Toronto’s Danforth boutique, Tabula Rasa (745 Broadview Ave), gives women the chance to build a whole new wardrobe or maybe even to create a new identity for themselves. Vintage pieces are reinvented through the creative mind of store owner, Jennifer Park and paired with new labels and curated under mini-collections to build a themed shopping experience. Whether you want to dress like a Nomad or channel your inner Batman in the Dark Knight collection, Tabula Rasa is the store for vintage fanatics or just those looking for a good find.
How did your fashion education from Ryerson help you in opening a store.
I was in the design program so the focus was based on the technical aspects of making clothing (e.g pattern drafting, sewing, draping, etc.) versus starting your own fashion business. I did apply my sewing knowledge to the re-working and altering I do to my vintage finds. I actually had no idea I would eventually open my own store. But what I took away from that program was dedication, hard work, integrity and the best crop of fashion friends a girl could find. It was these people who really encouraged and supported my move in opening a store. So Ryerson, thank you for introducing me to the finest, and most talented, friends I know.
You also designed for Le Chateau in Montreal. What did working for them teach you?
This was my first real corporate fashion job. I was the head designer for Women’s Dressy Suits & Outerwear. I learned everything here. I learned how to turn a sketch into a final product that will hit over 250 stores. I was taught how to design runway looks for a commercial market, what delivery and what buying seasons were like and I got to travel for the company. I was responsible for buying next season’s fabrics in Italy, visiting print shows in Paris and shoe shopping in Vegas! It was really amazing to have so much exposure to how a large scale Canadian company operates. I certainly learned how to present my ideas, work in a team and understand deadlines. I really started to build a backbone in this business.
What kinds of pieces can we find in your store and what is the price range?
Tabula Rasa is a unique mix of re-worked vintage pieces with new and up-and-coming labels. Customers are able to find things from $15-$225, and in all types of styles catering to a broad age group. I carry lines that are edgy, unique and reasonably priced such as stylestalker, MINKPINK, UNIF, BB Dakota and Gentle Fawn. I try to look for items that I would buy, or that I can see on my clients. It’s a simple philosophy, but if you don’t believe in the product you carry, then you won’t be able to sell it. The vintage items are handpicked by me. I gravitate towards vintage pieces that are so unbelievably retro they’re cool and one of a kind, to simple 80′s silk blouses in an array of colours that can be worn in a contemporary way. At the end of the day, it’s all about fashion. Is this relevant? Am I inspired by this? Does this remind me of something Chloé did this season? I try to bring it all back to what makes the pieces I find special. We also have an online store where there are even more vintage and new items, all with free shipping across North America!
You categorize vintage and new pieces into their own mini-collections. What collections do you currently have in store and how often do these categories change?
I think what makes Tabula Rasa so special is that we take the time to photograph and treat our product as high-end fashion without the expensive price tag. Each season I’ll come up with five seasonal trends according to what I’m seeing on the runway, and on the street, and I create a theme with these principles by combining vintage and new items. We’ll set up a real photoshoot with a very dedicated team that helps me execute these looks. Each theme is given 5-6 looks and we’ll shoot an editorial that I think can be featured in Vogue or Elle. This past Fall/Winter shoot we had five collections: Far East Movement, Dark Knight, Nomad, Valley of the Dolls, and Boy Meets Girl. These photos are then posted above each rack at the store, and you will see the vintage and new items merchandised under these photos. The overall impression is to have the vintage and new items look as though they are one collection. So we have this set up twice a year for spring/summer and fall/winter. I think it gives my store an edge because everything has been thought out and curated, and our photos give customers something to relate to.
What pieces should one buy that are better vintage as opposed to new?
I think that it depends on the person, but generally it’s better to buy jeans and basics new, or a particular style of dress, because the fit is more modern and current. That’s the difficulty with vintage sometimes – the fit or sizing is so specific, that it takes a certain person to work it. But in vintage, you come across some pieces with the most amazing cut or detail. It’s one of a kind or something about it is so spectacular that it would be too expensive or hard to find it new. There are some great looks right now that are so vintage, like lace up booties, high-waisted denim cut offs and oversized cocoon jackets. In my opinion, if you find a vintage item, buy it over the new piece because it’s more special to say, “It’s vintage” over “It’s from Zara.”
What has been your best vintage find to date?
Ooh hard question. There are so many amazing finds we’ve come across. But most recently I think the leather shorts on my online store are pretty amazing. They are leather with side fringe and gold studs on the pocket. I mean, if you’re a size XXS, I’d tell you to rush order this one. They are bad to the bone!