TKVO is a lifestyle shop and safe space on Dundas West . Take apparel, jewellery, quirky gifts, add in art, photography and thoughtful design, and you have TKVO.
Previously home to Erin Stump Projects , it's no surprise owner Tate Sameshima feels right at home. The space was well taken care of and already had an artistic feel, leaving an open canvas for Sameshima and his life partner/graphic designer Lucy Wowk to get creative.
The walls are filled with select resin and film photographs taken by Sameshima, showcasing iconic Toronto urban locations and a few travel pieces, with lifestyle items, gifts, apothecary and games nestled on the shelves below.
The name itself is a reflection of the products on offer, which is a medical acronym that stands for "to keep vein open." A physician scribbles TKVO on patient cards to direct the patient's vein to be left open and accessible. Sameshima chose the name wisely.
"It's an homage to my family, both my parents are medical professionals and my brother works as a hospital department manager, and I'm just this odd creative person. I can apply this [medical acronym] even if I never fit into their model."
Quality and impeccable design are apparent in all products available. Sameshima mentions he's trying to transcend constraints of gender, trends, and era, and has specifically set up the shop to be non-restrictive when it comes to gender norms. "If you like it, you like it," Sameshima says with a smile.
This is Paper , a bag and rucksack company from Poland catch my eye, and Sameshima tells me they're the only shop that stocks them in Toronto. The bags are entirely handmade with a focus on minimizing their environmental footprint. Their sacks range from $85-$445, with many of them hovering around $145 range.
At the front of the shop is (arguably) the perfect every-day hat to finish off a casual outfit. Inspired by the authentic marine berets (or sailor hat), The Miki Hat by Paris-based Béton Ciré ($108) started as a gift for Sameshima from his partner, Wowk, and because they loved it so much, he started carrying it in the shop.
While there's certainly an international design presence, the shop also carries select local and Canadian items. Sameshima mentions there's an aim to "represent something out of Toronto's current radar and highlight brands that haven't yet reached market saturation."
System 63 is a great example. They're the perfect mitten to get you through the winter, and are recycled entirely from old coats, jeans and plastic bottles obtained from a social enterprise in Montréal. They're $94 and are leather on the palm side and a classic herringbone design on the other. They're handmade and are as practical - and soft - as they are beautiful.
One of the predominant apparel brands in the store is Toronto based Halfwits Clothing , who began as a men's contemporary skatewear clothing line, but if you check out their Instagram , have naturally been picked up by whomever wants to wear it (yes, it's 2015). Their hoodies and t-shirts are super soft, and their tag lovingly states "welcome to the family."
While the products themselves evoke maturity, class, and stunning design - there's another unique theme dispersed throughout the shop: playfulness. If the muscle men statues (not for sale) don't drop a big enough hint, the plexiglass on the wall at the back of the shop allowing customers to leave behind a message or drawing using Krink paint markers tops it off.
The shop itself seems to be a collection of Sameshima's identity, and after our chat, that makes total sense. Through his gender transition, experience as an artist and photographer, and his family, it's clear the shop is designed with community at the forefront. Drop in if you're looking for a great gift or apparel, or even just to chat about the transgender community, art, and design.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.