Archival Toronto: Resurfaced Grails from the Past
Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? If you haven’t completely forgotten about me yet, I’ll explain in brief what’s been happening after this article. Back to the present however.
It’s July 2nd, and all throughout the country of Canada, people everywhere are still recovering from the drinking frenzy that took place the night before on July 1st, a.k.a. Canada Day a.k.a. the day when English settlers were complete assholes to the natives that lived here long before they did. Then there’s myself who just got off work (the retail world does not recognize holidays) making my way to a coffee shop where I’m set to meet two lovely individuals, Gloria Pham and Carl Chiang. We all met outside the coffee shop to learn one horrifying truth, THE COFFEE SHOP CLOSED EARLY. So we settled instead for this really nice sausage place (I can already feel the jokes coming… wait a second), and we kicked back and had the most professional unprofessional interview ever.
Gloria and Carl; who are they and why should you care? The existentialist in me says you shouldn’t, but the materialist nerd in me says otherwise. Gloria and Carl are part of a larger collective responsible for hosting an archive pop-up event here in Toronto called “Archival Toronto.” Taking place in one of the most diverse communities in the city, Kensington Market, the event lasted four days from July 6th-9th and hosted a variety of highly coveted archive pieces from a variety of designers and fashion houses. Key pieces from the event were teased through Instagram in the weeks prior to the event such as the Y’s for Men by Yohji Yamamoto collaborative jacket with Justin Davis, Rick Owens Kangaroo leather jacket from S/S ’09, Dior Homme from Hedi Slimane’s tenure at the fashion house, and so forth.
Our conversation lasted a few hours and it was enough for me to understand who Gloria and Carl, along with the rest of the Archival Toronto team, were, their ideologies with regards to fashion, and why they felt the need to host such an event in Toronto. Remember Tekuubi shop, the consignment shop that I wrote about last year at a pop-up event? Probably not. The Toronto-based consignment shop specializes in selling both high-end and contemporary clothing and is headed by Gloria Pham. Given Tekuubi’s business, it would only make sense to pair themselves with Carl who just so happens to be an avid collector of all archive pieces from high end fashion houses. As stated previously, these young collectors and admirers of fashion are part of a larger collective, which includes Dominik Halas, yet another collector of archive clothing which includes some insane archive Comme des Garcons pieces that absolutely floored me when I saw them in person. This group was brought together by both a keen interest and knowledge in the history of several significant fashion houses and the absence of a notable archive events in Toronto.
Toronto is a wonderful city, diverse in every which way, so it would only make sense that our fashion scene should be diverse as well. With boutiques such as Nomad, Jonathan + Olivia, Haven, the Serpentine, and Uncle Otis, among others, any consumer interested in fashion to any extent is able to indulge in the wide array of designers carried within the city. What we don’t really get to see much of however, is an appreciation of older, archive pieces that essentially represent the rich history of several designers and fashion houses that exist today. While several brands and designers today have done incredible things such as Hedi Slimane’s polarizing tenure at the Yves Saint Laurent house and Alessandro Michele’s revitalizing of the Gucci house, it’s refreshing to look back every once in a while to see a snapshot of what once was. Enter Archival Toronto, whose sole goal was to breathe new life into Toronto’s fashion scene through older clothing that was shrouded in history. Archival Toronto's drive to host such an event is embedded within an appreciation and knowledge of fashion and the trends that it has seen come and go. A first for the city, Archival Toronto hoped to leave enough of an impact to stimulate enough interest to both continue hosting such events and breathe new life into Toronto's existing fashion scene, mainly in order for us to avoid seeing everyone dressing the same. At the very least, they hoped to share with others the history of certain brands and fashion houses in order to deepen their appreciation of their everyday wardrobes.
The 4 day event saw an assortment of both grails and highly sought after contemporary pieces that attracted a crowd of both fashion savvy individuals and casual fashion admirers. The turnout was incredible, especially when taking into consideration the fact that Archival Toronto had to partner with a longboard shop in order to use part of their shop's space to display the clothing. The space itself was quite small, though that did not deter from the overall experience. Gloria and Carl actually dedicated an incredible amount of time to planning this event in order to make the most of its space and time. In fact, they even went so far as to paint a few boxes with white paint along with a denim jacket in order to pay homage to the legend of Maison Martin Margiela's actual maison, where Martin Margiela himself had everything painted white in order to emphasize the stains and marks that would inevitably appear. And also because he didn't want to spend money on buying matching furniture, hence painting everything the same colour. Just outside the doors you would encounter the white-painted boxes housing both a sharpie marker and a giant pencil situated next to a white-painted denim jacket, welcoming all those looking to legally vandalize someone else's jacket. All things considered, I'm genuinely surprised no one drew a penis.
The inside of the shop itself seemed to be a sort of juxtaposition in itself. Whereas on one side you had both vintage and sometimes eccentric clothing displayed in a museum/gallery-like fashion (no pun intended), the other side showcased a wall full of longboards. Talk about when worlds collide. The front windows displayed archive runway pieces from brands such as Dior and Comme des Garcons, the likes of which would either confuse the average passerby due to its avant-garde nature, or excite people like myself; admirers of fashion, even though it's pretty much catered materialism. The little shop found itself overrun by people going in and out of the store, those who entered simply to admire the beauty of the clothing present and those who left satisfied with a white bag in their hand. I would know how that feels like given that I was literally one of those people. I walked in and fell in love with a Helmut Lang jacket from '99. The best part about this jacket is that it's huge on me and makes me look like I don't know what my own size of clothing is, but I look pretty damn average in it, if I do say so myself. Catch your boy on the far right.
All in all, the event was a tremendous success and accomplished exactly what it aimed to do: spread awareness and knowledge of the often overlooked history behind some of the world's most iconic brands and fashion labels, and increase everyone's interest in archive fashion enough to warrant another Archival Toronto event for the fall. Here's what Gloria and Carl both had to say regarding the event:
"We are overwhelmed by the support we received during our first event! We're thankful for everyone who dropped by to browse the gallery and cop their grails from us. We met so many new likeminded people who enjoy the things we did and who really connected with what Archival Toronto is all about and it's motivated us to continue on and really make Archival Toronto into a constant thing. We're excited about what the future holds and we have a lot in store for the community! See you guys again in October for the fall edition"
So as promised, a brief explanation for my absence. The last couple of months have been the most trying months I've had in quite a while. Nearing the end of the school year at university was stressful enough as it was, but the start of my summer vacation proved to be more chaotic than peaceful, further intensifying my feelings of anxiety and depression. It's been a slow and steady recovery, and although it's not yet fully gone, I've been writing a lot of poetry that I plan on posting here every so often in order to go more in-depth. I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who's helped me get through the last couple of months, and everyone reading this right this moment because you're all amazing and wonderful people.
Until next time!