The Internet Meets Toronto Fashion: Pop-Up Event Recap/Interviews
Being from the city that Drake references all the time in his songs comes with its pros and cons. On one hand, I can freely sing songs like Controlla and One Dance horribly off-key and still get girls because girls love the light-skinned Keith Sweat, but on the other hand, you get crucified for pointing out how, "got so many chains, they call me Chaining Tatum," off of Pop Style was a terrible bar. That said, Toronto is still an incredible city (just ignore our track record in sports pre-2015). With an underground music scene on the come-up (i.e. K.'s mixtape, This is Just a Distraction) and a fashion scene that parallels New York City, albeit on a much smaller scale, Toronto is much more than simply another hashtag on the 'gram.
Not too long ago, I wrote about Vejas' launch event at Jonathan + Olivia, an example of a Toronto-based clothing brand that has and is still making some incredible moves in the global fashion industry. Well, on Saturday October 22nd, two days after the Vejas event, another pop-up event took place at 867 Dundas St W. from 7pm-1am. However, unlike the launch event held two days prior, this event was an amalgamation of several up-and-coming brands that ranged from hand-crafted products to consignment goods. In essence, this was a real life deep web reunion. The event, which originated from the /r/streetwear subreddit on Reddit, was organized by a group of 3 individuals, Maxhole Edison, Kyle Ortuoste, and Liv Mervin, and structured into two segments, a shopping hub from 7pm-10pm, and the afterparty from 10pm-1am.
The internet being used in a positive way? Shocking, I know. The retail gods punished me with a work shift that ended at 9:45pm that day so I unfortunately missed out on the calm, relaxing, peaceful shopping experience that was, but damn was I glad I arrived in time to be crushed by loud music and internet fashion folks. Thankfully, my mediocre social skills allowed me to ask the organizers a few questions regarding the event itself and how it came to be,
Our team has held a few meetups prior to this event, which created a live platform for like-minded streetwear enthusiasts to connect with each other. At the core, it was a mutual interest in fashion, but I wanted to take a different approach with this particular event.
After getting to know more about the people in our group, I learned that there was a handful of people who were working on their own independent clothing brands. Since we had these meetups for people to connect with each other, I thought why not create a space that will host such a network, but also give an opportunity to put these developing brands out there.
So the pop up was actually the fourth meetup for our Reddit-birthed group, "Toronto Streetwear Mandem." We had been noticing a steady increase of people attending the previous meetups and wanted to take it in a more serious, professional direction. Turn it into something a bit more respectable than a bunch of kids taking pictures in a park. We also wanted a way to finally showcase the talents of the many creators in the group, so a pop up shop/party just ended up being the best option for what we wanted to accomplish
[We] basically started it because I thought the other meetups on the subreddit looked lame and I knew Toronto could do better. Luckily everyone joined the group and meetups have been really good since. I would love to keep doing events like that and giving the brands a chance to sell their stuff while everyone turns up lol. But it's up to the group, whatever kind of meetup they want, I'll do it.
In a nutshell, they all enjoy fashion and wanted an excuse to get lit. Spoiler alert: it turned out awesome. You had a variety of brands present, all of which had their own ethos and interpreted fashion in their own ways. So why have a clusterfuck of different brands present?
The brand picking wasn't actually me, but Kyle Ortuoste. However, I would say that interaction within the Facebook group probably played a big part because everyone featured was an active member of the community in some way or another
Well then... in that case, Kyle?
Since it was the first time introducing a physical space for this event, I wanted to include brands whose pieces would benefit from having a physical presence. Most of the brands showcased had a lot of emphasis on craftsmanship, often handmade by the individuals behind them. As for the individuals themselves, I would consider each of them a friend. I've gotten to know them on a personal level, and can relate to them beyond fashion. Having that relationship is very important to me, and I'd do what I can to help out friends who are doing interesting things.
It was a mix of people who had been coming since the beginning, and people who were plugging their work on the group. Whoever was helping the group basically I was down to invite.
Given the turnout for the event, two things were clear: 1) internet memes and fashion can indeed coexist with one another, and 2) events like these should be held more often, right?
I most definitely want to continue hosting these events, and hope that they keep getting better. I one day hope to expand,along the brands and individuals I work with. We only made a small footprint, but I feel like we've generated enough noise to continue to grow. Though it may be unrealistic, the ultimate goal will be to have our own space for the collective of people and independent brands. Something like Dover Street Market, where we house different brands while creating an environment for people to connect. Essentially, a retail space where retail is secondary.
Honestly, I'm still a little mind blown at how well everything ended up. From the turn out to how well Max, Kyle, and I were able to orchestrate everything, I'd say it was a major success. As far as future goals goes, I believe we definitely want to keep going down this path we've started, with bigger and better events like this.
Maxhole, when asked about goals with regards to future events,
I wouldn't say goals but pretty cool stuff, I'd be interested in doing would be an Ontario meetup that we could host, or maybe even invite New York people over to have a 6×NY meetup. But for sure I want to have more popup events and more chill meetups for everyone in the group.
A Toronto and New York City meetup, you say? Hmm, sounds familiar. Enough of that however, let's get to the vendors themselves:
New Cults (@new.cults)
Liv herself actually owns this brand. This event pretty much served as her grand reveal, with her first collection featuring several t-shirts adorned with phrases and images drawn out using sewing techniques. With references to contemporary music and pop culture paired with ambition and potential, it will be interesting to see where New Cults grows from here. Its inception, according to Liv, went something like,
New Cults is a brand that I've been quietly, slowly working on for a few years now. No team or anything, just me an my sketchbook, hunched over a pile of blank tees, hand making each on with love. I'd describe it as a combination of art, fashion, and pop culture. Hopefully I'll start releasing some stuff for sale online before the end of the year.
Nova Supply (@novasupply)
Among the crowd was Nova Supply, a hand-crafted cut and sew clothing brand that brings together quality garments and poetic appreciation. Founded by Clayson Fletcher in 2012, Nova Supply was actually the very first brand I wrote about back in 2015. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of the brand. Always a humble man with introductions, Clayson had this to say,
I'm slowly trying to build my army for Nova Supply, but we keep everything in house. For myself, I do a lot. From getting fabric, to taking pictures, accounting, web design, and obviously sewing each and every piece. But, that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking for members, for roles like Consultant, Promoters, Marketer, just to name a few. A couple of our team [members]: Harris Qadri, excellent Film Creator, he does all my films and sometimes shoots! My best friends, basically brothers , Raj, Malik and Chris..E. They’re my moral support, but slowly working their way into finding a place in Nova. Raj makes absolutely the best instrumentals you’ll hear, samples old anime like YuYu Hakusho, Garden of Sinners, and Studio Ghibli. He is a creative person and I’m glad I met him in my life, he is a brother to me. The pieces for the puzzle will in place, just a matter of when. We love clothes and creating, but we are a business.
My friend Adam told me about the event. I don’t go outside much, I stay in my studio and produce and watch anime, aha I’m a loner. Anyways, he wanted someone to go with so I decided to agree, thinking it wasn’t anything serious, but we actually decided to go which I'm really happy about and saw some customers and good people that loved my creations. Good and positive vibes. Douglas Tynes, randomly stopped me in the hall way, and point[ed] at me and ask me if I was Nova. I quickly respond with a grin on my face, “Yea man”, asked me if I was doing a rack for the event and I quickly responded with another “Yea man”. Here's the thing, I get shy when I talk about my creations. Anyways, I ended up chickening out since I just started college and was overwhelmed, thinking I couldn’t make enough clothes in time but I did bring a few pieces to give people the vibe of my clothing, plus they were some clothes no one's ever seen before so I was stoked about that. I gave a one-of-one away, I left a bit early so I never got to know who won it, but whoever you are, rock it with love and confidence! Heads up, the next event, I will be having a rack for the new collection, just for that event only.
The event itself was amazing, it was my first. Like I said, I don’t go out much, but I’m glad I did, it was refreshing to see new faces and creators being themselves. I was just in love with everyone even though I was that guy in the corner pretending to be on his phone, got to see my friend Patrick, and Reymond which Im really happy about.
What Nova's been working on, well I have a very very small drop this week actually on a turtle neck, but the next collection is going to be something crazy. Linen, wool, everything I wanted to create before, is here. I'm doing things you wouldn’t expect from Nova. Not concrete about a name yet, but it will come when its right. I'm really excited, this is the experimentation collection, and as always, limited.
p.s always show love, peace and blessings.
Pale Black (@paleblack.co)
Have you ever owned a black t-shirt that lost its abysmal blackness after a couple washes? It sucks doesn’t it? While some may describe the appearance as a “washed out black,” others may prefer the term “pale black,” which ironically shares the same name as the Toronto-based clothing brand Pale Black, started by Kai. Dabbling in a dark punk/grunge aesthetic through the use of cropped hoodies and patchwork pants, Kai had this to say regarding the event,
With pale black we are reflecting on what we see in the world through what we wear and how we experience life. We are trying to create our own world. Myself and my roommate Doug run the brand. We’ve both always loved clothes; we figured ‘why buy clothes when we can make clothes we know look nice that we can wear ourselves?’ We want to share our aesthetic with the world.
We were invited to the event through the Toronto Reddit Streetwear Group as we have been to a few meetups and made some friends on there. What started as just a general hang out turned out into a full blown pop up event that we help run.
We had an amazing experience at the event and ended up almost selling out of all our product. It was a great way to get some criticism on our designs and products and meet some like minded people also with small up and coming brands. With the success of pale black at this event we hope to hold a bigger and better event exclusively for pale black.
Growing up, I was always a bit of a scatter brain due to my constant overthinking, though most describe me as being halfwitted. So you can imagine how a clothing brand with the name Halfwits would resonate with me to some extent. With a range of apparel that includes parkas and t-shirts, it's simplistic and minimal approach to streetwear make it a nice addition to your wardrobe. So how did they get started?
HALFWITS was founded here in Toronto, by myself and my two partners, Jesse Storey and James van der Woerd. It began as a college project, and as of this past August, has become a full-time operation for the 3 of us. We're currently focused on expanding into territories outside of North America, with focus on the UK, New Zealand, and parts of Asia. On the creative end, we have begun a collaboration with Swallows & Daggers, a menswear line from Ireland, which will launch in the Fall of 2017. Shout out Cian and Chris.
James had connected with Max once the talks of this pop-up came to be. We try to stay involved with the Toronto streetwear scene as much as we can, so when we were offered the chance to play our part, we had to get involved. Its think it's important to support your local scene as much as possible. It's incredibly encouraging to see how many different groups of people are trying the clothing thing out. It's tough as fuck sometimes, so it's nice to know that there is a community of people pushing through similar trials.
The event was great. Truthfully, I don't go into those things with too much expectation. If you move a handful of units, have a beer, meet some motivated people, and boogie to a few jams, its a good night out.
Looking to the future, we are preparing for some pretty aggressive growth this year. Very targeted sales goals, paired with a demanding design calendar. Visibility is huge. Making sure we are aligning our brand message with the appropriate messengers. We stand for STUPID. GOOD. FUN. Looking stupid, looking good, and having fun. We hope to cross paths a few likeminded individuals along the way.
One of my least favourite pastimes is selling off my old clothes that see the sun about as much as my body gets sleep. Basically, never. This is why consignment shops are awesome for both the seller and buyer. As a seller, you don’t have to worry about the hassle that comes with selling your old clothes, and as a buyer you get to choose from some incredible pre-owned pieces, often for a great price. Jun Lumen and Gloria Pham, owners of consignment business Tekuubi Shop, had their own booth set up at this event. What brought them here?
Our names are Gloria and Jun. We are two young adults living in Toronto and we partnered together because of our mutual interests in fashion. tekuubi is our project that is primarily focused to curate our pieces as an appreciation and presentation of our perspective towards fashion as a creative medium. Gloria focuses mainly on logistics, such as, pricing, website, inventory, updating social media, as well as women’s buying. Jun focuses on the creative counterpart, such as photography and graphic design, as well as menswear buying. We curate our pieces from designers that catch our attention, either having a history and legacy in the fashion world for a few decades or are making lots of noticeable movements in contemporary years. Designers we usually come across are Comme Des Garçons, Undercover, Rick Owens, Helmut Lang, Maison Margiela and Raf Simons.
We became vendors at the pop up because we were invited by our friend, Kyle Ortuoste, an admin of the Toronto Streetwear Mandem 666 and major counterpart of the event. We saw this as an opportunity to make ourselves more visible in the fashion community, as well as the local Toronto community.
We enjoyed our time at the pop up event. We met a network of people who share mutual interests, and people we’ve connected with on Instagram and other social media. As well as many friends and other familiar faces. Our goals for the future is definitely to continue tekuubi, continue building the brand to reflect and explore our personal interests, and hopefully to be involved in more events.
For Reason UNKNWN (@forreasonsunknwn)
Remember how cool it was to chat through MSN by omitting the vowels? Not only did it give you a ton of cool points for not caring about grammar, it also made typing easier because there were less keys to press. Well, FOR REASONS UNKWN is showing us once more that vowels are not cool as they present their collection of t-shirts, hoodies, and caps to the Toronto audience,
FOR REASONS UNKNWN started after me and Justin met in our first year of university because we were having a hard time figuring out what we we wanted to do. I think growing up we are so used to people telling us what the right thing to do is that we don’t really stop to ask ourselves what’s right for us. We think in order to understand why all these things are going on in your life, you need to experience them for yourself, but until then the your questions remain unknown. It is not about actually finding answers but what you learn and experience through the journey. The hope of the brand is to get people to ask the right questions because only they’re in control of their own lives; there are no rules. We just made our first mini collection comprising of logo tees, long sleeves, hoodies, and canvas duffels.
We met Max at one of the previous Toronto reddit streetwear meetups during the summer and when he came to us with this opportunity it sounded like a great way to meet people and showcase the brand.
It was really exciting because it gave us a chance to interact with the people one on one and tell them about the story behind our brand. It is important for us to communicate with our supporters. We want FOR REASONS UNKNWN to be something everyone can relate to because we are all on the journey, no matter the age. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. For the future we are looking to continue interactions with the community, and try reach as many people as we can.
Our Attachments (@ourattachments)
Lastly, I bring you Our Attachments, founded by Patrick Cheung, a brand that creates handmade leather goods ranging from bags to rings. Funny enough, I’ve actually worked with Our Attachments before, for an editorial Jason Azanza (@nosvj) and I shot earlier this year, and yet another one not too long ago. Fear not however, for Patrick's standards aren't nearly as low as you would think of anyone who works with me,
Attachments was born when I realized that I couldn't find the fulfilment and happiness I was seeking through my work in architecture but found in my hobby in leather craft. About a year and a half ago my anxiety got really bad, I dreaded going to work, the only way to get through the day without anxiety was to emotionally shut down and turn off my brain. I was sick of it so I decided to try turning my hobby into a living. It's not quite there yet but we're taking it slow.
The Attachments team is composed of a tight knit group of friends. I thought it important to work with those I trust and feel comfortable with. This makes for easier communication and conflict resolution if any conflict ever arises. I brought on my most talented friends who could fit our design vision and of course co-operate with the team.
I design and make most of the bags and accessories, with assistance in manufacturing from Betty Liao. She's my childhood friend's girlfriend and a close friend of mine. Recent Seneca Fashion Graduate and an extremely talented designer and craftsman. I recently brought on my friend Christine Chung to take on some design work. Christine is a great friend I made during my time in Architecture school. She has wonderful design ideas, great visualization skills, and a drive to succeed as a designer. Ron Guan manages our schedules and optimizes our workflow. He takes care of all the logistics and market research, ensuring that we're efficient and caught up. He was a random housemate turned best friend, his instinctive desire for efficiency and organization as an engineer is what drew me to him as a business partner. Finally, Rey Mourad takes care of our visuals and brand identity. Rey is extremely talented as a graphic designer and his precise and specific visions really flesh out the brand and give context to what we make.
We spent the past year building the brand, designing and refining the line and getting our visuals down. A lot of problem solving took place, which I know Ron loved. It was honestly a weekly roller coaster ride; we'd start the week excited, thinking we solved all our problems and ride off that wave of excitement straight into a roadblock. These roadblocks would often dissuade me from continuing, but amidst many smoke breaks and just straight hours of prototyping we'd stumble upon gold by mid week. The cycle would repeat, and I have a feeling it won't ever stop.
We just had our first "launch" at the Streetwear Pop Up last weekend and we're looking to push for an online release before year's end but we're a little tied up in our personal lives currently. Right now we're just looking at production until our online release, production of bags, wallets, rings, and of course visuals to show what we've done. All the while Christine and I are working on designs for the next collection. It's a slow grind but we're all happy to see it grow.
Attachments got a booth at the pop up because a buddy of mine, Kyle Ortuoste, knew that I made bags and thought I'd want to participate in the meetup. It started as a meetup for the Toronto members of /r/streetwear on Reddit, and at some point the organizers decided to turn it into a pop up store for select members with their own label. 3) I think it's safe to say that all of us at Attachments had fun at the event. In many ways it wasn't so much about selling as it was just meeting the community and seeing what our potential market could be. We're still very young and we're walking through this whole process in baby steps. We sold more than expected, which was a nice surprise. Though I really liked just talking to people, not just about the bags but about fashion in general. It was a big /r/streetwear circle jerk in real life and I don't normally get to geek out about this stuff as much as I did that night. Plans for the future? We're just gonna slowly chug along. Looking at a year-end online release. We're starting to think of what we want to do for our second collection, who we want to bring onto the team and what they can offer.
Overall, the event was a success. Up-and-coming brands had a chance to expand their audience and people learned about brands that they otherwise would have been oblivious to. Despite being a real life meetup amongst a group of fashion-savvy deep web lurkers, it was quite the enjoyable experience. Kyle himself had this to say with regards to how he felt about the event,
What really resonated with me about the venue for our event was how much it resembled my idea of how I wanted to make a retail space. The venue is home to Offsite, which combines an interest in fashion, art, and coffee. The space houses the works of various Canadian designers and artists, as well as brewing some amazing coffee! The owners of Offsite have been successful in incorporating all their interests into one space, and it was very inspirational.
If you're still reading at this point, you deserve a cookie and some coffee. According to Kyle, Offsite (867 Dundas St. W) is a pretty good spot. Was that too much shameless plugging? Whoops. I'll try to be better next time.
'Till next time y'all!
Cover Photo Credit: @ortuesdays
Special thanks to Kyle, Liv, and Maxhole for organizing the event, all the vendors for being awesome, and the photographers for capturing the moments. Also, shoutout to The Featured Article for letting me drag her into the loud afterparty even though she would have preferred to just show up and mob around. Whoops.