Allie Hughes and band at 69 Vintage Collective. Story and photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.
The subway is packed but the crowds aren’t filtering out to this edge of the Junction Triangle, well beyond the festival zones. Still, at the Bloor West home of the 69 Vintage Collective (1207 Bloor St. W.) the banner of public art is being unfurled under the auspices of their Soiree des Hiboux event, a Nuit Blanche celebration with art, food and music.
In this case, the art is provided by the Lolita & Consuela installation, a slide projection on the joys of an inebriated kitchen party, which plays casually in an upstairs window.
The “collective” part isn’t just hyperbole: the building houses a number of independent boutiques besides its namesake which give the place a D.I.Y. shopping mall feel. Tomorrow Never Knows conjures up the bedroom of an imaginary best friend; Stacked presents a curatorial collection of bags and footwear; through the kitchen is The Make Den, a design studio and school run by the affable Irene Stickney, fresh off the streets tonight from leading a Nuit Blanche gallery tour with the Deadly Nightshades (“Heels on Wheels”) bicycle club.
Below, Tomorrow Never Knows.
Below, Irene Stickney in The Make Den.
69 Vintage has the entire first floor to itself, which is enthusiastically stocked with layers of trending vintage styles and revivals-in-waiting. Emma Doll, the 69 Collective’s manager, has observed a definite Mad Men Effect among the clientele, and also notes a sea change in attitudes towards vintage clothing where, as she puts it, “everything’s flashing back and being combined together and it all works.”
Multiple eras increasingly meet and mingle as part of the same outfit, let loose by internet inspiration. “Right now we’re experimenting with all these different decades because we have the technology to look back and be inspired by the past,” she says. “We have so much power in our laptops and I think that’s why people are being more experimental with fashion right now, as they have all this information at their fingertips.”
In-demand vintage for 2011? Watch for cape jackets and ’70s-style maxi dresses, she advises optimistically. “I was just looking at some clothes from the ’60s and I was struck by how fun and experimental they were; the colors, the extreme fits, the silhouettes. I feel like now we’re starting to get back to that.”
It’s close to midnight when Allie Hughes and her band start their acoustic set. Her lilting, playfully determined voice fills the shop while her eyes sweep the room like searchlights and her songs drift through the open door. Contrary to appearances, this is an atypical gig for them. “We’re not a stripped-down kinda band, really,” she says afterwards. “We usually pull out all the stops. We probably overdo it most of the time.”
There’s a touch of that on the rollicking Damaged Nail, which lands somewhere between The Plasmatics and Kate Bush, while a lighthearted cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic hints at convention-busting irreverence. “I feel like in the indie scene, in Toronto, everyone basically wears the same thing,” Allie laments with a laugh. “Normally we all wear themed costumes on stage; sometimes I dress as a jockey, sometimes I dress as a showgirl, sometimes I dress as a bride. I’ve been a vampire prom queen.” Their gently charged performance is heavy on precision and aching melody, with an immediacy that reverberates—no amplification necessary—into the grit of Bloor & Lansdowne after dark.