The debut Drakes runway show opens with a lonesome lap by a black hoodied, black Conversed apparition in Rick Genest-esque makeup, staring daggers and poised to pounce on an unsuspecting fornt row influencer. Titled Menace in Venice, our ghost parts the seas for the self-proclaimed butcher shop of Toronto fashion, invoking a lived-in reverence to late 90’s and early 2000’s hip-hop culture. Refracted through the lens of Toronto house parties, nightlife and streetwear, the city’s grit and screwface mentality leaves blood in the runway waters.
Though the collection’s roots are in the post-Biggie/Tupac era of Ruff Ryders and G-Unit, the clothes camouflage under the depths of each decade. Some emerge as curated practical details (lighter-sized slips and pockets on buckets hats and leather jackets, for your cannabis paraphernalia) and cultural crystallizations (a gym bag made of basketball jerseys, bandanna-printed implications of the Bloods and Crips). Conceptually, identifying the menace swims incognito amidst the Toronto house party built above it – clear pockets containing government identification cards, blood splatters toying the line between print or stain, a Nelly-like rocking an ankle monitor leather bag. Like a great white shark prowling its hunting grounds, these “menaces” walk their streets and sidewalks. Both are identified through government databases via tracking devices and ID cards, which beg a mouthful of questions. Why are we surveilling these individuals in the first place? Is the surveillance for protection, research, for a conservatory cause? Is “menace” even the correct term?
In an interview with Coteriie Studio (a Toronto-based creative collection, @coterie___ on Instagram) for Fashion Art Toronto’s Facebook page, designer Drakes explains he wants to point consumers and fashion hobbyists into the authentic roots of the fashion industry. “I’ve always wanted to be a nightmare more than a dream. My goal is to scare people, make them realize that [the mainstream fashion movement], following all these big houses is not the goal. It all starts with community, small fashion productions.” A noble cause, championing the influence and relevance of the community – true enough, Drakes’ refracted Toronto perspective of Y2K hip-hop and black culture began simply as a sect in the cultural zeitgeist of that time. Interestingly, shark themes entered the hip-hop music space in ’99, with LL Cool J’s “Deepest Blue” as a single for the B-movie creature feature classic Deep Blue Sea (1999).
Drakes himself is the head researcher of this menace surveillance project, tagging and identifying his sartorial subjects. Essentially, his debut collection boils down to cultural awareness, and unlike the media’s historical depiction of sharks as man-eating machines, Drakes celebrates his subjects as multidimensional characters. Sharks are notoriously portrayed by mainstream media as chaotic, evil forces of nature – see Deep Blue Sea (1999), The Reef (2010), The Shallows (2016), the entire Jaws franchise. Thankfully, National Geographic and Discovery Channel’s portrayal of sharks lean much more towards scientific compassion versus sensationalism.
The collection’s final look is the “Forgive Me For My Sins” leather jacket, patched and embroidered to form a skeleton on glistening dark leather, black as the ocean. Closing the show with a message of vulnerability (that we are all just a bag of bones) further suggests a softer perspective on our so-called menaces – sharks are less a menace than they are one of nature’s perfect iterations of a predator, thanks to over 400 million years of evolution. If Drakes’ menaces to society are the the cultural progenitors of fashion’s future, then let the butcher shop continue to chum the waters for more ideas to breach.
“The Devil’s Tooth” by Susan Casey
“The Best Looks from Fashion Art Toronto” by Annika Lautens, for FASHION Magazine
“A review of Charles Lu, collection [1.]” for Windhill Journal
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