There may be plenty of vintage streetwear– and sports- focused shops to go around in Toronto, but there’ something special about In Vintage We Trust, Parkdale’s one-stop-shop for everything from sports jerseys to well-priced Levi’s from all eras. It might be its online-first roots that make the shop stand out – there’s nothing quite like the store’s bright and loud Instagram presence, full of eye-catching photos of products and flashy videos.
Josh Roter and Chantal Varela are the founders of the dynamic vintage store. In 2010, the pair started the brand as an online shop, choosing eBay as their platform. Just four years later, the duo would open their first brick-and-mortar location at 1580 Queen St. W. Roter says it was a “low key dream to own a vintage shop with a Queen West address.”
With the influx of vintage shops in Toronto, the pair needed to find a way to set themselves apart from their competition. For Roter, it all boils down to having a recipe for success. Their secret ingredient? Genuine love for what they do.
“Experience, authenticity and an undying appreciation for vintage clothing. Pair that with an extremely deep and cohesive selection, insane merchandising by brand or commodity like a shop would be in a department store in the mid-’90s. Add the social, which we try to make sure is always blasting, and that’s the recipe!” Roter says over Instagram.
Both Roter and Varela have been entrenched in Toronto’s vintage scene since the late ’90s and 2000s. Roter vividly remembers the Kensington Market in all of its glory. Here is where he attributes receiving his Jedi-Padawan like training. Not only would he learn about the history of garments themselves, but he would slowly pick up the tricks of the trade which led to the eventual opening of his store.
This background knowledge and genuine appreciation for the clothing is what makes In Vintage We Trust special, along with this is the store’s focused approach to marketing. On their Instagram, viewers are treated to multi-post stories on particular items, brands and general time periods which are crucial to vintage history. The emoji-heavy captions are an added bonus.
For Roter, his intense passion for clothing is his unique, personal quality which he enjoys honing in on daily. “With our business model, Chantal’s detailed way of merchandising the shop and telling stories through clothing, plus my ability to take social to the next level, I think we help sell the shop’s overall brand and what we provide to the end-user.”
The product which the end-user receives is rare among other shops in Toronto. The pair pride themselves on their work ethic and general die-hard devotion toward their store. Roter says that “many owners, as soon as a retail shop gets a bit of juice, just coast and feel that working retail is beneath them.”
Not them, however. The pair spend every possible minute in the store, soaking up all of the information they can. They hope customers can do the same. “If every customer leaves with just one tidbit of info about a garment they didn’t know and uses that info to stunt on a friend or foe, we did our job,” he says.
A quick scroll through the store’s Instagram page will demonstrate the pair’s devotion to the craft; Roter will frequently post TikTok-style videos exploring everything from the history of souvenir jackets to a guide to buying vintage shorts.
As Roter puts it, the store is full of “bare heat, helpful hints about where to find the sauce and authentic Toronto indie business owners.” Among that heat was, at one point, a game-worn Mickie Mantle Yankees Jacket from 1963. However, Roter says customers usually go “ballistic on our tee selection.”
Varela and Roter have undeniably curated a vintage shopping experience for all. Through its trials and tribulations, In Vintage We Trust has managed to mature into a force to be reckoned with on Toronto’s fashion scene.