interview and photography by Melissa Kuril.
From over ten years on Queen Street West to the new Distillery dwelling, Maihyet Burton, owner and designer of Lilith (55 Mill St.), talks to WORN about the changing role the famous Queen West neighborhood has played in the Fashion community.
What does the name Lilith mean to you?
Lilith is a powerful female force that is as strong as a man. She is a legend and a goddess.
What was Queen Street like when you first opened Lilith?
When I moved Lilith to Queen Street, the neighbourhood consisted of a variety of fabric and antique furniture stores and Peach Berserk; that was pretty much it.
How has it changed since you left this past summer?
There was a huge condo boom and the major players (H&M, American Apparel, Urban outfitters) moved in. Queen Street resembles a mall now.
Do you think the new additions to Queen West will have a positive or negative effect on the community?
It has pros and cons. For Toronto, it is beneficial because this Country relies a lot on the city for economical reasons. As a small business owner it has improved the services provided by the city. For example back when I opened Lilith, the city had an “every man for himself” attitude around basic services such as snow and garbage removal. These days, with the current state of the economy, the city is putting money into the infrastructure and services provided to make spending money on goods as comfortable as possible for the public.
The down side is that because the area is desirable, landlords are raising the rents so the small business owners have to pay more or get out. Once Urban Outiftters moved in my sales declined dramatically. It is direct competition for Lilith – selling the same type of DIY looking merchandise only theirs is made in Asia and I am making it myself. It was impossible for me to compete with that type of volume. The sad thing is the area was desirable because of the small boutiques, cafes and galleries, and those are the places that are now suffering.
How has your recent move affected your designs/work?
I am more accessory driven. Since I no longer have staff, every piece I make has more care put into it and more intricate details as I make each one myself.
Maihyet Top 10 inspirational women in fashion
1 – Lilith
2 - Jackie Onassis Kennedy
3 – Audrey Hepburn
4 – Elsa Schiaparelli
5 – Marlene Dietrich
6 – Coco Chanel
7 – Josephine Baker
8 – Elizabeth Siddal
9 – Angela Davis
10- Jane Fonda