The Shop Where Texture Reigns Supreme
From its origins as a pop-up shop in 2018, 100% Silk has quickly grown into a beloved fixture of the Toronto clothing scene for its obsessive attention to textures and a style that marries sustainability with avant-garde luxury.
100% Silk started as a clothing line with no place to land. So in 2018, Lee Dekel, the line’s founder, opened a small pop-up store to sell her clothing alongside brands with a similar ethos: sustainable, small-batch, luxury items that didn’t conform to expectations around these signifiers. The clothes were surprising and fun: full of prints and oversized or slightly shrunk fits. The pop-up was in a small storefront on the further reaches of Toronto’s Queen St. West, in what used to be an abandoned pharmacy. A bright yellow hand-painted sign reading “100% Silk Shop & Gallery” stood out amongst the empty storefronts and grey condo developments. The pop-up was so popular it became a fixture, and didn’t leave for a new, more permanent location until 2023.
I first heard of the store in two ways: a friend was taking part in a “hat” parade at the store—a couture showing of avant-garde headpieces modelled by cultural figures in Toronto—and from a family member who had entered the store accidentally, thinking they sold fabric only to find expensive clothes that doubled as art pieces. Reaction to the store usually falls in two categories: enthusiastic participation or outright confusion.
I belong to a third category, one that began with bemusement, thinking the store was beautiful but that the prices were outrageous for things I couldn’t imagine wearing. I ended up as a regular customer who delights in visiting the store for its unique pieces and sense of community. Sometimes, when I’m having a hard day, my partner will suggest we visit 100% Silk, hoping it will cheer me up. (It always does). I pre-order dresses from their house line, sample the locally-made perfumes, and dangle earrings next to my face in the mirror. Buying is always secondary: I often leave the store with nothing but a full, contented feeling from being around so many carefully curated objects. When I do purchase something, it’s usually a considered purchase that I pull out to wear on special occasions—or when I want to feel special.
Dekel explains that this feeling—of entering without needing to buy, instead revelling in the beauty of the fabrics—is by design. “I added the word ‘gallery’ to the title because I felt like often, in places with higher price points, there’s an intimidation factor. I wanted people just to come and touch and see and understand what luxury is in the sense of handwork,” said Dekel. “I was hoping that the idea of the gallery would let people feel a bit more comfortable coming in, even if they couldn’t buy something.”
100% Silk isn’t a store as much as a destination. After five years in their Queen West location, they moved to a location even more off-the-beaten-track: 1558 Dundas West, in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood. The space, with a bright blue facade that rivals the previous location’s pigmented signage, used to be Erin Stumps Gallery. Upon moving in, 100% Silk had farmhouse beams installed on the ceiling, automatically shifting the space from a white cube to an intimate store where texture reigns supreme. “I wanted it to feel really fun, and when I think about fun stores, I think about the ’80s and Fiorucci. Just a place where you walked in, and you were, like, ‘Oh, I’m in a world, and anything could happen,’” said Dekel. “Another thing that I was inspired by was textiles, which I felt had to be everywhere. I wanted it to feel almost like a vintage antique store, which many people would come in asking if we were. I think that also lent itself to the comfort aspect, instead of a place that’s so minimal that you feel like you can’t touch anything.”
The store is very much centered around textiles. High-quality fabrics are a throughline of 100% Silk’s offerings: hand-weaved textiles, hand-painted fabrics, hammered gold, and, of course, 100% silk. You can’t help but reach out and touch. Dekel’s history with fabric started early, citing her mother as an early style icon. “She was just like a woman who really understood the importance of appearance and not just in a consumerist way, but in feeling good, how it lends itself to feeling good about yourself,” Dekel said. Growing up, Dekel skipped H&M in lieu of vintage—another step in her fashion journey that taught her the relationship between quality and how something fits on your body.
During her undergraduate years at King’s College in Nova Scotia, Dekel started taking courses at NASCAD University on fashion and textile design. And then came a month-long meditation trip in Colorado, where she met Eileen Fisher—the well established fashion founder known for her luxe use of fabrics and high quality. Fisher offered Dekel an internship in New York and Dekel took her up on it. As Dekel describes her time working for Eilleen Fisher, “The commitment to sustainability and knowing where the yarns came from, none of it was secondary. And to see that someone could have such a successful business with that in mind. It was eye opening to me and so far from the world of fast fashion that I had grown up in downtown Toronto.” Likewise, Dekel has translated her love of textiles into a thriving business that doesn’t shy away from doing things the hard way—from sourcing to hand stitching to intricate photoshoots and presentations. The commitment to fashion itself, the clear love of the people and fabric behind each piece, is a key part of 100% Silk’s success.
With limited foot traffic, people visit the 100% Silk store with intent. Along with a larger location, the store has expanded its offerings to events and art exhibitions, creating more reasons for people to visit. While clothes are the foundation of 100% Silk, the store has become more of a meeting ground for culture in Toronto. Recent events have included “a night of new, experimental writing flowing from ~ Memory of Nudity ~” featuring readings by Toronto-based artists; a solo exhibition of paintings, installations, and clothing by textile artist Mifi Mifi; and the exhibition Florecer (to blossom), which brought together a group of artists based in Mexico City and San José whose works “traced interdisciplinary views on the exercise of blossoming.”
100% Silk is like a French palate cleanser: perking your appetite and clearing the palate between dishes. In recent years, it feels that shopping has become a choice between high-priced online retailers (sleek and minimal, you can talk to an AI bot via instant message) and fast-fashion stores that cater to trends that will show up at thrift stores after a season of wear. 100% Silk is in another category altogether. One that makes you consider the clothes you put on your body, not only through the intense attention to detail and fabric, but by offering the opportunity to be in your body, around other people and the world around you.