Lament on the State of Alternative Fashion in Toronto (AKA: An Eulogy for Toronto goth store icon Hell’s Belles)

That’s right – Hell’s Belles shut its doors in Toronto last week, marking the true end of one of those mainstays of fashion, a storefront you could count on to carry diverse, and interesting pieces from both local and international designers of goth, punk and other underground styles.

From my very first Queen West shopping experience as a teenager, now too many years ago to state publicly, I loved the store and what it represented. I couldn’t afford their clothing for many years to come, but I would wander the floorboards and stare longingly at the clothes, wishing not only for a fatter pocketbook, but also for a “safe” place to wear the clothes. (Admittedly, if you’re not careful, you can easily end up inadvertently donning the clothes of a nightwalker – NOT the intended “look” of the style, to my mind.)

2683_722468041372_3598074_n2Eventually, I found myself enamoured with a deliciously Victorian-styled long coat, and I happily dropped the $100+ for it. It has lasted me years, and earned countless compliments from passersby and friends alike. I always told those complimenters to check out Hell’s Belles on Queen West.

Prices were driven down in recent years, perhaps due to the growing population (and, therefore, competition), as well as by online shopping, so it’s not like you can’t still get Goth and punk styled clothing. I do regret not going in there more often over the past few years. Perhaps more loyal patronage would have allowed them to keep their doors open longer – I actually don’t know why they shut down.

Regardless, this closure is a sad closing of a chapter of Toronto’s unique culture, and I wonder what sort of pop-culture-driven, hipster-filled store will now take its place. That part of Queen West, and King just to the south, are seeing all kinds of major upheavals – and, I presume as a result – rent hikes as exclusive, high-end restaurants and condos rise.

This closure follows closely on the heels of another alternative retailer (at least in downtown Toronto), Clic Klak, which sold decently-priced fishnet accessories and other goth/punk attire. Another one I both loved and now miss. What a sad, sad city this has become.

Where will we go from here?

Visions of Tokyo’s societally imposed uniformity arise alongside those of its necessary, theme-costumed, rebels…