NOZO Toronto, though tucked in an inconspicuous basement south of Yonge and Gerrard, is far from low-key. A short walk down a backstreet and a flight of all black stairs brought me to the lively, apartment-like setting. The space is a hybrid between a retail store and a dance studio - a concept that didn't quite add up until designer and all-around head honcho Eric Ing explained the brand's vision.
As an insanely affordable (and locally made) street wear label, NOZO aims to make reppin` Toronto easy for young creative types. With the rise of half-and-half boutiques like Lost & Found or BYOB / Fitzroy - and because dance and fashion are both ways to express oneself - splitting the space with Right Foot Studio just made sense.
Eccentric dancers from every style are constantly coming in and out, so naturally, both the shop and the studio are endlessly buzzing.
The clothing itself, made to fit both men and women, seems to be the epitome of maximalism. Each garment is either covered in a wild print, made from outlandish textiles, irregularly cut, quilted, studded, or all of the above. NOZO is filled to the brim despite being just two seasons deep with pieces like leopard print drop-crotch shorts ($65) and an unconventionally-toned camouflage jacket ($125).
Perhaps to keep his own creativity ball rolling, Eric also releases limited edition items under NOZO's Black Label. The higher price point is justified with meticulously crafted clothing made from imported materials; the "Lords of Hogtown" denim jacket ($300) is hand studded as a tribute to Toronto and the "Bishop Strachan" puffer vest ($700) is colour blocked with three hues of ostrich-printed leather.
In the future, Eric hopes to expand his Black Label collections as well as continue to support ambitious local youth. He'll be working on collaborations with every kind of artist; hosting gallery events, sponsoring musicians, and founding a skate team are just some of NOZO's upcoming projects. Lesson of the day is: never overlook an underground shop - chances are, you'll miss out on a movement draped in passion and Toronto pride.
Photos by Morris Lum