Novellahoods: Amanda’s Guide to Dundas and Ossington

This Novellahood is my hood. Ossington is a strip of pure hipster madness, which has its ups and downs (the pretentiousness is real, but so are interesting bar concepts and cool boutiques), but if there’s one thing you can count on here, it’s that you’ll never experience a dull moment in this corner of the city. Spend a day, spend a night, and have a blasty-blast with the help of my personal guide to Dundas and Ossington!

CAFFEINATE: Sam James Coffee Bar

As a connoisseur of mochas, I can attest that Sam James’ mocha is the absolute best in the whole wide city. The recipe (which I won’t disclose here) is so simple, but so genius. TRY IT. Hot or iced. Of course, everything else they make here is perfect, too, from the lattes to the conversation.

Sam James' iced mocha — image via @samjamescoffeebar on Instagram
Sam James’ iced mocha — image via @samjamescoffeebar on Instagram

EAT: The Lakeview

This diner has been here for so long I’m pretty sure it qualifies as a historic site. I love this place because it has that classic diner feel without being too gritty, the food is good and nicely priced, and they have MAD drink specials ($4 mimosas, all day, every day!). They’re also open 24 hours, so feel free to come here for a burger in the middle of a drunken night.

PLAY: Get Well

If any of my friends ever have a birthday, it is celebrated here. Why? Because Get Well is not only a bar, but it’s also an arcade and has an in-house North of Brooklyn Pizzeria. Most of the vintage arcade games are free to play, so you can challenge yourself to a game of Dig Dug with a drink in one hand and a slice of pepperoni pizza in the other.

Photo via whyilovetoronto.tumblr.com
Get Well — image via whyilovetoronto.tumblr.com

SHOP: Red Canoe

Being inside this Canadiana shop feels like chanting Oh Canada and drinking maple syrup while riding a moose that’s wearing a Mountie uniform. Check it out if you want to bring home some cool, all-Canadian stuff.

WATCH: Lower Ossington Theatre

‘Tis the season for play-watching, and this theatre has all your nostalgia planned out for the summer: buy your tickets to Rocket Man: The Music of Elton John, Always Abba, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Mary Poppins and other gems.

SHOP: Victoire Boutique

The shop window displays are always so cute, it’s nearly impossible not to step inside this tiny shop. They sell the perfect blend of girly-girl and hip, and the clothes never lack in both imagination and sophistication. Find your next wedding season dress here, or a punchy statement piece for your summer festival-going.

Victoire Boutique — image via victoireboutique.com
Victoire Boutique — image via victoireboutique.com

DRINK: Bellwoods Brewery

This is a Dundas and Ossington go-to. Even if you’re not a fan of beer, Bellwoods Brewery is always a good time. I personally love this place because on holidays, when the LCBO and Wine Rack are closed, Bellwoods is usually open, and my drinking plans are saved.

 

 

SHOP ALL WEEKEND: SANDALS GALORE

With the sun still out and shining bright, summer is still around. At times it may not feel like it, with all the rainy days we’ve been having but do not fret, it’s just Mother Nature’s way of cooling us off. But when she does decide to give us a little light and heat, you want to look your utmost best from your head, all the way down to your toes. And what better way to kick off a bright sunny day, then to strut in the most fashionable summer sandals on the market. Here is a list of some summer must have sandals that will finish off your outfit with a bang.

Gladiator Sandal 

Photo Credit: Steve Madden
Photo Credit: Steve Madden

These sandals are taking us back to the time of the Romans. Slip on a pair and you will be looking like a Greek goddess yourself. Gladiator sandals come in a variety of lengths and look best with either a pair of shorts or some cute skinny jeans. The Steve Madden ‘Hercules’ Gladiator Sandal from Nordstrom comes in either black leather or metallic gold. If you get the chance to snag a pair, take full advantage of these flashy sandals while summer is still around.

Where To Buy: http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/gladiator-sandals

Birkenstock

Photo Credit: Birkenstock
Photo Credit: Birkenstock

Ever have those lazy days where you don’t feel like dressing up?  Instead, you just want to throw your hair in a bun and jump right into a comfy pair of sweats? Well no matter how you feel or what you wear, a pair of Birkenstock sandals can go with absolutely any quick outfit you put together. Not only do they look comfortable, but they ARE also comfortable. They are a perfect pair of sandals to take a nice afternoon stroll in, with their soft cushioned insole. So grab yourself a bright colourful pair that will have your feet feeling like they are in heaven.

Where To Buy: http://www.shoeme.ca/collections/birkenstock

Sandal Wedges

Photo Credit: Michael Kors
Photo Credit: Michael Kors

If you are having a night out with the girls, or going on a fancy date, of course you want to dress to impress. So slip on a chunky, but comfy, pair of sandal wedges. Sandal wedges can easily be dressed up or dressed down. The Michael Kors Posey Espadrille Wedge Sandal is a perfect fit for any occasion. Even with the subtle colours of the shoe, I’m sure you will still have all eyes on you and your feet.

Where To Buy: http://shop.nordstrom.com

Low Heeled Sandal

Photo Credit: JollyChic
Photo Credit: JollyChic

Some women aren’t huge fans of the high heel so they may opt out of wearing a sandal wedge. But that doesn’t mean your sandal can’t have a little height to it. Try going for a low-heeled sandal like these ones from jollychic.com. Not only are these sandals dressy, but they are also accompanied with a nice height heel. By the end of your date, your feet won’t be throbbing and sore even though you kept your shoes on for the entire night.

Where To Buy:  www.jollychic.com

Shop All Weekend: Swimwear for Men and Women

With summer officially starting, the real summer activities can finally begin. Pool parties, taking dips in the lake, summer vacations involving infinity pools, and tanning on the beach. These are all hot weather activities we look forward to once the weather reaches the high 20’s and low 30’s. With so many summer activities that involve swimming trunks or bathing suits, we thought it would be a good idea to go over some new age men’s and women’s swimwear, that are available this season.

Club Monaco Zebra Swim Trunks 

Photo Credit: Club Monaco

 

If you’re looking for a pair of eye-popping swim trunks for that pool party you’re planning to attend this summer, look no further than Club Monaco’s Zebra swim trunks. The trunks have an all over zebra print pattern that will easily differentiate you from the rest of the speedos and boardshorts. Like all modern fitting swim trunks, the trunks fit slim with a mid rise, have an elasticized waist with a draw strong, and a button welt pocket at the front with zip closures at the back.

Where To Buy: www.clubmonaco.com

Bather Trunk and Co Tiger Stripe Trunks 

Photo Credit: Bather Trunk and Co
Photo Credit: Bather Trunk and Co

Let’s be honest, a lot of the swim trunks on the market tend to look the same, with identical simple colours and summer inspired patterns. Bather Trunk Company is doing the exact opposite by trying to inject some much needed swagger to swim trunks. The Tiger Stripes trunks are the perfect example of the company trying to shake up swimwear, by bringing new aged prints to the game. The eye catching tiger camouflage trunks bring a streetwear flare to swim, that will easily have you stand out from the sea of speedo’s and board shorts.

Where To Buy: www.bathertrunkcompany.com

Orlebar Brown 

Photo Credit: Gravity Pope
Photo Credit: Gravity Pope

Some men just want something simple when it comes to swimwear – less eye popping and more about the fit, quality and construction of the piece. If you’re one of those men who just wants to invest in a pair of well made trunks once every few years, the Orlebar Brown Swim trunks are for the perfect pair for you. The trunks are a slim modern fit, feature engraved side fasteners that are adjustable, two side angle front pockets, 100 % polyamide fabric for quick drying, and chlorine, salt water, tested.

Where To Buy: www.Gravitypope.com

Forever 21 Fringed Cutout Halter Monokini

Photo Credit: Forever 21
Photo Credit: Forever 21

Swimsuits for women are continuously getting trendier year after year. Most women like to steer away from the basic one piece, and hop into an itsie, bitsie bikini. But designers are starting to step it up a notch with the average one piece by making it more stylish with fancy cutouts, patterns and designs. Take a look at this modish one piece that not only covers up, but also gives you the chance to show some skin and get sun kissed. With its unique shape, and flashy frills, you will definitely be turning heads at every beach you step foot on.

Where To Buy: www.forever21.com

TOPSHOP Sky Blue Bandeau Bikini Top

Photo Credit: TOPSHOP
Photo Credit: TOPSHOP

A very popular swimwear type that has been flooding many beaches is the two-piece with the bandeau top. The bandeau style bikini top gives off a cute and flirty look. It is also the perfect piece for women that have a petite body type. The Topshop Sky Blue Bandeau Bikini Top comes in a beautiful bright blue that is perfect for summer. It also comes with halter straps for added support and if you don’t fancy them, they are also removable. So take a risk and try a new style this hot season, you won’t regret it.

Where To Buy: www.thebay.com

Victoria’s Secret High-Waist Bottom

Photo Credit: Victoria's Secret
Photo Credit: Victoria’s Secret

When women go out on the hunt for the perfect swimsuit, they are usually focused on the top but what about the bottoms? Ladies, they are just as important. With the 80s high-waisted jeans coming back into style, they have slowly made their way into the waters. High-waisted bottoms can be paired with absolutely any bikini top. Victoria’s Secret, Forever Sexy High-Waist Bottoms, are perfect for this summer. They are comfortable and it hugs the hips bringing out your gorgeous curves. So mix and jazz it up with any of your favourite swim tops for a super, retro look.

Where To Buy: www.victoriassecret.com

 

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.

HALFWITS_SS15_HIRES_SLIDE14
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.

One on One with Naked & Famous Designer Brandon Svarc

Article by Anthony O’Dell

Denim, it’s the only thing we wear everyday but has yet to see any real innovation since its inception in America over a century ago. Naked & Famous is breathing new life into this category by using Japanese fabrics to create blends with linen & silk denim and quirky styles such as the Glow in the Dark and 32 ounce Selvage Jeans. Over the Rainbow recently collaborated with Naked & Famous for their 40th anniversary on a special Kimono Capsule Series that consists of one pair of jeans, one jacket and two pocket tees. I got a chance to chat with Brandon Svarc (Head Designer) about how the collaboration came about, how they plan to expand their denim vision and finally settles the debate on how to clean your denim.

Denim Jacket
Photo Credit: Ashlee Hutchinson

You got your start in marketing and you had your own PR Company. How did that translate to a denim company?

Brandon: The PR Company was a springboard for me, I was getting articles and features for different fashion brands and I was like shit, I want my own brand. It was very concept and story based so that’s why I built Naked & Famous Denim.

Your family has been in the denim business for generations. What’s the one thing that you’ve learned from that to help you build Naked & Famous?

Brandon: The one thing my grandfather told me is just make a better jean than your competitors at a better price. To offer product value instead of celebrity and advertising value, we don’t do any of that we just make a badass jean.

How did you start working with Over the Rainbow?

Brandon: I was 24 and just got into selvage jeans. I decided to come to Toronto and knock on some doors. I went to a guy named Hershey Weinberg. I showed him all the jeans, we did an 18-ounce Big Slub denim the first season and he’s looking at it like WTF is this! He said I can’t sell this jean gut I’m going to call up the owner of Over the Rainbow and see if he can meet you. Joel (Over the Rainbow owner) wasn’t available at the time but he left a message. An hour later, Joel calls and says, “Where are you? Be here in 15 minutes and I’ll give you five minutes”. I drive as fast as I can over and he takes me upstairs to the office. I give him the hundred mile an hour pitch and eventually he said, “Brandon I think you’re fucking crazy and that’s why I’m going to buy it”.

Kimono Print
Photo Credit: Ashlee Hutchinson

Do you remember the first styles you sold to them?

Brandon: Our entire first collection was six styles, the Skinny Guy Black Powder Stretch, which we still have, the Skinny Guy Silk-Blend denim, as well as the Weird Guy Indigo Selvage, The Weird Guy Rigid Blue, The Slim-Guy 18 Ounce Denim and a Black Selvage Straight fit.

Can you tell us a bit more about the collaboration with Over the Rainbow?

Brandon: They came to us wanting something unique and something that ties everything in. We decided on a Kimono print, which is seen on the pocket tee, the yoke on the denim jacket and the yoke & coin pocket of the jeans too. It ties everything together with the Japanese theme but is also perfect for the summer time release.

Kimono Pockets
Photo Credit: Ashlee Hutchinson

You’re known for not only having a high quality product but a reasonable price point compared to other brands. What do you think separates a $100 pair of jeans to a $300 pair?

Brandon: We’ve done $1500 jeans but they’ve been 100% cashmere so if you’re going to make expensive jeans it should be worth it. William Rast for example has admitted that they’re selling glamour, so that’s why some jeans are $300 & ours are $140. We make it in Canada and use some of the most expensive fabrics in the world but we don’t rip anyone off. We also don’t have any agents or distributors; it’s me, my sister, my sales manager and my other sales staff that do all the sales so there’s no distributor taking a mark-up. When we import the fabric from Japan we pay 0% duty because there’s no one in Canada that makes denim fabric but when you bring in a fabric from Italy or China that’s 18% import duty. So that’s one of the ways we can offer the best product value.

Denim is a commodity that can traditionally be stagnant but you’re known for having eccentric styles such as the reflective and scratch n’ sniff denim. What’s your thought process when designing a collection?

Brandon: I just want to do things that are fun! I just try to tap into being a kid, when your imagination goes wild. When I was a kid I had these glow in the dark stickers and the little scratch n sniff book, so that’s what we did. That’s what we try to do make stuff that’s fun and full of imagination.

How do you wash denim?

Brandon: The rule is there are no rules. Some guys may be extreme and never wash their jeans and there’s another guy that washes his jeans every time and they’re both right. If you want a really nice, contrasted fade jean, hold out for as long as you can. Or this other crazy concept to wash them when they get dirty!

Denim is a very personal fabric as it’s one of the only items people wear 7 days a week. Can you tell us a bit about your favourite pair of jeans?

Brandon: Personally, I wear the more basic stuff. If someone asked what’s my favourite creation, it’s probably this one (32 Ounce Denim), which is the heaviest pair of jeans in the world. It took two years to develop it; it’s really the Mount Everest of jeans.

You guys are in apparel as well, are there any other categories you’re looking to branch out too?

Brandon: I was thinking of making suits, we made suits a while ago but the factory we were using closed down. I think it would be really awesome to make some suiting. I found this beautiful supplier of wool-denim so if we could make some beautiful wool-denim suits I think that would be awesome! We’re going to do some Canadian fleece stuff (sweats, hoodies etc.) all made in Canada.