Josh Reichmann and the amazingly named Mikey Apples, co-owners of RUINS. Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.
RUINS (960 Queen St. W., ruinstoronto.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
For those who don’t call a dog a dog and a spoon a spoon*, you probably don’t call a blazer just a blazer. Well, neither do Josh Reichmann and Mikey Apples. Their new concept boutique, RUINS, is the closest thing to shopping for clothes in an actual gallery space—minus the “do not touch” signs and the attitude. In Reichmann’s words, Ruins is “an ever-mutating, creative project that is finely curated.” Whether you shop at RUINS to pick up a rare vintage piece, to enhance your music repertoire, or to get your hair cut in the single-chair salon out back, the duo promises to deliver an aesthetic experience that will linger long after you leave the store.
*”The passion of an aesthete is absolutely inaccessible to the man of ordinary concept who calls a dog a dog and a spoon a spoon.” —R. Huelsenbeck in En Avant Dada.
How do you two know each other?
Josh: “We both come from the music world in Toronto: Mikey in the capacity of managing touring bands like Crystal Castles. I was in a touring band so our paths were always crossing. Every time we talked, we found out that we had common interests in aesthetics, design, art, and music, so we kind of jived on those levels. Touring and recording is one thing for me, but I’ve always wanted to station myself and get involved in clothes and branding this whole world that I had envisioned.”
How does one go from envisioning this world to taking the plunge and opening a store?
Josh: “I had some connections to the fashion world from the music world, through labels in New York like Assembly and Opening Ceremony. The main questions were: What lines do we want, what lines can we get, and where do we want to be? It was really tough to locate the perfect space on Queen Street—over here, it changes block by block. We totally lucked into this place even though—unluckily—it needed tons of work. We spent the next couple of months rebuilding it into the space we envisioned.”
I’m sure you’ve heard this from skeptics along the way, but really: Another indie Queen West boutique?
Josh: “I don’t think that there’s any store doing what we’re doing on Queen West or in the entire city, really. Not specific to our brands at least, and the kind of curation that we’re into.”
Mikey: “There are a lot of shops that are curated but there’s no ‘look’—we have a look. At least for this season—it will always change. We made the space so that it would be more like a gallery, apt to change as time goes by and as seasons change. All the ephemera, the bags, tags, business cards—we designed those all ourselves and we’ll keep changing them to suit a particular moment or feeling, along with the decor and the merchandise. It’s kind of like a brand but not a brand, if that makes sense.”
What makes RUINS the needle in the haystack?
Josh: “You can buy some of the brands and pieces that we sell online, but when you do, there isn’t an experience, a human relationship or any culture. A shop like this offers the customer all those things. I don’t like buying online because you just get an object; you don’t get stories, memories, etc. If you come buy something from us, you can foster a relationship with us and the store, which will go into designing your wardrobe—as opposed to just sussing out these things on your own. This is especially true with the more obscure brands we sell, as well as with the vintage and fragrance.”
Where do you source your vintage from? Can someone just walk in and be like, Hey I want to sell my old blazer…
Josh: “No, no. It’s not like that. We have two people who work for us who pick out the vintage pieces, and it takes them quite a while to do so. We’re not like stock surplus of anything like that. [Mikey smirks] Anything you find here, guaranteed, unless you go on eBay to wrestle with people and pay five times the amount, we got it here because we did the work to bring it here. Like, have you ever seen a bomber jacket from the ’50s? Because I haven’t, ever, until we got one here in store. It’s really unique pieces like that which make the difference.”
Mikey: “Our vintage is super rare and in excellent condition. It’s really difficult to find pieces like this because they usually go straight to Japan, where they get marked up about 80 percent.”
Josh: “Most vintage stores on Ossington don’t keep their special pieces in store—they just sell them online. Us, on the other hand, we’re selling these pieces in store.”
How do you balance effortless, educated cool without plunging into the deep end of the try-too-hard hipster black hole?
Josh: “I think it’s the subtlety in most of the lines that we carry that makes the difference and offsets the silly, flamboyant side of trying too hard. RUINS is a relaxed place and yet the clothes are pretty sophisticated. If you look at Greg Armas over at Assembly—he’s making his way up there. He’s doing Robert Geller pop-up sales in New York and Vogue‘s covering him, but when you meet him he’s super laid-back. If you give a hip person this experience along with the cool, sophisticated clothing, suddenly they’re elevated.”
Mikey: “All someone needs to do is stand in front of a mirror and try on some of the pieces to see how they could be dressing. It works on almost anybody.”
[Josh stands up to do a quick show-and-tell, trying on a burgundy windbreaker-turned-blazer that he just bought from his own store].
Josh: “If you buy a piece from us, you’re going to get a character piece that’s neither crazy-town or hyper rich. You can just live in it.”
Will you be launching a blog?
Mikey: “Yeah, there is a site that exists. We just haven’t gotten around to plugging things in. We will be updating it with whatever we like, including music, deejays, bands, etc.”
Josh: “We’re going to try to bring some of our own interests to the average clothing buyer who may not be aware of the more obscure cultural products out there. It really is a life’s work that informs the entire experience.”
Who is the RUINS man/woman?
Mikey to Josh: “I don’t know—us?”
Mikey: “For this season we’re pretty unisex with the clothing—we have a handful of specifically women’s pieces as well. Like the wool cape from Thomas—anyone can wear it and give it a gender.”
Josh: “I think it’s a person who is looking for a unique piece that they already had in mind and that this store brings to life. I remember when I first when to Assembly in New York, I saw their pieces and was like, That’s what I was trying to replicate when I was buying weird vintage blazers, and finally someone had made the proper cool one. It’s all about the cut here. That’s the difference with our aesthetic. Obviously everyone has seen a wool blazer in their lifetime, but they haven’t necessarily seen or tried on the cuts of wool blazers that we carry. They are kind of slick and sexy—not greasy sexy but intelligent sexy. You put on one of our blazers and are like, Bam, I have a thing I can wear all year round without feeling like ‘the guy in the crazy suit.’”
Mikey: “It’s really fun watching people realize that that—their reactions when they’re in front of the mirror.”