In a world full of Instagram fashion that has people resorting to overdone trends that go out of style as fast as they started, Aissatou Leye has created a platform where being yourself trumps all.
Leye runs an Instagram account called 416_fits, which documents Toronto’s street fashion. But the account is also doing something more — Leye is producing a time capsule that represents the unique individuals who make up Toronto’s culture. While there is no shortage of street style accounts on Instagram and TikTok these days, Leye’s certainly stands out. The fashion feels more real, worlds away from the staged outfit pictures on the average influencer’s page. And while the comment sections of other street fashion accounts often fill with criticism of everything from the outfits to the creator, 416_fits commenters are often complimentary, shouting out their friends when they’re featured and highlighting certain outfit elements that they love.
So how does a Torontonian who spends her time finding the coolest fits in the city spend her day?
To no one’s surprise, the answer is fashion, fashion everything. Leye took me to SOOP SOOP, a store in Trinity Bellwoods that sells fashion from all corners of the industry. She needed to pick up a backlog of magazines that she’s been waiting to snag since May.
As we made our way over, she told me that she started the account in 2021 while working at a local clothing store.
“I saw this woman who had a really cool outfit when I was on my way to work and wanted to tell my co-worker about what this person was wearing,” she says. “But, as I started describing it to them, the image of the outfit starting fleeing my head and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I should have asked for a photo.’”
From that day on, Leye vowed to take pictures of not just cool outfits, but design choices that made people unique. I saw this in real-time as I watched her dart behind me and ask a man for a photo of his tattoos. Both of his legs were covered in American traditional style tattoos that made up leg sleeves in a patchwork style.
We popped into SOOP SOOP for Leye to grab what turned out to be an abundance of fashion and art books from some of her top inspirations.
Though she documents other people’s fashion moments, it’s clear Leye herself is one of Toronto’s most fashionable young people. And her love for clothing and design goes beyond her roots in the city.
“My parents taught me that dressing up was a form of respect. They both dress super well and are from Senegal. Culturally speaking, dressing up is embedded in our culture,” Leye says.
While flipping through racks of denim skirts at a nearby vintage store, Leye and I discussed what pieces would garner a feature on the account. But Leye explained that street style is more about the person than the clothing.
“I want it to seem like second skin,” she says. “I’m drawn to people who are comfortable with themselves. It’s unintentionally cool. The authenticity comes out through the details — that’s why I love talking to people about rings. They always have cool stories.”
After debating the purchase of a calf-length denim skirt, we made our way through Ossington to sit down for drinks, and chat more about the impact she’s had on street culture.
“Community is really important to me. Last summer, someone made a TikTok that basically said ‘Toronto youth culture is dressing in hopes you get noticed by 416_fits,'” she says. “Just seeing that 400 people liked it meant a lot. To see 400 people in front of you is a lot of people!”
Now that the account has garnered recognition from mainstream publications, Leye is taking it a bit more seriously. With almost 5,000 followers and the account regularly hitting 1,000 likes on each street style post, she’s built up quite the audience. However, growing organically is still her main focus.
“The future of 416 is continuing to build the community, and maybe have a few in-person events,” she says. “I want to connect with more people. The conversations I have with the people I meet are so brief, so I want to be able to chat with interesting people longer.”