The Pan Am Games kick off this Friday (July 10), but we all know it’s going to turn Toronto into something more likethe Hunger Games, amiright? The HOV lanes are already a huge problem, the construction has been pissing us all off for months and months, and we’re all miffed about the taxes we’re paying to make it all happen. The radio commercials are telling us to take our vacations during the month of July, to carpool, to hide our kids, hide our wives — and it’s all resembling some sort of mini apocalypse. So, dear Torontonians, as we brace ourselves for the rush, I’m sharing a few of my tips for surviving the next month.
REMEMBER IT’S NOT AS BAD AS YOU MIGHT THINK.
Yes, it’s going to be a tough month, but what a lot of city dwellers don’t know is that the Games aren’t only being played in our downtown core. There will also be sports in Ajax, Caledon, Collingwood and other spots far removed from the city. So thankfully it won’t be as saturated as you might fear.
BUT STILL… GTFO.
But it’ll still be bad. The HOV lanes are enough to push people out of Toronto until the end of July, as will be the human traffic that’s sure to swell in our streets, sidewalks, public transit… everywhere. Now is the time to plan all those summer getaways you’ve been thinking about. Fill your calendar with weekend road trips, music festivals and far-away family gatherings, because you’ll be looking for any excuse to get out of the city. Bye!
IF YOU’LL BE HERE, BE SMART.
There’s going to be a lot of tourists around, especially in the southeast corner of downtown, where the Games are based out of. Avoid the Distillery District and surrounding neighbourhoods, the waterfront and probably the Island, as it’s definitely going to be a tourist hub (as if the ferry lines could get any worse). Don’t drive, and avoid taking public transit at all costs — although, if you have a ticket to the Games, it’s free for you to ride the TTC. Speaking of having tickets…
MAYBE ACTUALLY WATCH SOME GAMES.
I know most of Toronto is all bitter towards this massive event (including myself, if you can’t tell), but while it’s here, you might as well take part in it, right? At least a little bit? Check out what sports are happening and buy a ticket to show your support to the athletes. It’ll probably be fun, and chances are you won’t have a hard time securing a seat, since the ticket sales are apparently dangerously low. (Yikes.)
IF YOU WORK ANYWHERE NEAR THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT, PREPARE TO HAVE ZERO TIME OFF DURING JULY.
It’s going to be mayhem, so say bye-bye to your social life this month.
COPS WILL BE EVERYWHERE.
With the HOV lanes, new one-way streets and other irritating new rules, the cops already seemed to have doubled out there. Be extra cautious if you’re driving or biking — or heck, doing anything — because they’re really cracking down during the Games.
TRY TO STAY POSITIVE.
We’re all going to be grumpy cats during the month of July, but don’t let the setbacks get you down. It’s summer in the city, and even though the Games will bring a whole onslaught of pains, it’ll also bring some good. So try not to lose your patience with the rest of the city — we’re all in this together. Here’s to a less stressful August!
For a west-ender like me, the Beaches are a beautiful little escape from the crunched-up downtown areas. It has a slight Niagara-on-the-Lake feel, making it a quaint spot to for a refreshing walk, bike ride or picnic, and it’s home to an abundance of local business that keep residents looking and feeling sharp.
I can personally attest that this place is the bomb. If you’re thinking about putting pastel in your hair (or making any other dramatic colour-related change to your locks), come here and ask for Megan, who often brings her tiny but well-behaved chihuahua Olive to work. The bright, sunny salon is a fun place to be while you undergo your little makeover.
There’s never been a more romantic love affair than that between art and coffee, right? Immerse yourself in both at Wunderland, where you can soak in locally made art and sip on a latte at the same time. Heaven.
Making the Beaches even more nature-centric is this busy 6.5 hectare park that stretches from Queen St. East to Lakeshore Blvd. It’s the perfect spot to curl up on a picnic blanket with a book, but if you’re up for more adventure, go for a jaunt to check out the wading pool, tennis courts, trails, playgrounds and other fun stuff.
This is more for you history buffs, or you CanLit lovers: This famous plant played a big role in Michael Ondaatje’s Toronto-based novel In the Skin of a Lion. The landmark is definitely worth a visit, if only to take in the opulent grounds, which are now open to the public.
Tomorrow’s our nation’s birthday, and in true Canuck fashion, Torontonians are planning a smashing array of parties that will probably have us waking up the same colours as our national flag. If you don’t have Canada Day plans already, pencil in one or two of these fiestas to celebrate our home and native land in style!
Every long weekend throughout the summer, EDM lovers flock to the Island for this mini festival. On July 1, Electric Island returns with Sasha, Marcel Dettmann, Lee Foss, Dennis Ferrer, Greg Gow, Jeff Button and Jonathan Rosa.
This is possibly the most Canadian way to celebrate Canada’s big day. This cruise will put a complimentary Steamwhistle in your hand while you gaze at the Toronto skyline before you hit up the poutine bar, apology station and other fun stuff. (Note: this one’s a 19+ event.)
Music, dance performances, family activities and fireworks are all going down at Mel Lastman on July 1st from 5 to 10 p.m. Admission is free, so bring your chums and spend the evening gawking at Zero Gravity Circus, basking in the music of a salsa band and getting your face painted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.