NOVELLAHOODS: Amanda’s Guide to Leslieville

Leslieville is like a less try-hard-ish Queen West (I live on Queen West so I’m allowed to say it!). Everyone has fallen for this east-end ‘hood for its great brunch spots and lovely little antique shops. It’s the perfect spot for young, working couples, new families — you know, morning people. Here’s my take on a perfect day in this quaint little neighbourhood of new beginnings.

Photo via thehousefly.wordpress.com

 

SWEAT: Anchored Social Club

Sure, you’ll be working your butt off at this unorthodox gym, but you’ll be so distracted by all the awesomeness that you might not even notice the pain. These guys use odd but fun fitness techniques (like, using huge bags of rice and lentils as training equipment), reminding us what getting into shape doesn’t have to involve any technology whatsoever. If you hate the gym, give this place a try.

EAT: Rashers

BACON. Yes. This place is “North America’s only bacon sandwich shop.” All their meat is sourced locally, and their breads are made with no preservatives. So that should make you feel a tad less guilty as you devour a Bacon Butty, Bacon-on-a-Bun or Brie & Bacon sandwich. They even have a picture of Kevin Bacon on their wall.

SHOP: Arts Market

This year-round market sells unique wares of local artisans, so if you’re one of those great people who likes to support the makers in your city, get your bum over here. Lots of artists are based out of here, letting you claim neat (and often one-of-a-kind stuff) for your home, your wardrobe — basically anything.

EAT: Bobbette & Belle

This place! You probably already know all about it, but I couldn’t not include it. It’s not only one of the best places to go for sweets in Leslieville, but in the entire city. Everything is as gorgeous as it tastes, and make sure your phone is charged because you’ll definitely want to be that annoying person who Instagrams all the things.

SHOP: Raise the Root

Raise the Root is a tiny organic market that’s worth a visit if you’re into using genuinely good food in your recipes. It’s small but perfectly stocked, and it doesn’t take too long to navigate.

CAFFEINATE: Te Aro

Te Aro makes really good coffee. The baristas can act a tad pretentious, but the drinks are fantastic and the atmosphere is cool. Stop in here for an energy boost in the middle of your Leslieville exploration.

SHOP: Matter of Time

You can’t spend a day in Leslieville without visiting an antique shop or two, and this one is my recommendation. Stuffed with old oddities, it’s like you’re stepping back in time — and then stepping out with an armful of antiques.

Q+A with the Guys Behind Halfwits Clothing

The guys behind Halfwits Clothing are still kind of in shock.

Sitting in a sun ray at the Queen and Bathurst Starbucks, Jesse Storey and Mark Butterworth, two-thirds of the team behind this tiny Toronto brand, are telling me about the wild ride they’ve been on with their partner, James van der Woerd, these past few years. And this summer is going to be yet another thrilling rise-up for the brand: They’re freshly available at Gotstyle (and have been sold at So Hip It Hurts for a while now), and are prepping for their big annual bash this June 30 — their “family reunion.”

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A snap from Halfwits’ SS15 collection

 

Amanda: Tell me about the beginning of Halfwits.

Mark: James and I have worked creatively together for a long time. After [university] we need a creative project to just go nuts on. Halfwits was a name that was floating around, so we were like “let’s make a clothing line.” And Jesse was super supportive and helpful, so we asked if he wanted to be a part of this. It was a small idea, he was game, and that was it. That started the three of us working together.

Jesse: It was perfect timing for me, because at that time I was really getting into fashion. So the three of us sat down and were like, “Let’s do it. Let’s try it.”

Amanda: And how did all three of you know each other prior to Halfwits?

Jesse: I knew James through school, and he and Mark went to school together back in the day, and they reconnected when they both came to Toronto for university. But then I went to university with James and met Mark through James.

Jesse Storey, James van der Woerd and Mark Butterworth
Jesse Storey, James van der Woerd and Mark Butterworth

Amanda: In terms of the style, demographic, how do you define it? Yours seems pretty untapped by other brands.

Mark: It’s like contemporary skatewear. It’s skatewear that you can turn up to the bar in afterwards. It’s sophisticated. It’s not so much for the 16-year-old skater kids, although there are pieces that could appeal to them.

Jesse: Yeah, I’d say it’s men’s basics with a little more flair. For example, our floral cuffed pieces. They’re pretty basic, in a sense, but they have that little flair of floral, just enough that guys still feel comfortable wearing it, where it’s not pushing it to the point of, like, super high fashion. We try to find that happy medium.

Mark: If, for example, we come out with 10 pieces and Jesse loves three, I love three and James loves three, we’ve come out with a well-rounded collection, because we’ve represented three completely different people in the market all under one vision, one stylistic view, I guess. That’s what we try to do. It’s always going to have the same tone, because it’s Halfwits, it’s our three voices.

Amanda: So the designs are like a reflection of your unique styles.

Jesse: Mark is where the creation comes from. He’s the one who really taps into that reverie inside him to design these.

A snap from Halfwits' SS15 collection
A snap from Halfwits’ SS15 collection

Amanda: In terms of the structure of the brand, it’s just the three of you right now?

Mark: It’s just the three of us, yeah, and a silent investor.

Amanda: So, where’s James right now?

Jesse: He’s just coming home from Brunei. He’s been there for a long time, overseeing the production of the SS16 collection.

Amanda: You guys make regular trips out there, right?

Jesse: Yeah. We found out guy on the Internet. He’s awesome. Going there and making sure the factory was okay, like, up to what we thought it should be, that was the main reason for going there initially.

Mark: It just so happened that our manufacturer invited us over. I was the one who first got to go, and it made me realize how much better it is to be hands-on. The guys who work in the factory, they normally work for big, big clients. So they rarely get to work with the people who they’re making the clothing for. So when we’re there, they’re super ignited, they love seeing — Like I remember the first time I put on a shirt, I was like, tripping out, like, “Oh, my God, this is insane.” The guy who made it was so lit up, because he never gets that interaction with his clients.

Jesse: We’re a part of the whole process. It’s so important for us to go over there, to the markets in China, to touch and feel the fabric, interacting with the shop owners selling it, with the workers who work there. There are hundreds of them. I’m getting shivers just talking about it. The smiles on their faces. We buy them KFC when we’re there and stuff to show them how thankful we are for their hard work.

Mark: It’s great, too, since people are getting more and more touchy about where their clothes really are coming from, where they were made, who made them. If we’re asked, like, if someone grills you, “Is your stuff made by little kids?” We can be like, “Actually, when I went to work there, I was the youngest person in the factory.”

Amanda: So what’s Brunei like?

Mark: Brunei’s a small country with a lot of money.

Jesse: Yeah, this is getting off topic but Brunei’s sultan is one of the richest guys in the world. He travels with five organ donors at all times, just in case one of his organs goes, he can fuckin’ pull one in [laughs]. There’s no drinking or smoking there either. It’s illegal.

Mark: And no porn. Punishable by death.

Jesse: So when we’re there, we’re really focused on our work.

Amanda: It’s hard being an independent Canadian brand, a Torontonian brand, but you guys did it. How does it feel?

Mark: When we take a second to sit back and think about it, we’re like, “Wow.” Like, we’ve been to New York and Vegas on our brand’s dollar. That’s a big thing. We’ve sent two of our guys to Asia on our dollar. That’s pretty cool. But we’re always like, “What’s next?” But we’re really focusing our attention on Canada and, more specifically, Toronto right now. The brands here are blowing up, the art is huge. Toronto is getting big.

Jesse: It’s great to be a small part of Toronto culture like that. It’s such a great city for music, arts, theatre, clothing. There are other brands that are much more ahead of us, but being a small part of it is an honour for us.

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A snap from Halfwits’ SS15 collection

 

Amanda: Halfwits always refers to their clientele, their supports, as their “family.” That’s pretty cool.

Mark: I think people really gravitate towards us because of what we represent, whether it’s that feeling of being part of a family, feeling welcome, starting something from nothing. Because none of us went to school for fashion.

Jesse: We’ve talked about this before, we think the fashion industry can be pretty unwelcoming. By its very nature it’s super exclusive. Even the menswear sector that we’re a part of, it’s so hoity-toity, like, you have to be initiated to get in.

Mark: And we’re so not about that. We’re just like, come. Who cares? Celebrate that shit.

Jesse: We’re never, ever trying to be that exclusive fashion brand. You don’t have to be rich, or belong to a certain society, to hang with us.

Amanda: Speaking of family, your next “Family Reunion” is coming up. What can we expect?

Jesse: It’s on June 30 at Wayward, which is on Queen West. There’s going to be a two hour industry media event beforehand with alcohol and food, so people can check out the SS15 line. After that we’ll just celebrate friends, family. We do it every year. We just like to celebrate those people who have helped support us to where we are now. We’d be nothing without our customers.

Mark: We try to blow up the whole “family” concept. We have this Halfwits family. So these parties are called our family reunions. It’s just a way to bring all those people into one room, say thank you, enjoy some drinks together, show them what we’ve been working on. We have friends who make music, take photos.

Jesse: It’s just a celebration.

Amanda: Last question. Why “Halfwits?” Why that term?

Mark: We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what our brand means. But as of late, we’ve figured out we’re, like, Halfwits the term sort of has this negative connotation to it, when it’s always meant something different to us. I’m going to lay on the cheese here — to us, it really means “half wit, half heart.” So in any situation, your mind and your heart, you can apply both. Your wit can take you that extra mile, and your heart can push you through.

Boutiques You Need To Know In The Rosedale & Summerhill Area

One of the nicest stretches in the Rosedale and Summerhill area goes from the Rosedale subway station up to Summerhill station. This neighbourhood is mainly known for its quiet and familiar lifestyle, parks and beautiful townhouses. However, there is also an array of small boutiques that are located just steps away from busy Bloor Street for those who crave a more exclusive offering.

I took a walk around this stretch of Yonge Street between the Rosedale and Summerhill subway stations and picked five interesting boutiques that I encourage you to check out.

1. ShopNYLA

1Shop Nyla

This clothing boutique placed right across from the Rosedale subway station offers the latest styles and trends from emerging as well as established contemporary designers.

2. Want Apothecary

2Want Apothecary

Inspired by the atmosphere of a 19th century pharmacy, this shop presents a unique lifestyle concept stocking a selection of very exclusive fashion brands such as WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie and Acne, among others.

3. Putti Fine Furnishings

4Putti

This is a European style home decor boutique that opened 19 years ago as an antique store. In the past years, this place became a complete lifestyle shop and now they sell all you need to create romantic yet modern spaces.

4. Greenhouse Juice Co.

5GreenHouse Co

The Toronto-based organic cold-pressed juice company has this beautiful location in the Rosedale/Summerhill area. I walked into this stunning white house and was happy to find out that all of their juices are made out of certified organic ingredients.

5. Harvest Wagon

7Harvest Wagon

It’s been already 30 years since this small grocery store, a family business, was founded. Owner Tony Di Marco has a very clear philosophy to keep being to-go place for his customers: the best quality products and an excellent personal care to their clients.

Toronto’s Best Birthday Freebies

It was about a week before my birthday and I was, as per annual tradition, Googling all the free stuff I’d be able to acquire this May 27th. I was surprised — and beyond pleased — to discover that Toronto’s list of b-day freebies seems to be longer than ever. Whether it’s your DOB soon or in like 11 months, take note of these treats you can get free of charge with a simple flash of your ID! (I picked a few favourites for you.)

Photo via hdw.eweb4.com
Photo via hdw.eweb4.com

A manicure at Laya Spa and Yoga

This is my favourite spa in the whole city, so I almost went into cardiac arrest when they sent me a friendly email telling me to book my FREE birthday manicure within a week of my actual birthday. You can get all perfectly lacquered before you get all perfectly liquored on that special day! Yeah!

Coffee at Jet Fuel Coffee

Free birthday coffee from Jet Fuel on Parliament. That is all that needs to be said. Free. Coffee.

A night at Medieval Times

A two-hour dinner AND a four-course meal, all for free! (And also one of those sweet hats!) All you have to do is go online and sign up to join the Medieval Times King’s Court, and when it asks, make sure you say you also want to join the King’s Birthday Fellowship. Note, you do have to bring at least one other adult with you who will pay full price for their ticket. Sorry, loners, you can’t go this one on your own.

Ontario Place

Get a free Play All Day pass by showing your ID at the Guest Services Pavilion and play all day!

Dinner at Mandarin

Eat all the things. That’s what your birthday is for anyway, right? It’s free for birthday boys and girls to dine at everyone’s favourite (and, at the end of their meal, least favourite) buffet, so long as they bring three friends who’ll pay full price!

 

Dreaming in Technicolour at TIFF

TIFF is kicking off the summer by taking movie lovers back in time. From June 19 to August 15, the TIFF Bell Lightbox will be alight with more than two dozen of Hollywood’s most luminous oldies.

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“Rear Window” — Photo Courtesy of TIFF

 

I attended the media screening prior to the launch of this season-long event, which they’ve dubbed “Dreaming in Technicolour.” The film was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a classic I’d never seen before. Filmed in 1954 and starring original Tinsel Town darlings Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, the story enchanted me the way no modern-day blockbuster ever could. The wholehearted performances, the mid-century dialogue — everything about it reminded me that while film has evolved in many ways, it’s lost much of the magic it originated with.

As Alfred Hitchcock often did, he created a masterpiece of a film using avant-garde filming techniques that most directors wouldn’t dare try to reenact today. For instance, the entire film took place in a single spot: at James Stewarts’ character’s rear window. Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a daredevil photographer who’s basically bedridden for the entire film due to a broken leg, leaving him to people watch out the window. Needless to say, he catches a frightening glimpse into the life of one of his neighbours, and the story unravels from there.

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“Singing in the Rain” — Photo Courtesy of TIFF

 

Only the magic of the old-school cinema could have kept me entertained for over and a half without dishing out any explosions, sex scenes, swear words, car chases or other typical modern-day cinematic eye candy. At the end of the screening, I reluctantly removed myself from the theatre, which during those 112 minutes had felt more like a time machine, and stepped back into the more complicated world we live in now.

I, along with that large group of Torontonians who enjoy a good escape from reality, am now beyond stoked to return to the TIFF Bell Lightbox more than once this summer to savour that mid-century simplicity and artistry of the old silver screen.