Sara Duke Factory Store
The Sara Duke Factory Store on Bloor West feels eclectic. Possibly, it's because of the roughed-up wooden doors suspended from the ceiling, which Duke salvaged from her previous location on Markham Street. Or maybe it's that the space is shared with (albeit, divided from) couple of set designers who create sets for mainstream newscasts. Or it's the mix of cheeky, chunky, and preppy among the few items for sale by the window.
In any case, it's how Duke wants it. After being at this new location for barely a month, she says she's finally where she's always wanted to be.
Duke graduated from Ryerson's fashion program in 2007. After a short stint at an office, she worked out of her home before setting up a studio on Markham Street. She's now settled at her street front location on Bloor between Dufferin and Lansdowne, amid a healthy mix of convenience stores, little restaurants and a "gentleman's club" across the street.
She says it's taken hours of work and negligence toward her social life to get here. "I'm sort of a super big try hard," she tells me. "My second year out of school I was working 100-hour weeks."
The work Duke puts in now is in her basement factory below the storefront. There she sews custom couture pieces, including but not limited to, men's suits and bridal.
"I do a lot of work for the types of women who remember when and don't know why you can't find pants with a hem all the way down," she says. Duke says most of her customers have just come via word of mouth. "Mostly starting from the gym," she says. Now if that doesn't inspire you to renew your membership...
There are just a handful of items available in the retail section of Duke's space. My favourite piece was a necklace made of a vintage brass dresser handle strung on deerskin leather ($48). "I try to get out of Toronto to find my vintage," she says.
One of her finds outside the city was a collection of patches ranging from the 1920's to the 1950's, which she's sewn on silk cotton nylon sweaters ($88). Along with her two collections, "Sara Duke" and "If You See Cake" (I immediately thought of the Britney Spears song, and then apologized) Duke sells t-shirts ($38) by Sam Johnson's "Impossible Speed" line.
Writing by Robyn Urback. Photos by Dennis Marciniak