Toronto’s first fashion club is opening on King Street

Toronto’s first and only fashion club is opening on King Street this weekend and it’s everything it sounds like and more. Just west of Tecumseth Street, you can’t miss the all-black, industrial exterior of Rchive, decorated only by a large window decal that reads “What is A Fashion Club?” and a barcode that directs you to Rchive’s Instagram page and website for the answer. 

A fashion club, according to Rchive founders and couple Ion (Jai) Sobaliu and Sadaf Emami, is a place for fashion enthusiasts and adjacent creatives, including photographers, models and artists, to come together to collaborate and create. During the day, Rchive will operate as a retail space featuring a coffee bar with fresh-baked cookies, and at night it will serve as a multi-use event space with a cocktail bar and DJ booth. 

With 2,000 square feet, Rchive is equipped to host art installations, showcases, fashion shows and social events. The interior is decorated by white brick and minimalist “snowstorm” tiles, so that the people and clothes will always be the stand-out visual. A window reveals the boiler room, perfectly sized for a DJ booth, and behind there, change rooms offer a place for shoppers to try on clothes. 

An example of the founders’ styling work in the new club space.

Overall, the Rchive experience is two-fold. Shoppers can expect a range of very unique and diverse streetwear designers, including vintage and consignment pieces, as well as Rchive’s in-house brand rchiveredux: one-of-a-kind revived vintage clothes with artistic embellishment. In addition, they offer styling services and will soon launch a rental collection to make high-end pieces accessible for the everyday shopper. Sobaliu calls it “your closet away from home.”

Here’s the second part. In the near future, Rchive will launch a membership experience for industry creatives, so that they can utilize the space for their own brands. An additional back room will function as an atelier for designers to work out of. The couple sees this as a solution to cliquey behaviour in Toronto’s creative networks. “Currently in Toronto, everything is very in groups, so we wanted to have a space [dedicated] to anybody in the industry,” says Emami. 

This idea has been years in the making. In fact, before the advent of the Fashion Club, Rchive was solely a retail brand.

It started three years ago when the couple began selling Sobaliu’s long-collected clothing archive out of their home in Vaughan. It was obvious from the enthusiasm with which friends and family borrowed from his collection that Sobaliu had strong curatorial instincts, and since he had just graduated from TMU’s Business Marketing program, and Emami from York University, they decided to launch their business online. 

“From the start we knew that we wanted to do something different and include people in the community,” says Sobaliu, admitting that they didn’t know exactly what that would look like at the time. When they made the move to Toronto, they immersed themselves in the industry, selling on the market circuit and meeting other creatives.

“The more people we met, the more we got connected with everybody, the vision just became more and more clear,” says Emami. In order to host people and foster more collaboration, they spent eight months renting a 20-by-20-foot cubicle on Keele Street.

That’s when they first conceptualized the Fashion Club, says Sobaliu, who remembers orchestrating a photoshoot in the cubicle and having peers ask if they could also style them, and help them find a photographer. “We wanted to build a one-stop-shop,” says Sobaliu, “so creatives could visit and we could help them develop their brand identity.”  

After Keele, they rented their first showroom on Queen Street and hosted more collaborative events like their artisanal Earth Day market featuring local creators and a runway show, and their recent fashion exhibit event.

Now they’re proud to finally have a permanent space to house the fashion community. It hasn’t been without hurdles, they confide, and the process has earned them a newfound respect for every brick-and-mortar business in Toronto. 

They navigated licenses and permits, renovations and marketing strategy, but the worst setback was a robbery they suffered earlier this summer. 141 curated pieces totaling approximately $30,000 of inventory were stolen, delaying their initial plan to open in August. “It was a really bad hit, but it taught us a lot about having the right security and the appropriate insurance,” says Emami. 

She also says that it helped them trust their instincts as curators. Since the lost inventory included their prized pieces saved especially for their open, they had to improvise newer and even better inventory. Now they’re more optimistic than ever.  

Rchive’s doors will officially open to the public Friday, Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. Retail hours will be Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can follow on Instagram to stay in the know about future social events as well.

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