THE IT: Wet Cement at Harry Rosen

Wet Cement’s limited-edition Harry Rosen T-shirt. Story and photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

An in-store appearance by L.A. screen-printing T-shirt upstarts Wet Cement at Harry Rosen: Stranger things have happened, but possibly not amid the windsor knots and Canali double-breasted blazers of the menswear legend’s Bloor Street flagship branch. Stef Zeh and Andrew Lee, the friendly duo—designer and president, respectively—behind the breakout T-shirt line, set up temporary shop last weekend to press limited-edition Harry Rosen designs on demand for customers and media alike.

Your correspondent, having been given the chance to personally man the printing machine, left with a smart blue-on-blue version (plus a blue-on-self bonus, despite close supervision) that gave Harry’s some Chelsea Hotel-style grit. It would land comfortably in the Wet Cement design concept of signs, official warnings, notices, and scrawlings which populate the brand’s shirts, sourced from photos taken by Lee and Zeh themselves and printed with heavy emphasis on textual detail. Flip through them on the rack and they’re like a hazy, turbulent travelogue from a lost weekend in New York or an intense European tour.

Their hands-on, personal approach to production is what made the Harry’s gig possible: the setup on the main floor was essentially a micro version of their actual production line, and the process itself hasn’t changed much.

“In the beginning we didn’t have any money; I had a job when I was sixteen silk-screening t-shirts, so I knew how to do it,” Zeh recalls, with the honest earnestness of someone who still can’t quite believe how far an idea has taken her. “So we literally went to Home Depot and bought a 500 watt halogen bulb for $15. My darkroom in my old apartment was about this big [roughly the size of a single bed] and we used to sit in there playing Yahtzee together while the screens would burn, then I would go and wash them out in my bathtub with a paintbrush and a hose. So when Harry Rosen was like ‘We’ve got this machine but it’s kinda rickety,’ and we had to shove cardboard in it to make it work – this so brings it back to the beginning!”

Kitchen-sink commerce has since given way to sales at Neiman Marcus and Saks and a growing celebrity following.

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THE IT: Inside the 2010 White Cashmere Collection

Detail from Katrina Tuttle‘s design for the 2010 White Cashmere Collection, held at the AGO last week. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation event, in which top Canadian designers create clothes made entirely out of bathroom tissue, coincides with the brand’s reintroduction of its limited-edition pink product, of which 25 cents from each package sold goes to the Foundation.

Story and photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Last week’s White Cashmere show—featuring designs from Renata Morales, Pat McDonagh, Réva Mivasagar and other top Canadian couturiers—made crafting ensembles out of bathroom tissue almost look easy, obscuring a design process swathed in challenges.

“The biggest thing is that it tears,” recalled Katrina Tuttle of creating her belted sheath dress. “That was the hardest thing to get around—figuring out what was the best way to strengthen it so the garment would hold itself up. The first day, the first 12 hours, was about trial and error.”

Sleek cocktail dresses, voluminous frocks and even a swimsuit—all formed from pink and standard-issue white Cashmere bathroom tissue—appeared across a runway navigated with careful confidence by a model contingent featuring Canada’s Next Top Model, Meaghan Waller, in a sweeping Ines Di Santo gown. Shay Lowe’s Tudor-esque ruff necklace boldly established territory for accessorizing under the TP aesthetic. Remarkably there were no casualties on the catwalk, save for a bit of downed flower detailing.

Style legend Pat McDonagh, whose striking commission evoked a candy-flossed southern belle, remembers “three weeks of utter labour” culminating in near-disaster.

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THE IT: The Mixedfit T-shirt project

A T-shirt design by Hannah Claus at the Mixedfit show. Story and photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

The humble T-shirt stretches its simple fabric across the length and breadth of our lives. Both a timeless casual default in most wardrobes and a staple of American Apparel-era hipness, these social billboards project statements, clichés, politics, and commerce in equal measure–or, when unadorned, they become the foundation of understated chic. We ask a lot of them, too: They carry the burden of our cheap jokes and shameless sloganeering, and support the weight of our icons who fill them out to bursting point (never more devastatingly than on Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire).

With that in mind, the debut of the Koffler Gallery’s Mixedfit project at the well-appointed Queen West branch of Balisi (711 Queen St. W.) on Tuesday night was a characteristic launch—DJ, drinks table, and teeming crowd enter stage-right—for an atypical product. Four eclectic T-shirt designs by four diverse artists were on show and did not disappoint for both style and substance.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: Designer server style at TIFF

Staff at Spice Route, outfitted by Joeffer Caoc. Story by Marq Frerichs. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

It’s not just the red carpet that was all designer at TIFF 2010. If you looked behind the paparazzi, the handlers, the hangers-on and of course that guy or gal in the sunglasses, who doesn’t do anything but be “the person in the sunglasses, even though it’s 3:30 in the morning” person…. I digress. I hope you got a look at what your server was wearing. Chances are, it was designer.

Joeffer Caoc outfitted the crew at Spice Route in Asian-inspired elegance. I particularly loved the “Nehru” collar on the men’s shirt, and did you notice the “Obi”-style pouches in Fall 2010′s burnt orange?

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THE IT: Sarah K of catl takes us vintage shopping

Sarah Kirkpatrick, of the Toronto band catl, which has two songs in the Jonathan Sobol movie, A Beginner’s Guide to Endings. The movie stars Harvey Keitel and Tricia Helfer and premieres at TIFF tonight. More details at the end of the post!

We spent an amazing day vintage shopping with Sarah in Mirvish Village. Story by Caitlin Agnew. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Sarah Kirkpatrick is no stranger to the spotlight. As the vocalist, organist, and percussionist of Toronto blues band catl, she’s a veteran of both the stage and stage style.

I first met Kirkpatrick at The Butler’s Pantry on Markham Street. It was the morning, or rather, afternoon after her band’s biggest show to date: opening for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Lee’s Palace. She sat down next to me, lowered her yellow sunglasses, and ordered a Coke, joking afterward on how it made her feel better, like “less of a dirtbag.”

A Pilates instructor by day, Kirkpatrick knows her body—very well. She doesn’t follow trends or designers and prefers buying quality vintage, using the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly as guides: “I’m more concerned with shape and lines and the clothes actually fitting properly.”

We decided to spend the day vintage shopping in her favourite neighbourhood, Mirvish Village, where I witnessed first-hand just how a rock star chooses her look.

TIFF SPECIAL: Meet the man who made Nikki Beach

Story by Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour and Glowerers for The Style Notebook during TIFF. Today: Behind the Nikki Beach phenomenon.

Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

If you build it, the models will come. And so it was with Nikki Beach Toronto, a pop-up bar conversion specially for the festival. Nikki Beach is the white hot brand that founder Eric Omoré started in Miami in 1999. The French-born impresario then took the poolside champagne cabana concept back to the homeland setting up in St. Tropez, then expanding his empire to other playgrounds of the Diddy and fabulous, such as St. Barts, Cabo, Marbella, Croatia, Egypt, Qatar and Panama among the 20 outposts.

Some seven years ago, Omoré took a temporary tent to the Cannes festival; this is his second year in Toronto (Nikki Beach was in the Park Hyatt last September).

But its temporary home this year, at C-Lounge on Wellington, is a natural fit. The team brought in an ocean of white—the brand’s signature non-colour—to drape every inch of the place.

Then they filled it with models. Unlike other temporary havens set up for stars around town (such as the London-based private members’ club Soho House, reported on in this space earlier this week), Nikki Beach Toronto is open to regular paying customers around parties planned for this week.

Thus is the place you could actually have seen Will-i-am  from the Black Eyed Peas mingling with normal folk. Pretty, normal folk I qualify that, all swaying around the reflecting-pool-side bottle-service cabanas bathed in soft light.

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TIFF SPECIAL: How to throw an A-list party

Natasha Koifman, president of NKPR, and mastermind of some of TIFF’s hottest events. Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Planning an official TIFF red carpet party isn’t as simple as sending a mass Facebook invite—chances are if you’ve got one of those in your event inbox, it’s not the real deal. Natasha Koifman, PR maven, is the real deal.

Getting an invite to one of her TIFF events is like winning the 6/49—‚just imagine! Natasha’s agency, NKPR, is behind this year’s It Lounge, a celeb-only playground open every day during the festival, and glamorous events such as TORO magazine’s RED party and Saturday night’s swanky Artist for Peace and Justice  fundraiser.

In her Adelaide Street office (dubbed “the trenches” during TIFF),  Natasha gave last-minute directions to lighting technicians and a room full of caffeinated staff working away on Macbooks, while looking the picture of chic in knee-high Christian Louboutin boots.

Natasha sat down with The Style Notebook to talk about the behind-the-scenes of throwing a top-notch A-list soiree.

How did the TORO After Dark space come together?

“We’ve been working with TORO magazine for just over a year. Chris Brady, one of the co-founders of TORO magazine, ended up purchasing the entire New York Times Canadian photo archive with over 24,000 images, incredible images from over the past century—like Niagara Falls when it was frozen over in the 1920s, Jacqueline Onassis visiting Trudeau in the 1960s, etc.

We thought that we should really bring these images to the world, and what better time to do this than during TIFF? I thought, Why don’t we create a destination? So we created a place where celebrities can come and hang after dark—when all of their stuff is done. A lot of other film festivals don’t have this component. I remember the festival 15 years ago when we used to do that at Rosewater Supper Club, but that wasn’t really an organized thing. So now, we’re downtown by day on Adelaide at the IT Lounge and uptown by night at the PEARS on the Avenue building.”

So you’re more into creating a celebrity “space” versus just another celebrity party?

“Yes. I mean the party scene can be especially disjointed during the festival. It’s more about creating a space and a lounge and a destination as opposed to a party. I think there’s enough of those going on during the festival. We do have some of our own, certainly, but I wanted to have a destination where everyone could just hang and chill. I wanted to create a place where I would want to go to, you know, at 12 o’clock at night.”

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TIFF SPECIAL: Inside the Soho House

Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper, last night at the Soho House. Photo courtesy of Grey Goose.

Story by Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour and Glowerers for The Style Notebook during TIFF. Today: Touring the ultra-exclusive Soho House pop-up space.

Some parties around town are lit by searchlights and paparazzi strobe, but the most exclusive lounge in town has a back alley entrance off Spadina and the only identification is a tiny brass plaque hidden on the loading dock that reads Soho House.

We’ve been colonized by the Brits again, this time for a splashy six-day stint: The London private members arts club (there is a branch with boutique hotel in New York and a recent West Hollywood club only) trucked its signature mismatched couches and lamps up from New York along with the club chef, Paul Gerard.

There is no guest list, as the doors are open only to the private club’s international movie mogul jetset members. The club has set up temporary shop in Cannes for some years now, and did a trial party here in Toronto last year before extending their commitment to most of the festival this year. “It just made sense, this is where our members are this week,” says the club’s plummy London-based publicist Izzy May.

The heaviest hitter, Harvey Weinstein, has brought in a stream of box office boffo, from Colin Firth (who was feted with a giant chocolate cake for his 50th birthday) to Javier Bardem, Marion Cotillard and Blake Lively.

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STYLE MAP: Ruins

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, info@ruinstoronto.com)

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? Continue reading

SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At Magnolia’s BASCH party

Brandon Dwyer, designer of BASCH outside Magnolia Boutique (333 Eglinton Ave. W.). Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

In Toronto, there are few reasons for the style set to travel north of Bloor: family, friends or, in my case, Magnolia Boutique. As a precursor to tonight’s BASCH by Brandon Spring 2010 presentation at 99 Sudbury, designer Brandon Dwyer teamed up with shop owner Juan Carlos for a sneak peak at the collection last week.

A cult haven for well-to-do Forest Hill-iates, Magnolia has been around since November 2008. Juan Carlos’s background in fashion design (he was an aspiring designer two lives ago) fueled his passion to get great work noticed. “Instead of being part of the designers that compete with each other, I wanted to help showcase local talent alongside international brands, so my customers would realize that fashion is not just European or American style,” Carlos explains.

Among Magnolia’s offerings for the upcoming season (shipments arrive daily): fur faves IZMA, painstakingly pretty Lucian Matis, the print piper Zoran Dobric, and body-con dresses and perfectly versatile tweeds from BASCH.

“I was happy to pair with BASCH because we share a value: uniqueness,” says Carlos. “That’s important at Magnolia: We don’t get more than three pieces per style, and we don’t reorder anything, no matter how fast it sells out. We don’t want our clients to think that they’re unique, only to run into a friend in the exact same outfit.”

Click through to check out our favourite looks from the night!

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