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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Ministry of Tomorrow Debuts Premier Luxury Vegan Unisex Bag Collection

The Ministry of Tomorrow (MOT) has launched their debut collection of premier luxury, vegan, unisex bags. MOT’s flagship production facility, located in Nairobi, Kenya, just outside of Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, is Africa’s newest fashion house.

The company recruited highly skilled tailors who reside in Kibera and offered them fare wage jobs to work with high quality sustainable materials such as Italian and Japanese animal free leather, 100% certified eco-material and fair trade cotton from India, and low impact dyes acceptable for use with organic textiles.

After several years of perfecting design, production, and eco-material sourcing, MOT’s factory in Nairobi produces luxury bags that are on par with Milan’s notables with a new twist.

“We design and produce eco-luxury bags for a new audience of conscious consumers. Social, environmental, and animal rights activism is at the core of our brand. Our bags are produced with respect for the earth and care for animals and the people who are involved at each step of the production” said Julian Prolman, founder and president of the Ministry of Tomorrow.

MOT launched its classic collection with four original designs that include a portfolio, briefcase, cross-body, and a backpack that are available in two elegant vegan black leather options. The bags are masterfully crafted with a minimalist exterior and a wild Afro-funk Maasai warrior mask pattern interior.

“We have a new story for the fashion world. This is more than fashion, it’s an awakening, a new way of doing business that empowers people and protects animals and the planet” said Prolman.

The new collection retails from $395 to $895 and can be purchased online directly from the company at www.ministryoftomorrow.com

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Dress To Dare: Fashion Risk Takers

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sugegasa hides his face and a blue ruffled dress covers his body — just a few dreadlocks that are sticking out of the umbrella-like hat tell us that it is not a samurai. The hidden figure is Atlanta rapper Young Thug on the cover of his mixtape, Jeffery. 

This amount of steeze could astonish or freak you out. The truth is, Young Thug and many others are breaking fashion rules and creating their own.

Jaden Smith beams with confidence when the 18-year-old actor and rapper appears in different skirts and leggings, whether he’s on the streets on in the pages of Teen Vogue, which named him one of its ultimate fashion icons.

Rihanna, who received the CFDA Style Icon Award and was honoured as “fashion’s most exciting muse” by Vogue in 2014, continues to inspire women and designers to experiment with rebellious looks. From hitting the summer streets of London in her oversized Raf Simons to her Fenty Puma Creeper winning Footwear Shoe of the year, Rihanna’s continued influence on fashion is undeniable.

Photo: Peter Ash Lee
Photo: Peter Ash Lee

When choosing what to wear, some people might attribute themselves a particular gender. For the current rule breakers, however, gender is irrelevant when it comes to fashion; everyone is allowed to express themselves in whichever way they like. Finally, some are just tired of fast fashion that seems to change its trends few times a week. The fashion-wise vote for kookiness and creativityThere are no rules, particular trends, or formulas when it comes to personal style anymore.

“It’s good to step outside of the box sometimes and expand what you wanna do,” says Cole Ryan, who owns ODNAB, men’s clothing store located at 677 Queen Street West. “I’m pretty open-minded in terms of what I wear, like C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket is one of my favourite pieces,” Ryan says. “It is something that a lot of people don’t really want to wear because it’s a little bit too much, but I like flashier stuff, and I feel that I have to set my style a little bit above the norm because I have a store.”

Ryan is a big fan of Scott Disick’s style because the TV personality has very interesting swag: “He wears a pair of En Noir jeans with Chelsea boots, and he also wears a purple suit with slippers.”

Since women try on and buy items for themselves at ODNAB, Ryan is not sure anymore whether his business is just a men’s store: “Everything is turning to unisex as opposed to separate male and female clothes in terms of fashion. I have a lot of female customers, and at the same time everything in the store is what I personally would wear.” Many girls find baggy items both comfortable and stylish.

Chantelle Blagrove at Kit and Ace on Queen West/Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva
Chantelle Blagrove at Kit and Ace on Queen West/Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva

Chantelle Blagrove, a team leader at Kit and Ace on Queen Street West, says she admires those who explore and create new crazy styles. Watching the Grammys and film festivals, she often sees women like Rihanna wearing a suit or men like Young Thug wearing bows. Balgrove says because those young celebrities are in the spotlight now, they could educate people on how there’s no straight lines in the way someone dresses.

“I think it’s dope that someone can just leave their house in full confidence not really caring what people think about them,” says Balgrove who just bought an Oak + Fort oversized denim coat with sherpa lining. “Eighty percent of my wardrobe is menswear because it’s comfier. I don’t like things close to my body and sweaters and hoodies just fit me better.”

Blagrove says she is proud to have a better vintage tee collection than a half of the guys she knows. “Most guys are going to borrow my clothes,” she says, laughing.

C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket/Courtesy of ODNAB website
C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket/Courtesy of ODNAB website

Style conservatives could knit their perfectly fashionable brows but street culture and adherence to originality have taken a huge bite out of the fashion world.

Today, more than ever, fashion is beginning to challenge our way of thinking. “People don’t care if you do something normally,” Ryan says. “You walk down Queen West and observe things around you. You see something you saw in a magazine. You see guys wearing women’s clothes. It’s cool. Where fashion is going is positive because it’s not so black and white. There are grey areas which are fun to explore.”

Designer Profile: MOON.rar

With the rise of comedic dark humour trending in fashion right now–be it on pins, patches, embroidery or silk screened garments– we sat down with Devin Gibson, Creative Director & Founder of rising streetwear brand MOON.rar, to get a deeper explanation of the ideas behind the fad that is taking over!

Ryan Wohlgemut: Can you tell us about yourself and how would you describe your design aesthetics?
Devin Gibson: I’m an awkward, introverted person most of the time; I think that my clothing represents that. All of my designs are minimal, sometimes they’re loud, but most of the time they’re confusing.

RW: What is the thought process behind your designs?
DG: Honestly I try not to think too hard about my designs, I just make whatever I want to wear.

MOON.rarRW: What is the brand story of MOON.rar?
DG: I started MOON.rar about 7 or 8 months ago when I learned how to silk screen. Then I started making t-shirts out of my basement. I was mostly selling to my friends and not really making any profit. At the time I was working a shitty job in Kensington Market and one day when my boss wasn’t there I set up rack out front with a few of my designs. About 4 hours and $20 later I was going to leave, but one of the owners of Untitled & Co happened to walk by and he said they could sell my clothing in their store. After that I went home and grabbed all the clothing I had and brought it to the Untitled & Co location on Queen Street West. Since then I’ve had a lot more confidence in my designs so I am trying to build off of that momentum. I also sell my clothing in another small store called Creeps and online.

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More styles of MOON.rar available at Untitled & Co.

RW: Where do you get your inspiration?
DG: Mostly from anime but combined with however I feel at the time. The great aspect about having control over the entire process is that I can think of a design in the morning and have it done by the afternoon. Music is also a big inspiration for me. I need to have music when I am making shit. Slug Christ and pretty much everyone on Awful Records is what I’ve been listening to.

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Canadian Hip Hop Artist Tory Lanez wearing MOON.rar while performing at WayHome Music Festival

RW: What inspired you to start making your own clothing?
DG: It’s something I’ve wanted to do from a young age, but I think my main drive is that I hate working for other people. It’s also a way that I can connect with people, which is something I’ve always had trouble with.

RW: Does your own cultural background have anything to do with your design aesthetic?
DG: Maybe? I think I’m mostly inspired by other cultures, specifically Japanese.

MOON.rar

RW: What is the biggest challenge you have faced yet this far?
DG: The biggest challenge I face is that I do everything myself. It’s been a really great experience learning about the process, but as I grow it’s becoming difficult to print every garment myself while handling other aspects of the business.

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MOON.rar Team Mystic “Trainer” tee

RW: Can you give us a hint of upcoming products?
DG: I have mostly just been printing on t-shirts, but I finally have hats on the way. With summer coming to an end you can expect jackets and sweaters.

Instagram: @moon.rar
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City Downtown: The Next Generation Of Toronto’s Brand Managers

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The fashion landscape in Toronto is changing, and with it, a new era of brand managers and fashionistas are breaking into the scene. We have our eye on the ladies and gents from City Downtown, and yesterday, we were able to chat with the team of enthusiastic, driven fashion management students from George Brown Casa Loma campus.

The store is part of a term-long project that thirty-one fashion management students embark on at the beginning of the fall term, in order to familiarize themselves with the inner workings of owning and operating a store, from buying to selling to analytics and everything in between. Every part of the store was designed by the students, from the logo to the visual to the layout of the furniture. The store hosts a range of unisex, men’s and women’s clothing, as well as a curated selection of jewellery and accessories. They have curated clothing from Ava and Cheap Monday, and they also host select consignment pieces.

“One thing we have noticed is that our menswear is moving very quick,” explains Bailey Grieves, General Manager of City Downtown. “We carry Religion for men, and it’s a great addition to the collections we already have, like Alternative and Nana Judy. Another thing we keep in mind is our price point catering to our demographic. We try to keep everything in perspective, and always ask ourselves ‘would we spend the money on this?’. Our average price point is around $25 and the high end is about $60, so it really is accessible to anyone. What makes us different is we have these custom jackets,” Grieves said. “We will go pick these vintage jean or camo jackets, and invite our clientele to write on it with fabric paint, either a catchy quote or a show-stopping phrase. Those have been a big hit within the community.”

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At the end of the day, it’s about gaining the experience in this project that they will be able to utilize outside of the college’s walls, as each person within the store has a specific role to fulfill with expectations from not only their professor, but their teammates and the business. Working within their visual and promotional budgets from their accountant, they were able to bring together a clean, sophisticated, and chic store.

“This has been the best experience because it’s all hands on, and if you like this and you’re good at it, then you know you can go out and manage a store, especially since you are doing this, while juggling your other courses and commitments,” Grieves said. “We are flipping the store every week. The whole layout of the store has been done by the visual team, with everything from the wall deco to the jewellery visual to the layout. Basically, we started it from nothing, and anything we wanted, we had to create ourselves.”

As for what’s up next for the store and the entrepreneurs, their Friends & Family Night on November 8th is coming up quick, which is a chance for the students to showcase their talent in the store, boost sales, and give their store further exposure. As well, they have a fashion show and a number of events in the works, so keep up with the next generation of Toronto brand managers at @gbdowntown #meetusdowntown

All photographs courtesy of Michelle Nuenes.