Friday, March 11, 2016

The Secret between the railway tracks: An evening with Mr. Fong

Davenport, the neighborhood northwest of downtown Toronto, is located north of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and Dupont Avenue and south of Davenport road. Located just outside of the Yorkville hub lays WorkingTitle. At just 25 years old Michael Fong co-owns and manages one of the most unique multi-faceted spaces in Toronto. From clothing, to books, and even art space, WorkingTitle blends all of these interests into one space and is quickly gaining exposure and establishing themselves as one of the most unique shops in Toronto. “I had a lot of ideas of what I thought I could do better or even do differently, so of course, naturally it had crossed my mind that I might open up my own shop”. Explains Mr. Fong after talking about his fair share in the retail industry. After graduating from U of T on a scholarship and working for many different retailers such as: Club Monaco, Foot Locker and American Apparel, he began to think of different ideas regarding opening up a store. “At the end of the day, it was all about having the right circumstances. I had friends of mine that I could work with approach me with a project that I was interested in. And it was great timing as well, given that I was about to graduate from U of T and just starting to try and figure out where to go from there” he says.

He then explains the strategy behind his shop being distant from the busy shopping areas in the city.
“There was a lot that went into the final decision of being on Davenport. First and foremost, we quickly recognized that what we wanted to do was definitely more niche. So, we thought it would be beneficial for us to be more of a destination shop. We liked the idea of there being an intent in coming into the shop. Not necessarily the intent of making a purchase, but more so the intent of experiencing the space whether it be the clothing, the bookshop or whatever exhibition may be going on. But of course, we didn't want to be too far out of the way. Davenport seemed like a natural choice given that it's just outside of Yorkville and fairly accessible. As well, the area does show promise for future development. It sits in the middle of some of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city. There's one luxury condo development that finished down the road and there's another one going up across the street. And of course the space sealed the deal for us. We've got great big windows that let in a lot of light. The layout was odd but it definitely challenged us in terms of finding the best way to use the space”.

WorkingTitle has been featured in many different magazines and website blogs including:, Toronto Star, Monocle, Porter Magazine, Highsnobiety, Toronto Life, and Style Democracy. They have quickly gained global exposure and increased their clientele. Don’t expect your favorite WT merchandise to sit on the racks for very long. When asked about how he felt about being featured in these major platforms, Mr. Fong simply stated “Some of it was cool, some of it was done badly. Any exposure is good”.

One major part of the shop that puts WT on the map is their carefully curated selection of menswear clothing brands that they bring into the store. “When determining what brands we want to bring, we look at a number of things. Of course, the basis of everything is the clothes. Does the design fit our tastes and our aesthetic? How is the quality and fabrication? Do we like how pieces from this brand fit? Looking at pricing, how's the value? At the end of the day, we are not going to carry clothes from brands that we don't like and that we wouldn't wear ourselves. That's the biggest and most important thing for us to look at. Next, it's the brand. Is there a strong, clear and consistent brand identity? Is it popular right now? Does it get a lot of press or exposure?  What other shops carry the brand? What kind of message is the store sending by carrying this brand? And finally, there's the business aspect. Is the brand easy to work with? What are the minimums? You never get everything on that list. But you need the clothing, the branding and the business aspects to come together. All in all, we're here to sell clothes. So we ask those questions to see if a brand is viable and whether we can sell their pieces”.
I then explain to him how myself and everyone else definitely appreciates the passion and dedication they devote into their store and hope for nothing but the best in the future. He then chuckles and shakes my hand, “Thanks a lot. There aren’t many stores nowadays that carry what they like. A lot of it is what’s trending, what sells best and you can clearly see that in their space. It’s like going through a Tumblr feed and slapping that into a small space for everyone else to see”.

When asked about the future of WT, and what it holds for them, he explains “We’re always looking for new things to do. With the new website, we definitely want to get into more original content. We just finished shooting one video and we're currently planning another one as well as a photo editorial. As for exhibitions, we want to expand our network of artists to collaborate with and also expand the media we work with. In the New Year, we'll be working with an industrial designer on an exhibition for Design Week. If it goes well, hopefully we'll be able to get into offering small goods at the shop. As for clothing, we'll be adding Stone Island and Proper Gang to our brand roster for SS16. 

The way WorkingTitle approaches every task is a true testament that shows how much passion, dedication and time they put into their store. They buy what they like and don’t think twice. They aren’t worried about competition because they are confident that their clientele will be receptive to the products that they have to offer. 

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