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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Cream, Rapido, Burnett, Java Mama, ideasincorporated, Barbara Edwards Contemporary, Ewanika, and Scoop and Bean, and which 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. 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.
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.
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.