I got to spend one magical summer in Toronto in 1993. It was the summer before my senior year of college. I took a class that was a mock advertising/public relations agency and the summer programs were always abroad. We went "abroad" to Toronto (which was only a 5 1/2 hour drive from my hometown) where we worked on a marketing and PR campaign for Molson Brewery. You can imagine how much fun that was for a bunch of 20-21 year olds. We lived on University of Toronto's campus and that is where I fell in love with the city, its people and its culture.
Toronto will always be special to me. I've been back many times since then, including having my bachelorette party there. So it seemed meant to be when I clicked through to see the origin of these incredibly designed neighborhood pom hats my husband kept showing me on Instagram. They were made by Tuck Shop Trading Co. They were based in Toronto and soon would have a storefront on Yonge St., one of my favorite shopping streets in the city.
I had been wanting to do something tangible with Stella Shops to celebrate the neighborhoods I've been blogging about these past eight years. I reached out to the contact information on the website. I was surprised to hear back so quickly and also hear from the owner of the company, Lyndsay Borschke.
Just like that Lyndsay and I started working on City of Neighborhoods: Nashville. I loved that the things that were important to me in the manufacturing process were important to her too. Lyndsay sources her materials from Canada and she works with two knitting mills, one in Toronto and one in Montreal. That decision to work with local suppliers and manufacturers reminded me a lot of what is happening in Nashville right now. The connection just felt right.
I sent her information and photos of the neighborhoods, including the murals that are quickly defining our neighborhoods, and she would send back colorways that to me perfectly captured the heart of the neighborhoods. 12 South is red, white and blue because of the "I Believe in Nashville" mural next to Draper James. The Gulch is gray and white because of "The Wings" mural on 11th. Sylvan park has a little yellow and green woven through because of the sunflower mural on the side of the Import Flowers building on Murphy Road. The two Nashville poms are based on the colors in the Tennessee state flag. There is meaning behind every colorway.
Lyndsay is a straight up lady boss having started Tuck Shop in 2013. I've been wanting to profile her because she's been amazing to work with and her company is doing fantastic things in Toronto. In addition to all those adorable pom hats, Tuck Shop also produces a gorgeous line of cashmere and knitwear. I've had my eye on this cape from the FW 16 collection, appropriately called "Dreamy Cape" all season.
Lyndsay took some time out of her very busy schedule to answer some questions for me about Tuck Shop, the fashion industry in Toronto and some insider tips on where to shop and dine if you're planning a visit. Which you absolutely should!
What was the inspiration behind Tuck Shop Trading Co. and how did it begin?
I had been designing apparel programs for summer camps and schools before launching Tuck Shop. I also spend a great deal of time "up north" in Algonquin Park at my husband's family cottage, which happens to be on the same lake as the camp that I grew up going to and eventually working at in Business Development + Operations. As a result a lot of inspiration for the line is driven by my experiences and time spent on Canoe Lake.
I launched Tuck Shop in October of 2013 and we have been very fortunate to see growth quite quickly. It's amazing to watch how a beanie can resonate with so many people.
Where does the name come from?
The "Tuck Shop" is the place at summer camp where you can replenish necessities or pick up a souvenir. One of my many jobs while working at camp was to procure the items for our Tuck Shop...everything from stamps and bug spray to paddles and sweatshirts. As a result the name just stuck with me. I couldn't think of a more appropriate name for what I wanted to create as a brand.
One of the things I really liked about your line was the importance of using reputable Canadian manufacturers. Tell us about the local companies you work with to produce your toques and other goods.
Our goal is to source and manufacture as locally as possible without compromising the quality of the garment. We work with various factories in Toronto and Montreal to achieve this mandate. Some of the people we work with have been experts in their craft for over 40 years. They work with dated tools and machinery because it yields better results than the new computerized options. We build relationships with our manufacturing partners so that we are releasing the best product possible.
The design community in Nashville is pretty close knit and it’s a very diverse group of makers. What is it like in Toronto?
Interesting question at an interesting time. Toronto Fashion Week was cancelled by IMG and was recently bought by a local developer. The fashion community seems a bit fragmented at this time, with various groups trying to fill the void.
I tend to shy away from the overtly organized groups and associations and prefer to work one on one with mentors or collaborators. I have found the community responds well to this approach and as such we have worked on some really interesting collaborations over our three years.
You’ve expanded the line considerably over the past couple of years. What are you looking forward to launching next?
In 2017 we are releasing Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco and expanding in the existing cities. We are also continuing to grow our heritage knitwear program.
What was the first neighborhood toque? How many cities are part of the City of Neighborhoods now?
We launched in Toronto with 14 neighbourhood beanies. We now have over 20 cities represented along with our "Cottage Bound" and "Skibourhood" collections. We also offer infant, toddler and kids sizing in some styles. There are a lot of toques now!
You have a new flagship store in Toronto. Where can we find it? How would you describe the aesthetic of the shop?
We are located in the Summerhill neighbourhood of Toronto at 1226 Yonge St. The store is contemporary Canadiana. Crisp, clean with a nod of nostalgia.
What is your favorite item in the shop right now?
It's February so staying warm in our Merino Sweater Coat and covered in our cashmere.
When you have free time, what do you like to do?
I have a two year old at home so free time is hard to come by these days. We love to hang out in our local park, which is adoringly called "The Little Park," and the ravine system which is just behind our house. We love to eat out and Toronto has a great food scene. Some of our favourites are The Black Hoof, Bar Raval, and Terroni.
How would you describe your style? What are some of your favorite local shops? Do you have any favorite shopping neighborhoods?
Style: Casual chic with a hint a of Canadiana
Shops: Aside from our own...Love the ladies at The Narwhal and their selection of Ulla Johnson and Mara Hoffman. I'm pregnant so have been spending a lot of time at Ani + Wren which is great for both maternity and contemporary lines. I've always had a soft spot for TNT - my denim budget is usually spent there. And you can't shop in Toronto without a stop into Holt Renfrew... I feel like it's where I learned about fashion.
If someone is visiting Toronto for the first time, what do they absolutely have to do while they’re there?
Where to start??? There's so much to do + see. I didn't grow up in Toronto so I will try to put my visitor's lens on.
Take a stroll along West Queen West and through Trinity Bellwoods Park and then meander to the Ossington Strip. I used to live close to Trinity Bellwoods and miss that area all the time. Some of my favourite places to eat in the hood are: Oyster Boy, Terroni, Union, La Bannane (new!) and The Black Hoof / Cocktail Bar.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) shouldn't be missed.
Bloor St. (between Yonge and Bay) for designer fashion.
Yorkville for star gazing especially during TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival)
Evergreen Brickworks for weekend markets and to walk through the ravine system.
St. Lawrence market on Saturday morning for a Canadian Bacon sandwich.
Kensington Market on pedestrian Sundays. Sensory overload in a great way. Smack dab in the middle of the city and Chinatown, and close to the beautiful University of Toronto campus.
Grossman's Tavern - Check out the The Happy Pals on Saturday afternoon. Grossman's is a Toronto institution for jazz and blues. The Happy Pal's played at our wedding and always put on a great show.