This weekend, the Ex is once again hosting Toronto’s popular Clothing Show, the retail sales event offering “the unique, the unusual, and the handcrafted” to the citizenry.
Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, this event has been taking in greater numbers over the years because of its talented pool of local designers. And though there’s an increasing amount of lazily silk-screened American Apparel T-shirts being touted as “alternative” fashion, it’s still the best place to get original, handmade clothing at relatively rock-bottom prices.
The event’s biggest selling point is its impressive coverage of specialty fashions, running the gamut of delightfully girly (Buttercup Days), to eco-warrior (My Empire), to “cyber gothic industrial” (Futurestate), to vintage-inspired lingerie (Doll Factory Studios), to Anne of Green Gables (Adrienne Butikofer). There’s also vendors appealing to specific cultural and ethnic groups, such as fbpbpp: “for brown people by brown people” and traditional Chinese woman’s apparel (Hamiko).
The Clothing Show is separated into five areas: Accessories, Vintage, Boutique, Streetwear, and Sample Sales. It’s good to have an idea of what you’re looking for ahead of time, because with over 300 vendors, the environment can quickly overwhelm.
Here are some tips to ensure that your visit will be a worthwhile one:
- Go early. Remember that a lot of this stuff is handmade, or at least they’re not churned out a by the boatload in overseas factories, so pieces are limited.
- Go late. The real sales are announced on Sunday afternoon.
- Bring your own food. The cuisine at the Ex is like what you’d find at your typical music festival: limited, over-priced, and bland. Instead, bring a packed lunch and take a break outside—don’t worry, they’ll let you back in.
- Wear skin-tight clothes underneath your regular clothes, like a tank top and bike shorts, so you can try things on without stripping to your unmentionables. Space is at a premium, and many kiosks don’t have change areas.
- Wear comfortable shoes: you’ll be walking around on concrete, and in the interest of ensuring you never ever stop shopping, resting areas are few.
- Check for loose threads and broken seams: quality control can be variable among independent clothes makers.
- Bring cash: many kiosks are rigged for credit cards, but not all of them. Few if any are wired to take debit. And get the cash before you get to the Ex, as their ATMs have inflated user fees.
- Bring your own bag(s) (preferably something that can be thrown over the shoulder). To save on costs, vendors tend to dole out tiny, flimsy, ugly plastic bags that are an absolute pain to carry around.
- Finally, if you’re unable to make this event, the Winter Clothing show is only a few months away!
The Clothing Show
Tickets $8 online, $10 at the door
September 29 and 30
Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Automotive Building, Exhibition Place
Photo: “Yorkville” coat by Hortense Salvatore.