We interrupt our series on Toronto’s future-minded fashion hopefuls to talk, instead, a little shop—and the future of shopping at little shops with big ideas.
Two weeks ago, in our ball-gazing session with Eric Tong, the dress designer told us Dundas West was his favourite style-watching strip in the city. Of course, that only confirmed long-held suspicions about the Bellwoods North nabe. And, as it happened, we’d just become entranced with the newest window on the up-and-coming shopping block: that of Kia Waese’s innovative, contemporary, and consciously anti-trend R.A.D.
Standing for Research and Development, and sitting quietly at 899 Dundas Street West, R.A.D. is smack amidst the city’s coolest nosh nooks, like old faithful Saving Grace, the recently reno’d Palmerston Cafe, and, not soon enough to come, the Hoof Cafe. And it’s open only on brunch days—Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and by appointment on Thursdays. By design or not, R.A.D. will surely satiate the tastes of post-hipster couples walking French bulldogs and sipping Ella’s Uncle espresso on weekends after noon.
In the very near future, Dundas West will be a destination for the trend set, sure. But Waese sees further, hoping the pieces she’s curating now—like minimalist one-piece garments from M.A+ of Rome or naturally tanned leather handbags by Belgian designer Nico Uytterhaegen—will stand the test of decades and cycles. If, in 2020, Toronto shopping looks more like an art crawl, less like an outdoor mall, we’ll all be more careful and satisfied consumers.
Read our Q & A with Kia to find out more about her store—and why you won’t find any Toronto designers in it. (Yet?)
Torontoist: What inspired you to open R.A.D.?
Kia Waese: I love artisanal craftsmanship with a focus on form rather than embellishment.
Do you think there are any other stores like yours in Toronto?
No, not in the area of clothing or accessory design.
I’ve been researching and planning the store concept for years. I would not expect that from everybody.
There’s a perception that Toronto is conservative and that those who have money only want to spend it on established logos or mainstream trends. Agree or disagree? Why?
It does seem that people are very luxury brand–oriented, but I also believe that people desire something unique.
The concept of R.A.D.—with a limited, special selection and very pared-down hours!—really speaks to a recent trend in “curated shopping.”
I think it’s the best way to emphasize the artisanal quality of the pieces.
Is “curated shopping,” or whatever you prefer to call it, the future of retail?
It seems that specialty shopping is on the rise. I don’t believe that “curated shopping” will become the blueprint for retail.
What’s the difference between the two?
I think “specialty shopping” is in the category of a boutique store that focuses on a specific type of product, such as the cheese store or the butcher or the shoe store or a small bookstore—that kind of thing. It’s the opposite of shopping under one roof or big-box shopping.
What’s the most stylish street in Toronto?
I don’t think we have a “most” stylish street, but I do see how styles vary in each of the different downtown neighbourhoods. It’s actually quite interesting how that happens.
Do you sell any local designers?
My focus is on designers that aren’t sold here or known here.
Who’s your favourite Toronto clothing or accessories designer?
I don’t have a fave.
What qualities do you look for in designers, and why do you think those qualities are missing from our own fashion design industry?
I look for hand craftsmanship, which is still highly regarded throughout Europe. It is sad to say that we don’t have an industry here to support hand-crafted leather goods. If anybody wants to learn shoemaking or accessory design, he or she has to leave Canada and study or apprentice in either England or Italy.
I also focus on a very tight aesthetic. The form and cut are equally important as the hand-made aspect. It’s very hard to put words to it, but I know it when I see it. You could say minimalist and avant-garde, but that’s still too general.
How do you think Torontonians are changing the way they shop in this economy?
Hopefully, people will start turning away from fast disposable fashion and lean towards quality.
If the economy turns around, will we go back to our former habits of consumption—overconsumption, some say—or continue in this new direction?
I hope that consumers will make wise shopping choices.
Photos courtesy of Kia Waese.