James St. North is easily one of the hottest neighbourhoods in Hamilton, and it’s getting better every time I visit. The street is packed to the brim with contemporary art galleries, delightful cafés, and adorable shops. Among the James North gems is Hawk & Sparrow, a small boutique that offers carefully selected second-hand and vintage pieces, as well as some little trinkets from local artisans.
Meet Sarah Moyal, the owner and founder of Hawk & Sparrow. She has worked for Dsquared2 in Milan and as a stylist inToronto, but finally in 2011, she followed her dream and opened her own store, just in time for last year’s Super Crawl. “Owning my own store has always been a dream of mine, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon!” She explained to me that she never originally wanted to sell vintage clothing, and although she initially only did because it was most economical, she would never go back now. Travelling around Ontario to procure merchandise for the shop is probably her favourite part of the job, and it’s something she certainly does well. Everything is carefully selected and highly individual. There are the occasional big ticket items (most recently a Louis Vuitton weekender), but also a steady stream of quirky and intricately original pieces. The womenswear pieces have a very romantic feel to them, lots of dreamy colours and sweet details, as well as some leathers and suedes. The menswear feels a bit more rustic and western, with warmer colours and structured cuts. Impressively, the store’s inventory spans the last hundred years. One of her oldest items, a green silk dress, dates back to 1910!
With a self-proclaimed weakness for accessories, Sarah has made certain the store is fully stocked with hats, handbags, belts, watches, shoes, ties, cuff links, scarves, and of course, jewelry. Some of the cutest pieces are made by local and Canadian artisans, including a variety of pieces by Hamilton’s Josette Cacnio, earrings from Toronto-based A Little Hello, and necklaces from Vancouver’s wildly popular Pyrrha. In terms of local clothing, the shop also carries jersey dresses from Replicca.
Inspired by Montreal’s Lola & Emily, the aesthetic of the shop is very minimal and clean. Natural light bounces off the white walls, and the whole space is warmed by the back wall of exposed brick. White paper flowers adorn corners, and playful, festive displays fill the front window, changing with the season.
When I asked Sarah about choosing a name, she told me that initially it was just something she and a friend had arbitrarily come up with during a long drive. She later discovered the name is coincidentally similar to that of an old band, an old movie and an old book (similar to the vintage nature of the shop). More bizarrely, the hawk is typically representative of men, while the sparrow is representative of women, subtly but inadvertently indicating the shop carries items for both genders. The logo, a fleur-de-lis, is the old symbol for North, a small tribute to the neighbourhood in which the store lies.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Sarah said. “The community is small, but initimate. It’s a supportive neighbourhood, with a great vibe. I think it’s something Hamilton really needs. With the reputation of ‘Steel City,’ James North really brings some much-needed life.” Some of her local favourites are Mixed Media for books, iFiori for flowers, White Elephant for more vintage garb and wicked accessories, and Baltimore House for incredible sandwiches.
Overall, my experience at Hawk & Sparrow was great. I’d highly recommend it for one-of-a-kind authentic vintage items in the heart of Hamilton. The service was friendly and not at all pushy (one of my biggest pet peeves), the prices were very reasonable, and the merchandise was beautiful and of good quality. Five sparrows out of five.