Transcript of Sushi Fridays EP004: Do (fashion) creatives need to leave Toronto to "make it"?

 Welcome, welcome to Sushi Fridays. I'm your host, Andrea Pascual. I'm a fashion brand owner and designer. I'm also a brand slash graphic designer, and I'm recording this from homebase, Toronto, Canada. Today's episode is a topic I've had many, many, many conversations about with creatives of all kinds, particularly in Toronto, and it's one that sits very close to home.

The discussion today is, do we as creatives need to leave Toronto to make it? Specific to this conversation, I'll be talking about fashion creatives. So from a fashion point of view. And let me tell you why I thought about this. So I've been thinking about this ever since I left Toronto to begin with 14 years ago but more recently since I was paying attention to the Kith opening in Yorkville. So Kith is an American brand. I am a fan of Kith.

My fiance put me on Kith and I mean, I've been to the store in Brooklyn, in Manhattan. I have Kith clothing. I'm a fan of Ronnie. I think Kith is a dope brand. When I saw the lineups on Instagram and TikTok, I thought, holy crap, I need to be there. And I also thought, when was the last time people lined up for a cool, dope Canadian brand?

And I'm not talking about Canada Goose jackets at Yorkdale. I mean, a dope independent brand. I haven't seen it. And if you have, send me a message and put me on. But, I have not seen it with my own eyes. So this led me to the topic of today's episode, Do we as fashion creatives need to leave Toronto to make it?

To preface this, here's my backstory. I was born and raised in Toronto and this is if you're new to me because you're probably thinking why is she talking about this and why does she care so much? Well, let me tell you. So I was born and raised in Toronto. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York 14 years ago.

This was after finishing my graphic design degree in Toronto. After my schooling in New York. I was given this work visa that allowed me to stay in the U.S. if I got sponsorship within X amount of months of graduation. Didn't happen. After that, I moved to Vancouver. I interned at an independent Canadian footwear company called John Fluevog.

I also started making leather goods out of my apartment. When that internship ended, I stayed in Vancouver for five years. I started working office jobs, I worked as a footwear salesperson at this department store called The Bay, I was working in restaurants, I worked in real estate preconstruction – all of that while sewing on the evenings and weekends.

Lo and behold, the west coast didn't work out for me so I moved back home to Toronto. When I moved back home to Toronto, I started saving up for another sewing machine, I started a leather choker collection, I continued sewing leather goods while working other jobs during the day, and it was difficult, not gonna lie.

Fast forward to last year, I launched my recent capsule collection. I reached out to a ton of people, like, creators, influencers, etc. just to inquire about if they would be interested in helping me promote, etc. Only a handful of people responded, and I'm not kidding, I reached out to a lot, like, a ton of people.

And the creator, slash influencer agencies who I connected with, Some of them either ghosted, didn't answer, some of them did respond and literally ghosted me mid email conversation, like, okay cool. So, I've never really felt supported in Toronto, just in general, and I've been doing this for a long time.

Maybe it's me, I don't want to dwell on that anymore, but... Just my general feeling after seeing how things were in New York, and seeing the community there, and also going back quite often throughout the years, and seeing the way my friends have flourished there. Sometimes I just can't stop thinking to myself, like, do we as fashion creatives need to leave Toronto to make it?

I am going to explore four ideas to add to this discussion and let's see where this goes. 

Number one, lack of resources. So we don't have a fashion week here. We used to. It doesn't exist anymore. Get this, fashion isn't considered part of the arts, so it's not included in government culture portfolios, so no grants specific to fashion.

Cool. And we have the CAFA awards, which I follow closely. Shout out to all the dope creatives who were nominated, who won. I'm really big on supporting Canadian fashion and just Canadian creatives doing it up. That being said, if you're not invited to sit at the table, like me, then what does, what does that person do?

What does one do if they're not invited to sit at the table? So, what I did was, when they announced the CAFA Awards, I was like, okay, I don't know anyone here. I'm gonna place myself in that situation. I'm gonna be proactive. I'm gonna be part of this, you know. So I went online and I thought to myself I'm gonna get a ticket.

I want to sit at the table and meet people. I kid you not I looked up what a solo ticket was. It was seven or eight hundred dollars. Can't remember just several hundred dollars. A very very big number and then I thought okay That is unattainable. Bye. So that didn't work out. 

Do we as fashion creatives need to leave Toronto to make it?

Number two, where exactly is our fashion epicentre in the city? So aside from the lack of resources here, if we do want people to support us, where can they line up? Where's our shopping district? Where's the foot traffic? Where Canadian brands live, like where can we congregate? Let's take a look at some Toronto neighbourhoods.

So we have Queen West. I was walking on Queen West the other day. I went into KOTN Canadian brand. Dope stuff, cool. I walked to Frank and Oak a few steps away across the street, cool. Didn't see anything else after that. So, which boutique is the coolest and has the best Canadian brands? Let's look at Ossington.

Love the vibes, Reigning Champ, Canadian, BC based. I've been a fan for a long time. Meijuri jewelry brand, Canadian, cool. There's a men's boutique right at the corner of Queen and Ossington. They have some cool stuff. Spadina has Nomad. Very cool store. I don't know if I saw any Canadian brands in there and I was there a couple weeks ago.

And Livestock on Spadina, the new expanded location. I think their socials doesn't do the store justice. Like the store is a fun shopping experience. I was there a few weeks ago with my fiancé and we spent a lot of time in the store, like looking at clothes and just like enjoying the store. Okay, cool. And now we have Yonge and Bloor, which was formerly positioned as a place to shop years ago.

I don't even know what's going on in there, like, I only go to Italy, sorry, I only go to Eataly to eat, and Indigo to look at books, that's it. But, we have Yorkville, so it gets better. There's CNTRBND, there is the Serpentine, which several months ago I walked in and I spoke to the owner, he was, he gave so much insight on just the fashion and culture scene in the city, so that was interesting.

We have Stone Island there, Kith, and then The Webster, which is actually my favourite boutique in Toronto, but I feel like it needs Canadian brands. So, looking at all those little neighbourhoods, I'm not sure where a version of Soho exists, or the fact that the stores are kind of scattered. The fact that we don't have like a place to congregate as fashion people, I don't know.

I mean @thepeoplegallery_ is my favourite Instagram account. He is basically a fashion vlogger who goes around interviewing people and asking them what they're wearing. Where would I, and this is how I picture it, if I was doing something like that, which area of the city would I do that in? And he does it in Soho, New York.

Where would I do that in Toronto? I don't know. Where's our fashion epicentre in the city? Not sure. 

Number three. Do we as fashion creatives need to leave Toronto to make it? Now this third point is personal to me because it's pretty specific. So, our leather craft industry here is nonexistent. And the reason why this is personal to me is because this is the first thing I've learned designing shoes and handbags, leather goods, making the pattern, cutting the pattern, cutting the leather, and constructing leather goods is different than apparel because there's a way to to approach the leather like the edges need to be shaved off which is called skiving the edges need to be glued sometimes the leather needs to be something needs to reinforce the leather to make it stronger and there's different like sewing and weaving techniques to put it together as well I have a cylinder arm sewing machine so imagine me sticking my arm out and and rolling a handbag around it if that makes sense.

So that's the kind of machine I have but leather crafting also needs specific machines depending on if I'm sewing a wallet or sewing something else where I could just use a flatbed sewing machine. Getting a little technical here but the approach is different from apparel and the leather crafting industry doesn't exist.

So as a leather goods designer, it's pretty tough trying to create a collection on my own as one person, like just pushing out leather goods. It doesn't exist here in the city. 

Number four, lack of community. And this one is also a little personal to me and maybe it's because I am quote unquote a little bit older or maybe it's because most people I know are hashtag no new friends They don't care about fashion or schmoozing or like going to events and meeting people.

I don't even know if that's required. All I know is that there is a certain feeling about this city that if you're not cool, if you're not popping, if you're not rated by someone else, then you're, you're still not cool enough. Like, you know, it's like you need to pop off first for people to rate you. And that has been the feeling for a very long time.

I don't like bringing negativity into my conversations anymore because I don't like vibrating on that level, but that is a common topic of conversation. I do still talk to fashion creatives who I meet and we talk about everything and they say they want to move to New York, they want to move to LA, they want to move to London, etc.

And as someone who's tried moving to the US, what I'd like to know is what work visa are you on? The older one gets, the quote unquote harder it is, they say, but I think it's also because you have a different set of responsibilities. As you age, like a family, like a mortgage, a steady job, etc. And it's not that easy to pick up and go to another country without anything set up yet, without sponsorship, realistically.

So, yeah, I want to know, like, for those who are thriving in LA or New York, Can you send me a message, please, and let me know which work visa you're on? I'm really trying to understand this here. But...Yeah, I think that lack of community or lack of feeling of community plays a big role in creatives thinking that we have to leave the city because all we want is support.

It's just very hard to find support if you're not part of a clique, if you're not part of a crew, etc. 

To recap, number one. In my opinion, I think that our resources are limited. We have a lack of grants and funding and I don't expect everyone to be invited to the table. But if we're not invited to sit at the table, then where else can we go?

Like what other table can we sit at? Number two, where's a place where we can shop and congregate and like buy dope Canadian brands. Does the fact that our stores are spread out throughout the city. Like does that affect things? Location means a lot right? So how does that affect it? How does that affect our feeling about fashion in the city?

Number three a personal reason but for me I don't have manufacturing resources in Toronto, point blank, period. My main material is leather and the leather crafting industry is non-existent here. And then number four, the lack of community. From my perspective, is it my age? Do I need to schmooze more? I am not part of the clique or the cool crew or whatever exists out there.

So how does that work out now with all of those points of discussion? I don't like talking without presenting some sort of solution. So my solution is, regardless of the lack of resources, regardless of the question of location, regardless of the lack of manufacturing, regardless of the feeling of stush in the city, we have to create our own community.

We have to still build together. I have met so many cool people, especially in the past year, who are doing great things in fashion, who don't care about awards, or to be rated, but who do care about great work and just, like, doing dope, expressive, new, fresh work. That's the shit I care about too. So we create our own community and how do we do this?

I am a community person on the other end of the spectrum in my graphic design world. I've been building an online community since the beginning of COVID and I've learned that meeting people from online to in real life and growing and just building from there does make a difference in learning and support and just getting better at what we do so this is my solution and because this is called Sushi Fridays I'm sharing this with you so if you're listening, listen closer, please.

A private sushi dinner party on Friday where different fashion creatives from top to bottom like executive level, to student who just graduated, someone transitioning in their career to fashion, photographers, mentors, designers, etc, not just people from a PR list. Yes, so these kinds of people, I was going off on a tangent there, but these kinds of people having real conversations, real learning and connecting on Sushi Friday.

This is my solution because I think we need to learn from each other, we need to support each other and this is the best way to do it from connecting and talking and sharing our stories and seeing how we can improve. If you are a fashion creative in Toronto, Canada and you're listening to this and you want to talk about this episode and you want to join us for dinner on Sushi Fridays, with a private guest list because I'm gonna curate it, please DM me @sushifridayspod on Instagram or send me an email at SushiFridaysPod (at) gmail (dot) com. I wanna continue the conversation with my city 'cause I know this is where I am right now. So let's do it here. Let us do something. Let me know if this episode made any kind of sense or resonated in any sort of way with you.

Please subscribe to Sushi Fridays on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or iHeartRadio. One very last thing, if you are a creative or a founder or an entrepreneur and you would benefit from a free brand audit from me, Please leave me a review and a rating, send me a screenshot and we can set it up. I will talk to you soon.

I'm your host Andrea Pascual. I'm signing off now. It's Thursday night and I'm getting this podcast ready for Friday and I will talk to you again next Friday.