At first glance, 575 Queen St. W. seems to have laid dormant for years. However, once you pry open the doors, you’ll enter the fervent design headquarters of one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets.
He goes by Drakes, and his namesake label, worn by the likes of Sean Paul, has been popping in and out of Toronto’s fashion scope for years.
The brand began in 2015. “At first it was just graphic designing and throwing it onto a T-shirt. I would print it out, screen print it, embroidery it, all that stuff,” Drakes says.
He developed his craft at a design academy, then at Toronto Metropolitan University. While there, Drakes began designing further away from the industry norms he was learning — including a hoodie engineered to be so warm Torontonians could wear it as a single layer in the winter.
During his time there, Drakes developed a design ethos that focused on converting streetwear to high-street attire through a grunge lens.
But Drakes’s favourite was the middle finger vest: “It pretty much sums up the brand perfectly. It’s a big f**k you to mainstream, societal norms, rat race and all that bulls**t.”
In 2022, Drakes landed a runway spot at Fashion Art Toronto. He showcased a collection called “Menace in Venice,” a utility-heavy capsule that sparked a conversation about the way Black communities were treated in the ’90s and 2000s by police.
“I think it’s something that designers in Toronto should partake in at least once,” Drakes says, noting his respect for FAT and the people involved. “I don’t know about twice though … I found myself in rooms with people who didn’t even care about the design. They just wanted to get famous or be viral.”
Now, he continues to lean away from industry norms. He doesn’t care for his social media, posting a handful of times a year. His clothing is released by collection, specifically when he’s in the right mental state to be dropping new designs.
“I truly believe my brand isn’t made for the masses. My clientele enjoys keeping me a secret and being a part of a movement that has no mainstream intentions,” says Drakes.
Drakes’s next step for the label is to continue treating it like an Easter egg hunt. He plans on releasing his next collection, “Heaven or Hell,” later this year or in early 2024, stating: “It’ll drop when I’m in the right headspace.”