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Posts Tagged ‘Bathurst-Dupont Village’

about Design Corp. at 1042 Bathurst Street

In Arrivals & Departures on March 27, 2011 at 12:05 AM

about Design Corp., where interesting things began to happen in late 2010

By West Annex News | Last month while reviewing the John Cadiz show at Ideasincorporated gallery, we commented upon the exciting mix of galleries, indie coffee houses, shops and restaurants suddenly appearing on Bathurst Street south of Dupont.

Since then we have watched while several more building on this rapidly gentrifying strip have been transformed. None has been more intriguing than 1042 Bathurst Street. Following the departure a few years ago of Apollo Volvo Specialist mechanics in the rear and Das Autopro, a European auto accessories shop in the retail space in the front, this double-wide space had been occupied by a number of short-lived tenants. By mid-2010 the space was empty, and stayed that way for some time.

Then in the late in 2010, interesting things began to happen. First the space was stripped down to white walls and hardwood flooring. Some time later a black curtain appeared across the entire width of the back of the store, and then stark fluorescent tubes were installed on the floor and a wall.  Finally a clothing rack arrived in one window, from which hung beautifully tailored white shirts. But were they shirts? On closer inspection, the shirt tails were sewn together at the bottom, and straps wrapped around them. Were these stylized strait jackets? Was this a gallery? An art installation? A performance space?

Then cryptic information appeared in small letters  in the bottom left corner of the front window.  A name, an email address, and a website, for about Design Corp. We visited the website, which featured moody, enigmatic videos which only deepened the mystery.

To add to the intrigue, the front door were always locked, no matter the time of day we went by. That is, until last Saturday, when we tried the door, and it opened. Inside we met the charming Dean Hutchinson and Yunchieh Chang, the fashion designers and principals behind about Design Corp, who ushered us into their spare, elegant, and now-opened shop.

Yunchieh Chang and Dean Hutchinson of about design corp.

Hutchinson is returning to Toronto after many years in the San Francisco fashion scene. A Canadian, he headed to California immediately upon his graduation from the University of Saskatoon Fine Arts program to learn the fashion business. He quickly built a following for the strong, beautiful architecture of his designs.

In the late 1990’s he established Dean Hutchinson (Design) Inc. where fashion designed and manufactured in Toronto was sold at his San Francisco retail stores.

In California, Hutchinson met Cheng, an American born in Singapore and a winner of a prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America fashion design scholarship.

Beautifully draped, asymmetrically designed jackets come in fabric or leather

About Design Corp. is the product of their collaboration. Their Bathurst Street atelier contains immaculately constructed classic wardrobe pieces in black, white and gray, together with asymmetrically designed jackets in fabric and leather. The leather is luxurious and buttery soft; it drapes like fabric.  On some pieces exposed zippers add an edge to the feminine designs.

Chang and Hutchinson decided that there would be no labels in the clothing. “We want you to create what you think it is” said Hutchinson, explaining their design philosophy. “We want to be both respectful of the heritage of clothing making, and create a design-centric, artisan collection.”

“New idea need old buildings” Jane Jacobs said. And about Design Corp. and Bathurst Street exemplify this maxim.  The still relatively low rents on the street allow Hutchinson and Chang to locate their design studio, manufacturing facility, and showroom all at in the same building.

Exquisitely constructed, label-free classic wardrobe pieces

Chang and Hutchinson were kind enough to part the black drapes that so dramatically frame their showroom, and give us a behind-the-scenes tour.

Hutchinson and Chang in their design studio at 1042 Bathurst Street

The design and manufacturing area is down the stairs from the showroom. It’s an exciting space bursting with creativity, with paper patterns lining the walls and works in progress partially assembled on dressmaker dummies and spread out on large tables.

About is the latest of a number of new shops, galleries and cafes which have been garnering rave reviews from the media, like Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice CreamRapidoBurnettJava Mama, ideasincorporatedBarbara Edwards ContemporaryEwanika, and Scoop and Bean, and which have joined with neighbourhood stalwarts like Annapurna VegetarianLa Parette Gallery and the unspoiled vintage diners Apollo 11 and Vesta Lunch to form a vibrant new neighbourhood. For lack of a better name, we called the neighbourhood the upper West Annex in our last article. Since then we’ve heard that local merchants–who are banding together and hope to form a business improvement area–are branding the area “Bathurst-Dupont Village”.

We’re glad to see such efforts towards a BIA. The stretches of interesting new shops on Bathurst are still broken up by tough, gritty sections that discourage pedestrian traffic. Merchants and their landlords have to work together to try to steward the gentle gentrification of the street, to entice shoppers to travel up the street from Bloor.

But care must be taken that the area does not undergo explosive growth like Ossington Avenue experienced, where the pioneers of the gentrification are quickly priced out of the mix by rapidly rising commercial rents.

For all gentrification that has taken place, Bathurst Street between Bloor and Dupont still sports some tough, gritty sections

About are welcome new members of the vanguard who are transforming Bathurst street for the better. We’d like to see them stick around.

Postscript: Before ending our interview with Hutchinson and Chang, we asked about the stylized strait jackets that had so intrigued us for months.  Hutchinson laughed. Neither strait jackets nor art installation: those perplexing white garments are about’s custom-made garment bags.

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Read Karen van Hahn’s Bathurst and Dupont is the newest style mecca in thestar.com, and Bert Archer’s Bathurst Street’s gorgeous bones in YongeStreet.

In Arrivals & Departures we document the changes in the commercial/retails strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets.

See the Arrivals & Departures archive for other articles like this one.

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John Cadiz Life Stories at Ideasincorporated, 1081 Bathurst Street, until February 20, 2011

In Coming events, Reviews on February 7, 2011 at 10:16 PM

Launching the boat (1989) by John Cadiz, at Ideasincorporated

By West Annex News | After decades of struggle, the Bathurst Street strip south of Dupont is finally taking off. With the trauma of a major fire and the seemingly endless construction on Bathurst Street and the CPR underpass finally behind it, the revolving door of shops that have come and gone over the years has finally stopped spinning. A critical mass of interesting galleries, indie coffee houses, shops and restaurants have come and stayed. Suddenly signs of gentrification are everywhere on this once perennially scuzzy strip.

Bathurst from Vermont north to Dupont is now a worthy destination to plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon, enjoyably wandering from gallery to gallery and shop to shop, fortifying yourself during breaks at the various interesting cafes and coffee shops.

We’ll be writing more in coming weeks about some of these shops, galleries and cafes which have been garnering rave reviews from the media, like Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream, Rapido, BurnettJava Mama, Barbara Edwards Contemporary, Ewanika, and opening later this month, a new wine bar The Grape.  All these have joined with neighbourhood stalwarts like Annapurna Vegetarian, La Parette Gallery and the unspoiled vintage diners Apollo 11 and Vesta Lunch to form a vibrant new neighbourhood in the upper West Annex.

Today we’re looking in particular at Ideasincorporated, a gallery at 1081 Bathurst Street and their current show, John Cadiz Life Stories, which features the exuberant paintings of Trinidadian expatriate and Seaton Village resident John Cadiz.

Opening night of John Cadiz Life Stories at Ideasincorporated gallery, January 28, 2011

“I was born and raised in Trinidad” says Cadiz. “My French/Irish/Spanish ancestry, white skin with all its implied privileges, and a strict Catholic upbringing have perhaps afforded me a unique perspective. I emigrated to Canada in 1977 and worked as a graphic designer to support myself. During a rather stressful period about twenty years ago I started to paint. I am mainly self-taught and tend to use events in my past, religion, and Trinidad carnival as props or metaphors, some of which I put into paintings set in more recent times.”

Whether set in his Trinidadian past or in Canada, summoned from his memory or imagination, these painting layer sweetness, sadness, and the macabre together, using humour to leaven the mix.

Venus de Kaboom (2005) by John Cadiz

The macabre is particularly strong in painting like Putting Down Sambo (2008) based on a true incident in which the artist’s father botched an attempt to euthanize a beloved pet, @#$% Gridlock (2004) where through the window of a TTC bus one sees an execution about to take place, but jaded commuters only complain about the gridlock, and Venus de Kaboom (2005) where a female suicide bomber detonates herself to a sexist commentary on her detached body parts from demons, who presumably urged her on to self-destruction.

@#$% Gridlock (2004) by John Cadiz

Others, like The Family Reunion (2007) appears tranquil enough at first glance.  The label beside this painting reads “I thought I’d have a fantasy reunion, a kind of snapshot with the picture taker trying to get everyone to take a bow at the same time with the usual fooling around. The family would be together one last time when we were all happy.”

John Cadiz: The Family Reunion (2007) by John Cadiz | click to enlarge

Not mentioned are the three guest on the porch, looking on at the family’s merriment: an angel, a top-hatted grim reaper, and a character who is perhaps Jab Molassie–a devil masquerade character in Trinidad’s Carnival. While the angel is plainly a mortal–we see the band on the headdress holding up her halo–the devil is real: he breathes fire as he exclaims in patois. The reaper leans back contentedly; he’s found a home to settle into for a while.

Fall (2006) by John Cadiz

Similarly, in the punning Fall (2006), a placid scene of traffic on a multi-lane highway returning to Toronto at the end of an autumn weekend is punctuated by a disintegrating aircraft falling from the sky overhead.

But not all the painting have a morbid twist. In Bettina’s garten (2000) we see a scene of urban Toronto bliss as Monica and her sister-in-law Poonam barbecue in the backyard of their Ossington home, surrounded by a garden planted by their German tenant Bettina.

Bettina's garten (2000) by John Cadiz | click to enlarge

And in Camping with the mon (1998), the artist’s tenderness and self-deprecating humour is evident in his autobiographic portrayal of a camping trip to Tobermory Provincial Park gone wrong. The loving couple both embrace and shield each other’s eyes as a powerful wind whips through their campsite, blowing campfire smoke into their faces.

Camping with the mon (1992) by John Cadiz

There are many other paintings, equally engaging and absorbing.  We’ve been to the show twice now, and plan to visit again before the show closes on February 2o, 2011.

Ideasincorporated began in 2007 when owner Oliver Heinrich bought 1081 Bathurst Street in 2007 and set to work renovating it into a live/work space with his family’s living quarters above and the gallery below. Heinrich’s first show was an installation of works made from materials he recycled from the building’s renovation.

The Ideasincorporated gallery at 1081 Bathurst Street, beside the empty lot left after the fire that destroyed the Children's Storefront

Devoted to showcasing the work of local artists, Heinrich had just held his first two successful shows when disaster struck in October 2009: the Children’s Storefront housed in the building to his immediate south, burned to the ground in October of 2009. In fighting the fire, Heinrich’s gallery was drenched with water, the south wall destroyed and the recently renovated ceilings, floors, and electrical wiring ruined. A struggle with his insurer–still not resolved–meant Heinrich wasn’t able to complete the restoration of the interior of the property until late summer of 2010. The exterior still awaits final repairs, so the gallery can be easily missed from the street.

But the gallery is well worth a visit, as are the neighbouring shops and cafes in the amazing, gentrifying upper West Annex.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ For more on the ascendance of the upper West Annex at Bathurst and Dupont, read Karen van Hahn’s Bathurst and Dupont is the newest style mecca” in thestar.com.