Falling In Love With Fashion Again In Toronto
When Tim Blanks recently received his honorary media award at the CFDA Awards, he paid tribute to Toronto, the place he started his early career in fashion as the host of one of the first ever fashion TV shows, Fashion File.
In accepting the award Blanks described the city as the place European designers would go to test the waters before heading to America. When I was invited to visit the city earlier on this year, I expected as much. My vision of Toronto and Canada generally was of a watered down New York; a fashion scene that was similar but without the buzz and fast pace as it’s distant cousin. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The fashion scene is Toronto is not like anything I’ve ever seen. Dramatic, I know, but it’s true. The pace is slower; fast fashion has no place there. Yes, you can find all of the big chains there like H&M and Zara, but unlike in America and Europe, you don’t have them on every corner. It’s almost as if globalization hasn’t really taken effect yet, at least fashion-wise anyway.
It makes for a refreshing environment. Spend a few days in Toronto and it quickly becomes apparent that the people there are all about supporting fashion by Canadians for Canadians so there’s a real commitment to supporting home grown talent, young designers and independent boutiques. Bloor/Yorkville is an amazing hub for this. Once known purely for housing big names like Chanel, Prada and MaxMara, the neighbourhood is now lined with stores from those labels along with more edgy, contemporary boutiques including UPC Boutique and RAC Boutique, my favourite, which offer exciting young brands like Wasson, Rodebjer and Canadian jewellery designer Jenny Bird. Eleven is a another boutique I fell in love with. It only stocks Canadian brands and is a go-to for fashion aficionados coming to the city to get a glimpse into what Canadian designers have to offer.
Vintage is another big thing in Toronto, as opposed to disposable fashion that, despite slowly falling out of favour with the new emphasis on investment purchases, is still big business elsewhere in the world. Downtown Toronto has an outstanding number of vintage stores, nothing like anything I have ever seen before. Whole streets are literally lined with store after store, all offering a unique pieces that differ from the shop next door.
But this isn’t anything new. The city has always known for being a hub for vintage fashion. Dealers frequently travel there to stock up and many of London’s top vintage stores source the majority of their stock there. High street stores like Urban Outfitters and Topshop are clients and designers like Alexander Wang are known to buy items for inspiration for their lines.
What’s so special about these stores is their boutique feeling. They’re intimate, all of the people working in them really know their stuff and it just feels like an “experience”. In Toronto, vintage stores are extremely well edited compared to the jumble sale style stores we have here in London. The emphasis on vintage taps into the spirit of individuality in Toronto. Nobody wants to look the same. Everyone wants to have their own twist on things, but it feels and looks organic as opposed to the try-hard Shoreditch look. As most high street stores continue to grapple with how to keep up with the pace of fashion, this seems to be Toronto’s response to it.
One of my favourite vintage stores is Cat’s Meow. Founded by Louise Cooper, the store is literally like a treasure trove of amazing designer finds. Thanks to her impeccable eye, the store features all of the amazing pieces you wish you could have bought (and been alive for) the first time round. Christian Dior, Pucci, Celine, Yves Saint Laurent – they’re all there but the store’s biggest collection is of Chanel. Everything you could ever imagine is there from a variety of different incarnations of the brand’s signature boucle jacket to its iconic bags and tweed dresses. It’s honestly a dream.
House of Vintage is another favourite. You can get everything from a statement sequin jacket to a floaty summer dress or a butter soft wear-forever leather jacket and all at really great prices. Owner Dennis Adamidis is a bit of a celebrity in the vintage world internationally and even launched an outpost in London a while ago. His store is the one that everyone visits when they’re in town. Penny Arcade is another must-see. Located in Dundas West, which is like Hoxton, it’s full with a variety of affordable gems.
Toronto taught me a lot. It reminded me that fashion is all about being experimental and exploring your own personal style rather than following the pack and heading to the closest high street store and looking like everyone else. It reminded me that fashion can be fun and doesn’t always have to be fast. It also made me fall in love with vintage again.
The city wasn’t on my check list of places I wanted to go but after having such an amazing trip, I’m already planning my journey back. If the pace of fashion has made you fall slightly out of love with it, I suggest you start planning your trip too. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Falling In Love With Fashion Again In TorontoAugust 12th, 2013
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