How this cool designer is putting Canadiana on the map

Meet Joyce Lo the quirky-cool clothing designer and co-director of the Drake General Store who is also playing a part in making the Bay this country’s coolest department store.

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Photo by Sian Richards
Photo by Sian Richards

This year has been a whirlwind for Joyce Lo, the charismatic co-director of the Drake General Store, a chain of Toronto boutiques tied to the city’s ultra-hip Drake Hotel. Her unique design sensibility (a ceramic jackalope wall hook here, a Frida Kahlo paper doll set there) has even caught the eye of the Bay’s Bonnie Brooks, leading to a much-buzzed-about outpost at its flagship store.

“When I think pop-up shop at the Bay, I think Topshop, so for us to be there too is really exciting!” says Joyce. She’s a big part of the company’s master plan to become Canada’s coolest department store. Growing up in a sleepy Toronto suburb, Joyce stockpiled ’80s Chanel ads and pretty bars of soap. But it was Toronto’s eclectic Kensington Market that ignited her passion for collecting and gave her an appreciation for everything from vintage clothing to antique furniture. “I remember going there as a teenager and losing my mind because we only had malls in the burbs,” she says. “Being downtown was more of an influence on me than anything else.”

She earned a fashion degree at Ryerson University in Toronto, then launched her own clothing line, Wolves (featured in Nylon in 2001). More recently, Joyce created Shared, a line of retro tees designed to be swapped between sexes. It’s just one of the many original, slightly nostalgic things you might stumble across at the Drake General Store.

Joyce’s partnership with the Drake began when she made a pop-up store for Shared next to the hotel in 2008. Shared caught the eye of Drake owner Jeff Stober, who had leased out the space, and together they launched the general store concept. Still, it took a while for Joyce to really make a go of it. (She worked a restaurant job at the same time for two years, averaging four hours’ sleep a night.) These days she can’t believe she’s actually being paid to shop. “Buying for my customers has become therapy for my own shopping addiction. I get the thrill of the find without the guilt of overspending!”

That said, gems like a Harry Allen golden piggy bank and a bizarre four-headed teddy bear have made it into the home she shares with her partner, Matt Carr, a designer at contemporary-home-accessories firm Umbra.

Even the nursery for their two-year-old daughter, Everling, is stylishly quirky, right down to the bespoke birth announcement pinned above Everling’s chic wooden crib.

Because two designers can never be without a project, Matt and Joyce are embarking on their biggest undertaking yet: updating their “cottage,” a turn-of-the-century train station north of Toronto that Matt discovered on Kijiji. Also on the horizon is Tuck Shop, for which Joyce will source cool travel essentials to sell at the Drake’s new rural retreat in Ontario’s Prince Edward County.

“I love that I’ve always been able to do my own thing,” she says. “I’m just really lucky that I could carve out a job that incorporates my independent spirit, my natural curiosity – and my need to share all my fabulous finds.”

Everling's eclectic nursery
Everling’s eclectic nursery

Joyce’s telling details:

My proudest moment was… giving birth to my daughter.

I wish I had more time for… napping.

I wish I was better at… making jokes.

I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about… tomorrow.

My favourite moment of the day is… right before bed.

The biggest mistake I ever made was… not taking the year off to travel the world after graduation.

I’ve started this a thousand times… attempts to make jewellery.

I’m currently reading… Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

I’d love to go on vacation to… Tokyo.

My perfect day would be… floating in a pool and listening to a book on tape.

I’d describe my personal style as… carefree and classic, with a side of crazy.

 

Photo by Sian Richards
Photo by Sian Richards

5 things Joyce can’t live without:

Malin + Goetz Peppermint Shampoo

“Almost satisfies my craving for peppermint ice cream.”

Instagram

“It’s the last thing I do before bed and the first thing I check in the morning.”

Shared history onesie

“The whole family gets into onesies when we arrive at our cottage/train station.”

Sorauren Farmer’s Market

“My kitchen philosophy is that everything can be roasted.”

L’Oreal Lineur Intense

“My relationship with eyeliner has lasted longer than many others.”