If you’ve walked along King St. E. this past month, you might have passed by a storefront that more closely resembles a modern art gallery-nightclub hybrid than a store at all. With LED signs lighting up walls, minimalist decor and arched entryways, entering Toronto’s newest streetwear vintage shop is all about the experience.
“I look up to myself for fashion,” Aly Jamal says about his major fashion influences. We’re seated on a plush, blue velvet L-shaped couch in the back portion of Northern Touch Vintage, his new vintage store that opened on July 24. He’s confident in his style and taste; both are attributes he’s been cultivating since he was a child. “You know some people have memory like scent, or touch? My memory is fashion. I see clothes and it takes me back to a certain time.”
Unlike other vintage stores in Toronto, Jamal has a singular vision for Northern Touch Vintage’s pieces: 80s, 90s, and early 2000s streetwear. He has a keen understanding of the emotional resonance clothes can have, which is key to his success. “Our number one focus here at Northern Touch Vintage is nostalgia.”
View this post on Instagram
You’ll find everything from classic Nike sweatshirts to vintage basketball jerseys to varsity jackets in pristine condition, carefully curated by Jamal himself. The shop has already been visited by the likes of the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet.
Before this, Jamal worked for Apple for 10 years (perhaps influencing the sleek design of the shop’s interior), though at his core he’s always been an entrepreneur. For the last couple of years, he’d been selling vintage clothes on the side and he found himself far more fulfilled by this than his full-time job. “I knew I had something cool and I just wanted to take a chance.”
Jamal’s vision doesn’t extend only to the clothes he sells, but the experience he curates for his clients as soon as they walk through the door. R&B and rap blast tastefully from a Sonos speaker. The walls are decorated with silk-screen prints made by Toronto-based artist Mahyar Amiri, who is also a friend. The twin Muhammad Ali prints that adorn the threshold are on sale for around $10,000, if you fancy yourself a collector.
Jamal is reluctant to say who he currently looks to in the fashion industry (when pressed a little, he names Rhuigi Villaseñor of fashion brand Rhude and Ronnie Feig of Kith fame), but he has a deep appreciation for his influences. He names hip-hop culture as his main source of inspiration, evidenced not only by the clothes he sells, but also by the giant Biggie installation that hangs above the register.
Though they only opened less than two months ago, Jamal is already looking to expand with a flagship location on King St. W. in spring 2022. It’s clear he approaches his success with humility and gratitude. As he says,“That means a lot to know that someone woke up and I was part of their plan for the day.” What at first may have seemed like a risk, leaving behind the known has surely paid off. “I’ve never looked back. Yeah, it’s the best choice I’ve ever made on my own.”