Good Cities Need Good Swag
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.




Good Cities Need Good Swag

Photo courtesy of Avril Loreti.

Browse through any Chinatown souvenir shop and you’ll be sure to see a preponderance of thin, pointy spires. The CN Tower sells tourist tchotchkes like green-encircled sirens sell coffee—it’s a fact. A six-inch metal version of the Tower with a wristwatch-sized clock in its base sells for twenty-eight dollars on the second story of Chinatown’s Dragon City Mall. On the ground floor of the same mall, at Sun Wa Book Store, a twelve-inch version made of what looks like cut crystal (it’s locked away in a glass display case, so it’s hard to be sure) sells for ninety-nine. The CN Tower is the tallest thing in the city, it’s true, but it seems somehow unfair that Toronto’s other architectural achievements never receive their equal share of the city swag limelight. Avril Loreti, a Toronto home decor designer who sells her wares on Etsy and in retail stores, has found a way of righting this iniquity.

Her cocktail napkins, pictured above, are made of cotton cloth, and are intended for use as coasters. Aside from City Hall, which makes a cameo appearance in the occasional snow globe, the image choices are decidedly more obscure than usual for a souvenir-like item, at least by international standards. “Everyone thinks, like: ‘Oh yeah, the CN Tower,” says Loreti. “Or even the new ROM seems a little too obvious. But something like the old [McLaughlin] Planetarium… whenever I show those napkins, people flip through and they see the Planetarium and they’re like: ‘Awww…'”
Also depicted are TD Centre and OCAD’s Sharp Centre for Design. “I sell them mostly to people in Toronto, I’ve noticed,” says Loreti. The napkins have been on sale since September and are available here, for twenty-six dollars a set.
There is some evidence to suggest that this idea of souvenirs pitched primarily toward Toronto locals isn’t an isolated phenomenon. This week, Spacing Magazine announced their second run of TTC station–themed buttons, just in time for the holiday season. The first edition of the buttons, released in 2005, featured present-day subway platform typefaces and tile patterns, but the new buttons are patterned to resemble TTC station names as they appeared on platforms in 1954. The new buttons are guaranteed historically accurate, cost ten dollars for a bag of twelve, and will soon be available at select stores.

Spacing‘s new historically accurate subway buttons. Image courtesy of Spacing.

Also, since 2008, local clothing designer Fort Apparel has been selling a line of t-shirts and hoodies that reference the 416 area code in a sly enough way that only a Toronto-dweller would immediately catch the nod. Some designs feature the CN Tower in silhouette, though—which, while stylish, is cheating. (We kid.)
The difference between a tourist buying a souvenir of a city and a local buying a souvenir of their own city is that the tourist is buying a memento, whereas the local is buying an emblem of living, breathing civic pride—hence the emphasis on items that can be used every day, rather than things like foot-tall crystal CN Tower replicas that don’t do much besides, presumably, break. (Wooden ones are okay.) A person could achieve a similar effect by buying lots of stuff emblazoned with the logos of local sports teams, but for those who care not for hockey, baseball, basketball, or any other kind of -ball, but who still identify with Toronto, this year’s crop of city swag is a powerful alternative. Stock up; Chanukah starts tonight. (Oh yeah, and Christmas is pretty soon, too.)
Via Fuck Yeah Toronto!