opened the store.
Well-heeled Canadian shoe buffs can now indulge their guilty pleasure without leaving the country.