The business that will become Holt Renfrew is founded by Irish merchant William Samuel Henderson who sells caps and hats, eventually becoming a furrier and opening a store in Quebec City in 1837. (Image from 1847 receipt.)
Fur hats, scarves, and muffs are luxurious and indispensable items for surviving a Canadian winter in style. Queen Victoria issues a Royal Warrant to G.R. Renfrew & Co. after discovering the brand at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. (Image from 1890 catalogue.)
The Roaring ‘20s brought with it the boyish and relaxed flapper style. These fur coats have the signature dropped waist and sloped shoulders of the era, and are finished off with low heels and cloche hats.
Christian Dior debuts his first collection, which wows with the incredibly feminine wasp-waist jackets and full skirts—a romantic take on dressing after years of war-driven austerity. Dubbed the “New Look”, inspired by a quote from Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Carmel Snow, it revolutionized fashion. That same year, Holt Renfrew signed an exclusive deal to sell Dior couture in Canada. (Image from 1952 ad in Harper’s Bazaar.)
The fight for women’s rights is at the forefront of the ‘70s, and the movement is reflected in fashion. This Robert Janan printed shirt dress (left)—modelled in a special catalogue released to celebrate the opening of the Vancouver store—is the perfect example of the continued shift in style: feminine yet professional for the working woman.
Holt Renfrew is acquired by the Weston family, who focus on re-establishing Holts as the leading luxury retailer in Canada. Anything goes in fashion at this time, from prep to punk, and the creativity and pop culture from this decade still influence designers today. (Image from Fall 1987 magazine cover.)
Minimalist, monochrome clothing with a menswear twist (pinstripes and banker’s collar) and sky-high stilettos defined power dressing in the ‘90s.
Canada’s own Jessica Stam found instant success in the early augts, becoming a favourite of editors and designers alike. On the Fall 2004 cover of the Holts magazine, Stam wears a coat that perfectly illustrates the dichotomy of trends at the time—heavy menswear fabric softened with feminine details like bell sleeves and a big bow.
Pharrell Williams rubs shoulders with the Hon. Hilary M. Weston while celebrating his label Billionaire Boys Club. The 2000’s saw the rise of celebrity fashion lines like The Row and Victoria Beckham, with Mrs. Weston—ever a representative of both country and fashion—welcoming them to luxury's home in the Great White North.
This is the new luxury. Liya Kebede and Carolyn Murphy model contemporary clothing from the masters of modern dressing, Dries Van Noten and Céline, for the cover of the Holt Renfrew SS17 magazine.