When you think of the fashion of the future, a lot of metallic hues and structured shapes might come to mind. But clothing brand U3’s new shop on Ossington suggests that the future of fashion is genderless, sustainable, diverse and collaborative.
Those might all sound like buzzwords, but U3 has made it clear they’re doing more than just talking the talk. The brand started out as a consignment shop on Queen, but the shift to the Ossington area was a deliberate one. “This is more suitable for our establishment compared to Queen West, where it’s still a bit more commercial compared to a smaller community neighbourhood type of vibe,” Terri Zhang, one of the co-directors at U3, explains.
The idea for their new location at 129 Ossington Ave., which launched in March of this year, was to create a more collaborative establishment. Thus, Mirari x U3 was born.
The lime green storefront stands out among a sea of beige tones on the street, and the interior is just as eye-catching.
“We were brainstorming what we can do with the space other than just a clothing store,” Zhang says. “How do we make more of an art collective so that people can actually come in and gather, instead of just coming in to spend money?”
The shop is divided into three spaces, each a separate “room” with a separate focus. Room 1 houses the U3 clothing; Room 2 is an outdoor patio, complete with a garage that swings open, with a bar serving alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks depending on the time of day. Room 3 is a former kitchen, which the brand has turned into a showroom for art and other displays.
Zhang says the art and collaborative side (Mirari) and the fashion side (U3) are being housed in the same location for now, but future plans might see Mirari branch off into its own art center, separate from the clothing brand.
The different focuses, from art to fashion, are all tied together by a futuristic angle. “The fashion is, in general, very futuristic; we’re imagining what people would wear 20, 30 or even 50 years from now,” Zhang says.
That includes a hanging nanochip earring and a blazer adorned with 3D flower appliques, yes, but it also includes a focus on sustainable and gender-neutral fashion, with an emphasis on items from BIPOC and queer artists.
“All items are unisex. If you go to the clothing section, there is no men or women’s section,” they say. “You don’t have to go to a specific section to find a piece that works for you.”
Zhang says it was a no-brainer to ensure all the artists they work with are BIPOC and queer. “We, the owners, are BIPOC and/or queer ourselves, so we wanted to use our platform to elevate voices that haven’t been heard enough in the fashion world and art world in a broader sense,” they say.
U3 also makes a point of collaborating with local brands they love who feature upcycled and handmade items. “We also do something called the U3 remake; we remake some of the pieces from these brands in collaboration with the artists,” Zhang says.
They explain that the new storefront is constantly finding new uses for the space, such as a speakeasy and live performance event a week ago. “We still have the clothing and fashion element, and we’re adding more events and potentially artist networking events soon, to add more flavour to the art collective,” Zhang says.
Mirari x U3 is open every day from 1 p.m. to 7-8 p.m.