It is a clear consensus among Canadian fashion experts reporting on the pulse of pop culture that streetwear is held near and dear to Toronto’s heart, even through the pandemic. With the threat of COVID-19 having pushed our community out of physical spaces and towards a more active digital presence, Toronto streetwear culture holds steady. Where? In the Instagram and TikTok feeds of our local hype-beasts and sneakerheads.
The fashion industry points to the 80s and 90s as the decades which birthed this style of casual fashion, worn pervasively by followers of subcultures popularized at the time. Streetwear was widespread, pulling inspiration from skateboarding, surfing, hip hop music, rap, basketball, as well as haute couture, fashion and, more recently, K-Pop. The overarching values are authentic: community, uniqueness, self-expression and vision. Unlike many other fashion subcultures, streetwear is unanimously practical, gender inclusive, and often ethically produced. Streetwear brands often reflect roots and an association to a particular community, rather than just fashion or status (though status is often a purchasing consideration.)
As for the uniform – the term streetwear extends to sneakers, denim, t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps and bucket hats, sweat pants, cargo pants, jewelry, brand iconography and expensive logos. Seattle Streetwear brand/publication Zeitgeist differentiates streetwear into 4 categories: “original, sportswear, adopted [non-street wear brand with a streetwear collection], and luxury.”
You’re likely familiar with big names like Stüssy, Supreme, Vans, Nike, Adidas, OVO by Drake and Drew by Justin Bieber. Those are all brands that you see on the street in Toronto. But there’s an extensive local streetwear presence in Toronto as well, and this is where you start to see how personal streetwear culture is in this city. Check out some of Toronto’s best streetwear designers below:
A household name: October’s Very Own by Drake circa 2008. It would be sacrilegious not to lead with this OG Toronto streetwear brand.
Vibe: OVO is a particularly playful streetwear brand. The cartoonish iconography, like the retro Mickey Mouse graphic adorning parts of the present collection, pay homage to city youth. Still, the clothes maintain practicality and comfort without forgoing classic streetwear steeze.
What to buy here: This luxury streetwear collection is extensive and eclectic. You can shop sweats, graphics, sports jerseys, denim, button ups, fleece and outerwear, along with caps and touques, bags, actual hockey equipment, and unique merch like a retro lunch box, coffee mugs,and notepads.
Joey Gollish @joey_saturday is a graduate of the Weeknd’s Creative Incubator HXOUSE and the designer behind Mr. Saturday.
Vibe: The Mr. Saturday brand nods to nightlife and subcultures of the past. The designer’s personal aesthetic rides a line between slightly dishevelled and slightly posh. He’s cool and fashionable, but ultimately comfortable, and appears to appreciate a clean tucked white t-shirt.
What to buy here: Bombers, button ups, sports jackets, tees, loose pants and one large textured hat. The women’s collection features sport dresses, bodysuits and compression shorts. The brand’s “Good Luck” tagline decorates a lot of the present collection, in a font that is understated but suggests something cool and exclusive.
Price range: $200 (t-shirts)- $1000 (bomber jacket)
Get Fresh Company
A Queen Street West brand representing Toronto’s youth.
Vibe: Best explained by this statement from the designers: “G.F.C is a men’s fashion streetwear store dedicated to heightening consumer confidence through pieces that crave attention. The underdogs to some, G.F.C is a culmination of our experiences, creativity, and knowledge as a city.”
What to Buy Here: Basics in neutral colours (hoodies, graphic tees, sweat pants, crew nets, and matching sets). The combination of soft textures and faded wash makes the collection look lightly worn and subsequently extra comfortable. The understated logo artwork works smart, not hard.
This online brand by Brampton raised comedy duo Jae and Trey Richards, circa 2018, explores the intersection of community and clothing.
Vibe: Very earthy, but a little urban prep.
What to Buy Here: Durags, trucker hats, hoodies.
The Legends League Sweatshop
Higher end streetwear by artist and producer Bryan Espiritu, made to reflect Espiritu’s own life experiences.
Vibe: Sporty silhouettes featuring artful and detailed oriented designs.
What to Buy Here: Artful graphics, stylishly detailed letterman jackets, fitted sports jerseys, simple tees and sweats, caps, beanies, skateboard decks and art prints.
Streetwear brand with South Asian roots founded in 2014, inspired by the “ancient mystics, philosophers, artists, and storytellers” of various cultures (“committee members”).
Vibe: A first glimpse of the website suggests vulnerable, and feminine, and we guess right – the collection features uniform pieces with soft silhouettes, featuring romantic fonts and imagery.
What to Buy Here: Soft graphic tees and sweaters, classic beanies and a cool shirt jacket that is sold out.
No Fun Press
Softgoods and specialty items brand designed by Reilly Hodgson, circa 2011.
Vibe: Eclectic with millennial punk imagery; tasteful and a little bit edgy.
What to Buy Here: Apparel— simple logo tees and hoodies, accessories— socks, caps, pins, patches, key chains and tote bags, and a wide array of specialty items that are oddly useful and gadget-y (logo Nalgene, logo tape measure, logo shower brush).
The Peace Collective
This Toronto-founded Canadian apparel brand has two storefronts: 65 Front St. W. near Union Station and 7 Trinity St. in the Distillery District.
Vibe: Sporty and athleisure outfits for all genders featuring Toronto and Canadian imagery, mental health empowerment statements and pop culture references. Comfortable and cheerful.
What to Buy Here: Sweatshirts, hoodies and outerwear the likes of denim jackets, bombers, varsity jackets, fleece and flannels.
A casual lifestyle clothing brand by Alex Cronin, prioritizing comfort and utility. The website says the brand was created to communicate that “vacation is a state of mind rather than a destination.”
Vibe: Sleek uniform basics with an L.A. coolness.
What to buy here: Athletic shorts, t-shirts, hoodies, caps, tuques and merch-like mugs and phone cases.
Price range: $16-$130
Life & Wisdom
This Scarborough-born streetwear collective, circa 2008, visually expresses the upbringings and influences of the city youths who contributed to creating the brand.
Vibe: Super cozy, easy going and athletic.
What to buy here: Crewnecks, headwear, hoodies, outerwear, pants and tees.
Price range: $15-$70
Hand-painted streetwear produced in small batches by Toronto artists Matthew Chrones Scott (BLEEDINGHEART) and Caleb Cooper, circa 2015. The brand finds inspiration in conspiracy theories, retro cartoons, war propaganda and unique art. Storefronts at 640 Dundas St. W. and 609 Queen. St. W.
Vibe: Artist owned, hand printed streetwear staples.
What to buy here: Graphic tees, caps, hoodies and crewnecks, sweat pants, athletic shorts, outerwear, as well as stickers and posters.
Price range: $30-$180
Ready made and custom made clothing pieces with a retail shop in Yorkville.
Vibe: Custom made to order pieces and limited ready made pieces.
What to buy here: Your own custom or ready-made pieces like hoodies, vests, outerwear.
Price range: $150-$400
An affordable, online, “luxury” streetwear brand birthed in the pandemic by Torontonian Bahador Pourvakil, inspired by streetwear icons Kanye West and Jerry Lorenzo.
Vibe: Creative graphics featuring icons in music and sports, very Kanye West overall.
What to buy here: Graphic tees and hoodies.
Price range: $45-$200
These brands hold some weight in Toronto in terms of street cred, because they’re designed by Torontonians. The clothes these designers make reflect their personal experiences, their relationships with peers and their community. There is little in the way of fashion that depicts Toronto and it’s people as accurately as Toronto streetwear.