10 upstart fashion brands in Toronto
It's not easy being a start-up, especially in an industry as fickle and fluxing as fashion. Even more reason to give some props to a bunch of upstart fashion brands currently making waves in Toronto. Many of the brands on this list get their goods in front of customers at pop-up events like the Mutts and Co. Traveling Market. From sportswear, to cosmetics to accessories, here are ten little guys to look out for.
Muttonhead was started in 2009, and is run by sisters Meg and Mel Sinclair, and Paige Cowan. The brand offers unisex, locally-produced sportswear. For spring/summer, you'll find a two-tone dress shirt (originally $120, now on sale) made from Tencel, a conceptually frightening fabric (to noone but me) that's formed from cellulose and is fully biodegradable. There are also board shorts, Henleys, trousers made from recycled hemp ($120), midriff baring T-shirts ($60) and hoodies. Find their full spring/summer 2012 collection at Lavish and Squalor.
Scout and Catalogue
Scout and Catalogue aims to design pieces that evoke the signature boho look of Mexican beach culture. The resulting collection of accessories marries colourful bags and clutches made from snakeskin, denim and leather, and cotton and silk scarves hand-dyed in dreamy tie-dyes, muted tones and Rorschach prints. Rounding out the collection are a series of bright friendship bracelets reminiscent of Mexican handicrafts, and scattered with small milagros, or Mexican folk charms. Products are available through their website.
Killigrew Fashion creates sportswear apparel for men and women out of Peruvian pima cotton and cotton blends. Formed by mother-and-son team Cleo and Mitchell Darragh, the initial vision was to create a hybrid of comfort and luxury focusing on T-shirts, polos and tank tops. The clothes are simple and functional. Men's options are single-and-duo-tone polos ($83) and T-shirts ($55-$67), most emblazoned with the logo--at least it's a fine-looking logo, otherwise I might openly balk at the cost.
Womenswear ranges from form-fitting tank tops ($39) in a Peruvian-cotton/Modal blend, T-shirts ($55-$75), and a sheer, lightly-printed Henley tank top ($82.50). As for the name, it represents a crow (or Cornish chough), favoured in Celtic mythology for allegedly housing the immortal spirit of King Arthur. Products are available through their website.
18 Waits is a Toronto-based men's fashion brand. Founded by Daniel Torjman, previously of New York's Fashion Institute and Rogan, the brand's self-description--drawing on evocative images of Parisian cafes and wood cabins by the lake--cleverly tailors itself to those seeking effortless cool. The line is inspired by an "old European mentality," which translates into ruggedly beautiful 100% sterling silver presented in its own wooden box ($150-$250), knives and bottle openers, Japanese and waxed cotton jackets inspired by blazers and military coats, linen and cotton shirts, and wool chinos. The prices are quite high, but well-deserved given the quality of fabrics and attention to details. Available at Future of Frances Watson, Lileo, and Holt Renfrew.
Handsome Clothing Handsome Clothing was started under the mandate of re-defining what it means to be handsome--to be creatively well-rounded, appreciative of city and country life alike, and "making people look good and be good," through a men's line of T-shirts and sweatshirts. What this actually translates to in its latest collections is printed designs inspired by musical influences such as Daft Punk, Steppenwolf, and Kid Cudi. Their pre-washed cotton tees range from $35 for simple black and white to $45 for printed, while their fleece sweatshirts run between $60 and $65.
On their website, you'll also find the HNDSM brother brand of men's jewellery. The Tanzania collection ($110-$175) features handwoven bracelets made in Tanzania using Harita seeds (said to bring good luck to the wearer) or thread woven in the traditions of Indian Ocean fishermen, with proceeds benefitting children of miners who source Uru Diamonds. Conversely, Silver & Brass is a simultaneously strong and delicate collection of tie clips, necklaces and bracelets ($110-$400) crafted from its namesake materials, that staunchly avoids the stereotype of flashy neckwear that typically haunts men's jewellery. Find their products at TNT.
The Leather Atelier hand-crafts trend-defying accessories and art objects using its eponymous material. You'll find leather creatively incorporated into jewellery, such as the geometric leather plate ($140) and hand-braided leather and oxidized brass ($160) necklaces, and fringe earrings ($75). They also offers bags, clutches, belts, coasters, a leather bustier, and an instantly-wish-listed leather hair bow reminiscent of (a very grown-up) Minnie Mouse ($30). Leather accessories are available at Ruins, Hide and Seventy-Seven.
Fieldguided is the brainchild of Toronto couple Anabela Carneiro and Geoff Piersol, who combine their passions for photography, art, literature and music into a somewhat eclectic and handmade stock including 100% silk scarves digitally printed with haunting monochromatic images ($119), cotton totes handprinted with lyrics from Kate Bush and Serge Gainsbourg songs ($25), as well as handmade prints. You can find their products at Bicyclette and Kid Icarus.
Ambush Apparel is a streetwear brand that recently launched their Sophomore collection to celebrate their second year in the business. Launched in 2010 by Cam and Gaelen MacKay, the brand has been seen at local pop-up shops and work by rappers. The products are easy to spot, with the brand's name printed on brightly-coloured T-shirts, baseball caps ($35) and sleeveless shirts in bold typography. They also have two designs of tank tops for women. You can purchase Ambush products through their website.
Crown Shaving Co.
Crown Shaving Co. exudes the regal bearing suggested by its name through everything from packaging, to their namesake barbershop located on Islington Avenue. Founded by Dino Caracciolo, the company is staunchly targeted to men. You won't find any his-and-hers scents or products in his arsenal, with the two barber poles inscribed on each label suggesting Caracciolo's passion for the masculine art of shaving. The products on offer range from a pre-shave formula enriched with botanical extracts ($18), shaving cream and an aloe vera-based after-shave lotion. There's also a peppermint and tea tree body wash, both known natural cleansers, or splurge on all the products as a kit, available for a reasonable $85. Available at GotStyle, Garrison's by the Park, and Pistachio.
Cuchara is a Canadian jewellery line that began in Vancouver then moved to Toronto two years ago, where it's constructed by designer Edi Caneda out of her Parkdale studio. Her pieces combine colour, texture and style for a mix that's balanced and tasteful. You'll find necklaces and bracelets spread over two collections: rainbow and stone. Rainbow uses fluorescent green beads, silver spikes, and layers of pink pearls, while the hallmark feature of the stone collection is stones shaped and polished into a tooth shape. Pick up these bright accents at Love of Mine boutique or through Cuchara's website.
Photos courtesy of the brands.