When I visit a new city, I’m always on the lookout for unique, independent local shops and restaurants. These feisty little businesses thrive amidst the homogenizing influence of chain retailers like Wal-mart and Subway, asserting their personality and lending a real sense of place to the community. The Milkman’s Daughter in downtown Victoria is just such a place. Custom silkscreened designs are what distinguish the merchandise at this new shop at 1713 Government Street (neighbouring another independent, the superb Brasserie l’Ecole French bistro). Part home-décor shop, part clothing store, The Milkman’s Daughter stocks handmade pieces of truly unusual design. It is the peculiar juxtaposition of printed images, and the skillful two- and three-colour silkscreening, that makes for one-of-a-kind duvet sets ($240-$315), tea towels ($14), tea cozies ($49), eyeglass cases ($22), and a variety of women’s and children’s clothing at The Milkman’s Daughter. A short, hooded “Nightengale” black wool cape ($102), adorned with a red cross stitched over an anatomical illustration of a human heart, is a fashion bridge from the First World War to the New Millennium. I was quite taken with an antique French settee ($625) the staff have recovered. The seat is dressed in gold fabric with black velvet stripes, contrasted against a row of large, stylized bees along the settee’s base, and throw cushions printed with airplanes, wild animals, and other unique designs. Soft hassocks—nice as footstools or seating for a child’s room—are cleverly stuffed with remnant fabric scraps. Removable, washable slipcovers for these soft cubes ($110 for small, $210 for large) are printed with different images on all five sides. Contrasting artwork might include a dramatic black owl or bison over baroque ivory swirls, a scientifically accurate partial skeleton, and pretty peonies in pale blue. This is art of the unexpected. The creations at The Milkman’s Daughter spring from the creative mind of owner Trish Tacoma (whose father was, indeed, a milkman). She co-founded Smoking Lily, the tiny, 44-square-foot clothing store at 569A Johnson Street, in 1996. Smoking Lily will continue to stock blouses, scarves, and artful handbags while the new 1,200-square-foot store on Government Street allows Tacoma to expand her visionary designs into home decor, furnishings, and other new realms. The Milkman’s Daughter (250-590-5451; www.smokinglily.com), 1713 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia
  • Smoking Lily (250-382-5459; www.smokinglily.com), 569A Johnson Street, Victoria, British Columbia