Toronto Dancer Creates Beyoncé and Rihanna Sweaters to Help Charities

Owner and creator of 1Club, Shawn Bracke says his 50/50 percent cotton/polyester sweaters are perfect for an active person, someone in a creative space. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Whether he’s teaching a dance class or sketching in his notebook, Shawn Bracke always uses his art to support charities. Now he creates sweaters with faces of celebrities on them and donates 35% of the proceeds to a different charity each month. Founded in September 2016, his online clothing brand 1Club stands for the idea of “all for one and one for all”.

Sveta: Hi Shawn! It’s exciting to learn a new artistic side of you besides dancing. How did you come up with the idea of creating your brand?

Shawn: The idea was always charity, donations. But not all. I was sketching a lot for the last five years or so, and I started putting it on clothing myself. People really liked that. On top of that, I was donating once a month from classes that I teach to different charities. So I kind of just fused the two ideas together. I thought, instead of donating from the classes I would start a brand.

Sveta: Did you have any background in fashion?

Shawn: Yep, I used to be a stylist. I used to live in London, U.K. I was a stylist there for two years, mostly just like on set for music videos, TV, and films. So it’s not the most creative because you can’t do really much with film and TV — you literally give them like this template —, but I definitely had an understanding of the industry. Honestly, fashion doesn’t really apply to my brand. The whole goal for it is to be comfortable and wearable and easy.

Sveta: How does the design of your brand express its idea?

Shawn: We stand for all for one and one for all. So the goal of the brand is essentially to create all-inclusive type of company, something comfortable and supporting. Originally, they [sweaters] are just faces of people that really inspired me. People who are using their celebrity styles to make a change in the world. There are pretty big names, like Beyoncé and Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham. They all are known for what they do either as musicians or designers, but I love all of them because they are affiliated with charities. And obviously, I know that people would love to wear a Beyonce sweater or Rihanna [sweater]. And I like that it’s all strong women. A lot of charities that I focus on are geared towards helping women.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: What are some charitable organization you work or have worked with?

Shawn: Right now we are with Red Door Family Shelter. We’ve worked with Covenant House. They are cool. They are like a shelter for the homeless slash for people who are distressed. So they help a lot of women who are in bad situations with their husbands or who are trying to escape.

Sveta: What is exciting for you about working with charities?

Shawn: I’ve always loved donating to charities, but as a dancer I would just do it with my credit card online. With the company there’s different formatting. You obviously have to build relationships with them [charities]. It’s been very cool to see their responses and meet different people within the charity. And also, knowing where the money goes is comforting. I was kind of nervous going into it, that these different charities wouldn’t be that interested and would just kind of take a donation, but they all have been so lovely and so caring. Just hearing the cool things they do to change people’s lives is awesome.

Sveta: Does anyone help you to run the business?

Shawn: Yeah, so the sketches I do myself, and then I have a company, actually, a friend, who prints all the clothing. He works in film and TV, so it’s cool we have that relationship. And I also have some friends who help me to run the company. Primarily, it’s just me, but we do a lot of events. We go to different markets, so I have a crew who sometimes writes the emails and does the administrating.

Sveta: What is the most difficult part of running a clothing company?

Shawn: I would say, continuously promoting our brand. The more promotion you do, the more you need new people. And it’s not even bad. The most difficult is the most fun in a weird sense. I think it’s just the nature of any creative person: anything that’s difficult, you like doing because you know that it’s a challenge for you. I don’t know if as a journalist and a dancer you can agree with me. I hope that answers the question.

Sveta: I think I agree with that. Would people who wear your sweaters be creative as well?

Shawn: Obviously, I would love everyone to wear the sweaters. The goal is to benefit charities and feel comfortable and cool, yeah? But, generally speaking, the people, who have been gravitating towards it, are people like us, who work during the day and take a dance class or a yoga class or go to the gym at night… Or maybe they just wanna have like a Sunday-cozy sweater to go to a brunch and go for a walk after. My mum and her friends wear it too. They wear it on Saturdays if they go out for a show or something.

Sveta: Do you have your favourite sweater?

Shawn: Right now the Beyonce-embroidered is my favourite just cause I haven’t seen anyone do an embroidered sweater and I just love the texture of it. I’m excited that my drawing can be transmitted into an embroidered sweater.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: How do you build your collections in terms of frequency, colours…?

Shawn: As we partner with a different charity every month, the goal is to do a new sweater every one to two months. The first collection is all white, and the second collection had like that salt-pepper and safari [shades]. And then for the next one we are gonna go back to straight one colour. I definitely want to keep them neutral. For me, as a dancer, rehearsing, I like to wear very basic colours or shades rather. And my clients love that kind of neutral shades, so… We might play with colours later, but for now we are gonna keep it.

Sveta: Are you planning to add more items to your collections in the future?

Shawn: In September we have few other things coming. T-shirts and some other stuff, which I’m gonna keep secret.

Sveta: Were you thinking about creating 1Club physical store?

Shawn: Right now it’s an online-brand. I think we are gonna keep it there for a while. I don’t really have any goals to make it a physical shop… like in the near future.

Sveta: What does 1Club mean to you personally?

Shawn: 1Club for me is a nice escape from the dance world [we both laugh]. That sounds terrible! I couldn’t live without it [dance]. It’s like who I am, but there’s so many sides of me. Just like there’s so many sides of you. So it’s like a break from always focusing on like, Oh, I need to do this with dance. I need to focus on this with dance. For me it’s to meet different types of people with 1 Club that I would never be able to meet in the dance world.

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My Capsule Wardrobe Diary Part 2

My Capsule Wardrobe Diary Part 2

It’s January 31st, and as promised, here is the update on my capsule wardrobe experiment. If you haven’t read my first post, click here so the rest of this makes sense. As mentioned before, I was allowed to wear 33 pieces for the month of January — this included clothing, accessories, and shoes. This part was fine for me. My outfits are already pretty monochromatic, and I wear the same thing everyday (not actually, but you know what I mean). The hardest part of this whole thing was actually putting on real clothes in the morning. I work from home so I’m usually in sweats and a baggy T-shirt. Honestly, I’m pretty stoked that this whole experiment is over. This is not to say I didn’t fail. There were 4 days I just didn’t want to leave my bed so I never bothered changing into civilian clothing. Don’t judge.

I did take a picture every day (except for the days I spent in bed — my bad) but I wore the same outfit a couple of times so I didn’t want to post doubles. I apologize for the dirt quality mirror pictures (and for never cleaning my mirror). However, sometimes I got my friend to come over and take pictures of me with her DSLR.

I did choose 33 pieces of clothing but I only ended up wearing 28:

Bottoms: A pair of leggings, a pair of tights, wide legged trousers, cinched waist trouser, and jeans —all black.

Tops: A sheer turtleneck, a black fitted tank top, a black chiffon v-neck tank, a black long-sleeve shirt, a black crop top, a black sweater, a white v-neck tank, and an LBD.

Coats and scarves: Two different black coats, a black blanket scarf, an oversized grey scarf, a light-weight military green coloured coat, and a black blazer.

Shoes and accessories: A pair of gold and black minimalist heels, black heeled boots with gold hardware, black mule shoes,  cherry Doc Martens (for when I had to go outside and shovel the snow), a black purse with gold hardware, a black envelope clutch, a gold cuff, a gold watch, and a choker necklace.

After this whole thing I learned some things:

  1. I should’ve maybe incorporated some colour. Literally everything was black, so it looked like I was wearing the same outfit all the time.
  2. I was basically wearing a scarf as an outfit a lot of the time. It was the easiest thing to do and in my head, if you wear one scarf ten different ways, it’s ten different outfits. I just wanted to be comfortable and the way to do that is to wear a blanket.
  3. I wish I had nicer pieces, and by that I mean better quality. I don’t have investment pieces and you can tell. I know I had to choose clothing I already had but if I was actually going to do this, I would hope I had some quality staple pieces.
  4. Going to the mall was the worst. I only went twice but I have no self control and wanted to buy everything, especially because I knew I couldn’t. If I buy something, I’ll want to wear it right away. Although the capsule wardrobe concept allow you to incorporate and replace pieces seasonally, you can’t keep adding to it. Going shopping was just dangerous.

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My Capsule Wardrobe Diary

The Capsule Wardrobe has been around for a while. Susie Faux, owner of London boutique Wardrobe coined the term way back in the 70’s. Then in 1985, Donna Karan released her “7 Easy Pieces” collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces. At the debut, eight models dressed in only bodysuits and blacks tights at first, started to add items of clothing such as trousers, dresses, etc., to demonstrate the versatile style of dressing. The whole concept gained more popularity.

Essentially, the idea is to have a wardrobe collection of a few staple items of clothing, often in the neutral palette, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. In the end, you would have a compact closet with high-quality pieces that are versatile and that you love to wear — saving money, space, and time to get ready in the morning.

Photo: www.un-fancy.com

Currently, the minimalist style of dressing has become more trendy, so I decided to try it out. Do you have a wardrobe full of clothes but still wear the same 3 items every day? Same. So I thought I might as well try the Capsule Wardrobe thing, and what better time to do it than at the start of a new year. So for the whole month of January, I will be living out of my version of a capsule wardrobe.

Despite what people think, there are no rules to it. You don’t have to have a specific number of pieces or stick to a specific colour palette. However, it usually stays around 30 neutral pieces, but I’m going to try and stick to 33. This includes accessories and shoes. I’ve also set up rules for myself:

  1. I have to use items I already have.
    The point of a capsule wardrobe isn’t to have a complete, perfect wardrobe. There’s no such thing. This isn’t an excuse to go out and buy more clothes that will make my wardrobe “complete”. It’s nature to want something new, but this is about cutting down and keeping it simple.
  2. I have to put together an outfit everyday.
    I usually work from home so most of the week, I’m in sweats and a T-shirt, but if I was going to do this, I wanted to actually do it. So now I have no choice but to try and get my life together in the morning.
  3. I have 33 pieces to choose from.
    This includes purses, shoes, and accessories, and excludes workout clothes, sleepwear, and obviously socks and things.

I will be uploading a picture recap at the end, documenting my outfits every day this month, and I promise to keep it 100% honest. So check back to see if I manage to get through the whole month!

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Our favourite Black Friday deals in Toronto

Ladies, gentlemen — it’s that time. Arm yourselves with wads of cash and comfy shoes (with which to trod over the weaker shoppers), because Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us. Nov. 27 and 30, the Days of the Deals, promise to be fruitful as f*ck as a ton of our favourite local boutiques have announced some pretty enticing sales. Here are the ones you absolutely cannot miss.

Image courtesy of Jenny Bird
Image courtesy of Jenny Bird

Preloved: From Thursday, Nov. 26 at 5:00 p.m. to Monday, Nov. 30 at midnight, you can get 50% off everything at GetPreloved.com and free shipping across North America. Bonus: every purchase over $100 will receive a pair of Betty mitts (behold the cuteness of said mittens here).

Halfwits: Toronto brand Halfwits is giving you 30% off store-wide on Friday, Nov. 27 for 24 hours straight. Now’s the time to snag their uber-cosy “Close Ties” hoodie for the holidays…

Jenny Bird: On Monday, Nov. 30 the Jenny Bird webstore will offer a 30% discount across the site, including an additional 30% off sale items.

Pai Skincare: Okay, it’s not a local boutique, but this cult British beauty brand recently landed in Toronto and its website is hosting an irresistible Black Friday sale: From Thursday, Nov. 26 at 9:00 a.m. to Monday, Nov. 30 at midnight, when you buy a Pai Starter Kit you’ll receive the brand’s best-selling Treatment Mask, Eye Cream and Gentle Exfoliator for free.

Tiger of Sweden: Only at their Canadian flagship store at Queen and Ossington, it’s BOGO 50% off from Friday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Nov. 29. And there’s more: subsequent items will receive 25% off (some exceptions may apply).

Jean Machine: From Thursday, Nov. 26 to Monday, Nov. 30, Jean Machine has a lot going on both in-store and online. Stop by the store to take advantage of the BOGO 50% everything deal, and/or to get 30% off all tops and outerwear. Online, it’s 25% off all bottoms and 30% off all tops and outerwear. ALSO: only on Friday, customers who shop in-store before 11 a.m. can buy one, get one 60% off everything.

Consonant Skincare: On Monday, Nov. 30, Consonant Skincare is offering 20% off all products (kits included) online, in store and over the phone at 416-925-2955.

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.”

HALFWITS_SS15_HIRES_SLIDE1
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.