shoe man dan at Parkdale Flea

Daniel Charkow is @Shoe_Man_Dan on Instagram

Last Saturday (09 Dec 2017), Street Chic met 17yr year old shoe designer, Daniel Charkow of Charkow Shoes. Daniel is a design prodigy now gaining popularity on Instagram as @Shoe_Man_Dan.  Let it be known that at the time of this writing the young shoemaker has but a thousand followers, and this author was #1001. But Street Chic predicts that by December 2018 this prolific young craftsman will have several thousand followers, and that number will climb to a quarter million devotees by the time he’s age 19, at which point he can legally celebrate. Why? He’s an interesting young fellow well focused on making high fashion footwear from found materials.

When an artist works with found items its because they glimpse something in these objects that nobody else can fathom, and when a clever kid can turn clutter into couture, its newsworthy.

On that Saturday morning we met Daniel near Queen and Dufferin and went for a tour of the Parkdale Flea to see if the young cobbler could find some crafty ingredients for his next creation.

Shoe Man Dan at Parkdale Flea, Queen and Dufferin

Street Chic thinks Daniel is pretty cool – we’ve got an eye for wild style and confident clothing arrangements. When Dan showed up for our meeting he was rocking a faux fur jacket and well-altered converse running shoes over monogrammed socks. The tape across the tongue of his shoes says clearly ‘do not reuse this bag’!

shoe man dan on Instagram

Inside the Parkdale Flea, Saturday 09 December

At each vendor’s booth, Daniel would invariably look at the footwear for sale, and small shoe racks were like super magnets for this young designer.

shopping for shoes at Parkdale Flea in Toronto

Occasionally, and only after some prompting, Shoe Man Dan would share insights on the makes and models available on the shelf.

camo pattern pony hair bootsat Parkdale Flea

A fashion paradox, these size 6 green Jungle pattern camo patterned ladies heeled boots had pony hair fronts but braided leather backs with studded metal rivets. The vendor wanted sixty dollars, but this author reckons a crisp fifty-dollar bill would have secured them, tax free.

pony hair boot braided leather backs with studs, rivets

At this point in life, having only been a sentient being for a few years now, Dan is still sponging up knowledge about shoes. He scrutinizes all types of footwear looking for manufacturer’s secrets.
Already Daniel knows more about shoes than anyone else his age. He’s pursued shoemaking at the Art and Sole Academy in Toronto under the guidance of master instructor Jennifer Alison, where he took his skills to the next level and learned how to make shoes from scratch.

Last summer, Daniel completed the 2016 Summer Design Program at Parsons School of Design in New York City, and afterwards worked with the Brooklyn Shoe Space creating a comfortable men’s sneaker.

When shopping for shoes, the craftsman in Daniel looks at how the bottom is affixed to the top.  What holds the body of the shoe to its sole? Is the upper part fastened to the bottom inside the shoe with a Blake Stitch? or a Goodyear stitch? Or is there exterior welting to bind them together? Or were the shoes simply cemented together? as above. Daniel showed us examples of all types of modern manufacturing, and pointed out shoes that are very high quality but low design, and others that are flashy but destined to fall apart relatively quickly.

Inside the Parkdale Flea, which had only just opened its doors, and where the only other occupants were other vendors setting up their booths, Daniel led Street Chic on a quest for shoe crafting components and shared some little know facts about the business of making and selling footwear.

Roamer handbags at Parkdale Flea
Daniel Charkow is serious about sustainability and likes recycling old kitsch into new kicks.

old dining chair at Parkdale FleaIn the top corner of another vendors booth, or more accurately in the permanent workspace behind the temporary retail table, Daniel spotted his first real find of the morning. He pointed out an old dining room chair that was ‘showing us its heels’.

Inside Public Butter in Toronto

Next it was off to Public Butter at 1290 Queen St W, which is one of the finest vintage stores in Toronto. This shop is right around the corner from the flea market and easily spotted by the heap of rusting bicycles opposite the front door. At this venue Daniel got a second chance to shop for shoe-making ingredients.

fushia leather jacket at vintage store in TorontoPublic Butter has a vast collection of vintage clothing all organized by ‘type of thing’ and generally not sized or sorted into any subcategories. That makes the store rather ill-suited for hunting specifics, but perfect for finding surprises, and Daniel’s eyes were open.

finding surprises in vintage store in toronto

In here, Daniel palmed antique textiles while contemplating their potential as shoes. He handled dresses, suit jackets, sweaters and thick vinyl overcoats, but didn’t get too excited until he hit upon an old leather jacket in the back of the store.

Daniel Charkow at Public Butter

Buried deep in the back racks, a decades old Mount Allison high school football jacket caught Daniel’s eye. The deep burgundy jacket was in bad shape with the inner lining torn to shreds, and it was priced to sell at $20.

And so it came to pass that this author bought the jacket and donated its burgundy body to the young lad to see what comes … He can keep and sell the shoes himself, however, I’d like to see them auctioned off on Street Chic.

Daniel Charkow custom shoes from football jacket

Just before we published this article, Daniel sent a sketch showing the shoes he’s making with the old Mount Allison High School football jacket.

shiny costume - street performers in Markham

Fashioning Superhero and Street Performer Costumes

This post is a bit of a departure from Street Chic’s usual look-book blog style, but superheroes are people too, and they are very much on-the-street and deserve some recognition for their fashion contributions. Talented people hoping to find success as street performers, or as superheroes must adopt costumes that accommodate their superpowers, but also their outfits must conform to loosely defined fashion principles which are proven to impact human consciousness.

Superheroes Make Their Own Costumes

Peter Parker homemade spiderman suit in movie Homecoming

Peter Parker’s first Spider-Man costume as seen in the movie Homecoming was a little rough around the edges.

Peter Parker’s costume-making episode and his first less-than-professional looking outfits as seen in the recent Spider-Man Homecoming movie was interesting and strangely indicative of the modern costume manufacturing marketplace.  The same spirit of costume making creativity is glimpsed in Kick-Ass in the scenes where Nicholas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl were still perfecting their homemade attire.  Costume making scenes transcend the central character’s story in the movie. These stories mirror the frustrations of modern-day performer who cannot find a suitable bodysuit or costume in their city or hometown. They must send measurements online. In the movie, there was a secrecy element, but in reality there are not many businesses who’ll spend any time creating outfits for street performers, or weapon encrusted gadget suits for superheroes. Oftentimes the performers themselves must fashion their own attire, and its with that in mind that we’ve created this post.

Both Marvel and DC Comics Superheroes Costumes are Colour Coded

On one level, bright colours generally represent the forces of good, while darker shades denote an evil orientation and purple suited characters are chaotic or just plain crazy. But more interestingly, truly good superheroes tend to choose the primary colours red, blue, and yellow, (think Superman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man) while villains are relegated to secondary colours green, purple, and orange (Green Goblin, Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor). The rule gets confused with characters who borrow from both ends of the spectrum (Magneto, Hulk, Sinestro), but fans would agree these characters do so because they are themselves morally challenged.

Superman made his Costume in the Great Depression

the original superman costumeThe very idea of a super hero or ‘supernatural hero’ shedding clothing to don a power suit really coalesced with Superman’s debut in 1938, and his costume set the gold standard for everything that came after. He had the powerful physique, the logo displayed proudly on his chest, and bright, contrasting colors – form, iconography, color.

Superman originally wore red trunks (that look like modern underwear) outside his pants and this evolved from the circus ‘Strongman’ characters’ costumes of the 1930s, and was adopted by creators to signify strength. The red trunks have shrunk over the years and are now just a red belt worn over a blue body suit. But there were no ‘body suits’ known to man in the great depression. The powder blue suit you see in the photo was originally made of silk or ‘hose’ as it was called when worn by men as leggings. The first such full body ‘jump suit’ appeared years later for paratroopers and civilian parachuting enthusiasts.

Superman didn’t have Spandex Vinyl in the 1930s

Modern street performers have a leg up on the classic superheroes of the 50s, 60s and 70s because they have better materials for their body suits. Spandex World here in Toronto sells stretchy vinyl that will spring back to shape after being pulled in one of two directions. Other Spandex textile isotopes will stretch in all four directions. The two-direction material’s non-elastic plane is handy for shaping parts of the costume where a constricting force would soon become annoying. But the downside of these many new materials is their flammability. They are practically made of oil, and as such no laminates will protect their wearers from these suits’ chemical volatility.

Isabella Hoops Chooses Cotton and Leather for her Fire Show Costumes

Calen Jackson as Pyromeo Isabella Hoops EntertainmentNight time costumes created for the Northfire show are made of cotton or leather as they are the least flammable material.” Isabella Hoops jugglers and acrobats are well known throughout Southern Ontario Festivals in part because of their distinctive costumes. “These are hand wash only, and their stitching and materials are inspected before every show.”

When this author asked, “Where did you get your costumes?’, Isabella Hoops replied, “All of the Spin Starlet costumes are made by Jessica Mary Clayton, a girl in our group. The Snowflake Kid’s costume(s) was made by my costume designer Missy Westgate of Faery Tale Designs. She is amazing and has been such a great help.”

Isabella went on to scold this author when asked about an online source for costumes, “You cannot shop online for street performer’s costumes! You wouldn’t want people to have the same costume as you would you? All of our costumes are 100% unique, and most were custom made for the character. Some outfits cost less than $100 to create, while others cost us $250 and more, it depends on the finishing.” And by that she means the level of quality and whether or not the suit was made to last, or was just created for one or two appearances at a theme show.Isabella Hoops street performer at Snaokflake Kid at markham festival of lights 2017

The recent Toronto Guardian article, Street Performers Ignite 2017 Markham Festival of Lights shows Isabella Hoops as the Snowflake Kid working her hula hoops and then returning in a black cotton bodysuit to join the cast performing their acrobatic Fire Show. Pyromeo is the male lead in the show, and he wears a commanding black leather commode with a double-breasted suit jacket vest underneath.

You can however buy costume components online

Here are the parts and pieces of a famous costume that come up as Suggestions in Amazon if you buy a specific pair of red cotton long underwear that has web-like lines printed across its surface. The same suggestions arise if you buy ‘Steam-punk’ welding goggles.

Spiderman costume component sold online at Amazon
More interesting are the gadgets available today. Wireless phone headsets used by office receptionists can be concealed inside headgear and used to send and receive communications that would astound yesterday’s superheroes, and of course these can also be used to give great advantage to street performers and sports mascots entertaining crowds.

Monster Muffin Clothing for Roller Derby Girls and Wrestlers

Monster Muffin - roller derby costumes in Toronto

Designer Lori Peltonen aka Monster Muffin or ‘Muffy’ is a product of Fashion Design at George Brown College in Toronto.  She’s a fashion designer turned roller derby star and so of course she makes costumes for her team and many other players.

Monster Muffin - Roller Derby costume

Monster Muffin skates with Team Ontario and Toronto Roller Derby All-Stars.

Monster Muffin Clothing and Lori Peltonen herself made quite a few appearances at 2016 Hogtown Wrestling matches in Toronto where her suits were worn by several athletes in the ring.  In every match Lori watched her homemade garments carefully to see how they performed.  In August 2017, the Hogtown Wrestling league was bought or otherwise acquired by Demand Lucha and now Lori is actively working with many of these wrestlers who are unique for having colourful Spandex suits with matching headgear. Lucha wrestlers commonly wear masks which adds another element to the design mix.

3D Printing at My3DAgency Tests Homemade Superhero Suits!

superhero suits 3D printing at My3D agencyGet your superhero costume 3D printed for the perfect design and aesthetic testing before appearing in the suit, or even making the darn thing.   In a the superheroes section of the My3DAgency website the copy reads, Using the latest in 3D printing technology, our site will allow you to 3D print yourself on a selected superhero body – all we need are photos and your body style preference. 3D printing is also known in many industries as rapid prototyping and that ‘s exactly what you’re doing when making an action figure wearing a neoprene jumpsuit.

Raymi the Minx with Sabrina Melendez at On the Other Hand jewellery

Raymi at On the Other Hand Jewellery in Leslieville

Street Chic was there on Weds Oct 25th 2017 when Raymi Lauren met Karen MacRae and Sabrina A Melendez inside On the Other Hand Jewellery at 1015 Queen St E. in Toronto.  It was epic afternoon as the OTOH jewellery designers spent their lunch hour laughing and playing dress-up with their jewellery. Together all three got in the act of Show and Tell with their own creations and pieces from other artists for sale on consignment in the store. The impromptu dress-up party was conceived with the intention of giving away pieces that Raymi the super blogger can wear in photos and at parties forevermore.

Yes it was a gift show, but not really, as Raymi the Minx was signed up to promote the store and that’s worth something. Raymi is a name brand blogger in Toronto with thousands of Instagram followers and a huge active audience that both loves and hates her blog antics. Raymi’s portal and online persona has opened many doors but closed a few too in her personal life.  When she decides to write about a business it does help the website get found by more people; the site performs a little better on the web because of her witty prose and her legacy somehow ennobles the pictures and expands the presence of the business.

Raymi with fashion jewellery book at OTOH in Leslieville

Just like each piece of high fashion jewellery in the store, Raymi’s blog posts also last forever.  Her photos and contextual anecdotes are stored in many places online and her personal brand has many channels inc Instagram Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube of course, but also Pinterest, Tumblr and Ello.

Laughter erupts! Put three charismatic ladies in a room full of jewellery and just watch the fun happen. This author and photographer should have rolled video.

party at OTOH in Leslieville

When they did get serious about matching Raymi’s different looks with various OTOH luxurious accessories it was intense; despite being a small shop, there’s too much to look at and learn about in an hour long lunchtime visit.  And there was a lesson taught about matching clothes with colourful bling.

bling inside On the Other Hand jewellery in leslieville Toronto

Jewellery has a purpose, and it goes to work every hour its worn in public

What is jewellery and what ‘work’ does it do?  Karen and Sabrina believe that jewellery goes to work on your behalf the moment you walk outside the door of your home. Every minute you spend outside you’re making a statement about who you are and it should be a fashion statement. Owning and wearing a good wardrobe and being able to coordinate clothing is the key to success for many cutthroat professions. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do (think lawyer, business executive, college teacher), looking sharp will improve how others perceive you and TRUST you with more responsibility.

While most good jewelry does not require coordination, if you really want to dress to impress, you must be pickier with your gemstone jewelry. OTOH offers an array of beautiful jewelry with vibrant colors.

Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines and amethyst gemstones have a distinguished flavor and appeal that can be easily added to everyday fashion clothing styles. For best results, the red to gold jewellery always looks best when worn next to cool colors such as blue jeans and powder blue, light green or light purple blouses, or white T shirts.

Gold jewelry and onyx work beautifully with with black or white dresses.  Show me a lady that doesn’t own a black dress, and most Canadian women today have white dresses in storage for special occasions in the summertime too.  These are classic looks that never go out of style and their timeless appeal can always be accentuated with the right jewellery.

Gemstones can be seasonal?  This is an interesting idea as they are of course minerals and as such they know no seasons, but all the same colorful gemstones can mirror the seasons. Light green emerald earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings  can set off a spring dress, while darker emeralds represent a more mature summer season. Rubies, topaz, amber and even garnet look great with fall coloured clothes and lastly cold blue sapphires and icy diamonds in silver settings can really celebrate winter.

Sabrina A Melendez gave Raymi a silver ring inlaid with Bocote (wood)

Some of the most recent works of art to be created at OTOH in Leslieville are Sabrina’s silver rings with Bocote wood inserts. Bocote is a hard, dark wood from South America that’s often used for making knife handles and musical instruments.  Sabrina uses it to make jewellery and has written an informative OTOH blog post about using unconventional materials like wood to make jewellery and that includes ‘breaking the mold’ by using semi-precious Bocote.

Sabrina is a Swiss trained metal worker who has somehow perfected the art of cutting the very hard and brittle Bocote wood into perfect circles to fit inside silver rings which are then seamlessly folded in such a way as to hold the attractive black wooden insert into place.

Raymi Toronto wears her Bocote wood and silver ring made by Sabrina Melendez at On the Other hand jewellery.

Raymi wears her Bocote wood and silver ring made by Sabrina Melendez at On the Other hand jewellery.

It is quite a remarkable ring, and neither Raymi nor this author could figure out exactly how Sabrina gets the Bocote wood into the ring’s interior. It remains a Sabrina Melendez trade secret.

And then at the end of her lunch hour adventure, life got even better for Raymi as Sabrina doubled down and gave the blogger a special silver tube necklace on a thick Japanese cord and clasp.
raymi gets a necklace from Sabrina Melendez
Raymi with Sabrina Melendez at on the Other Hand jewellery
There are a lot of places in Toronto that offer custom jewellery, businesses like the Devil’s Workshop, Anice Jewellery, Courage My Love, Strada Jewellery, Made You Look Jewellery, Fair Trade and Zarla all have unique qualities, but On the Other Hand Jewellery is the whole package when it comes to designing and making custom jewellery to suit your personal brand.