"What does UKULA mean?"
"It doesn't mean shit," says the guy behind the counter, unpacking new arrivals. Early fall cardigans feel fresh and exciting among the sparse racks of lingering August merchandise. Despite hazy hot city day, the prospect of trying on cardigans is just too irresistible for the guys in the store.
"Well, it stands for Underground Lifestyle Access," Kylee Maki, the store manager tells me, and then explains that the UK does not stand for anything in particular.
For all your Underground Lifestyle needs, UKULA is conceived as a one-stop hipster heaven. The store has a bit of lived-in ease to it like a proper hang-out should. There is a coffee bar, comfortably shabby chairs, and wee patios front and back. Stacks of event flyers and independent magazines are available for perusal, and there is a listening station with CDs from upstart artists.
As a store that developed from a magazine, UKULA does a good job of incorporating music, art, publishing, and fashion into one convenient location. Now in five cities worldwide, UKULA the magazine is still edited in the basement of the Toronto location. (Hmm, maybe that's where the Underground thing comes from.)
Where UKULA leaves something to be desired is if you consider it on its merits as a clothing boutique. Sure, there are Cheap Mondays and Nudies, snap down shirts and sweet little dresses, but the selection is spare. Considering the emphasis on the independent and local, clothing designers from Toronto could enjoy more representation here amongst labels from Europe and Montreal.
Shopping takes second place to space at UKULA - space for the people, who are chilled out and friendly, and space for events. Fun stuff goes on there all the time - concerts, parties and all sorts of launches - jewelry lines, albums, magazines, whatever. UKULA is a great physical space for any sort of independent venture to introduce itself to the city.
The online space is not as great - the navigation is clunky. Error pages pop up where the archived issues are supposed to be. The page on "UKULA credits" I was directed to when I registered is nowhere to be found. Nor could I find more information about what clothing lines were available at the store. For a community site, there was not a lot of interactivity, or even information.
The real community is happening at the store, not on the internet. To get the best out of UKULA, take the time to go there, sit on the patio with a cappucino and a magazine, and hang out with the people.