Toronto Instagram accounts refreshing local street style

Toronto Instagram accounts refreshing local street style

Recent developments include: unassuming Instagram postMy scrolling thumb stopped in its tracks. The image was unfiltered and clearly unedited. It featured a young man standing in the sunlit shop of downtown Toronto with his hands in peace signs. He was wearing a navy bucket-hat, a white Tshirt, an olive-green quarter zip hoodie, tactical cargo pants, and Salomon hiking sneakers.

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The photo was posted as one of the first on a new @416_fits account. This page is dedicated to documenting Toronto street fashion.

In a cyber sea of heavily-filtered, meticulously-composed images of designer-clad influencers, this lo-fi, decidedly unfiltered image of a stranger in a DIY outfit wasn’t just a relief — it rekindled the spark of discovery lost in a social media environment where everyone dresses alike and everything is for sale. I’ve been a loyal follower ever since.

Fashion media champions the idea that we’re living in the age of personal style. The rise of social media and fast fashion has wiped out the subcultures of fashion once documented in magazines like i-D and The Face.

Even the street style photography era from the early to mid-aughts, which was defined by candid photos of fashionable people at fashion weeks, was mainly focused on those who worked in the industry.

These cultural and technological shifts have brought about an era of algorithmic fashion, and created an aesthetic similarity. It’s why everyone looks like a mountain climber, a skateboarder or a guest at Paris Hilton’s 21st birthday party.

The hyperlocal @416_fits is the antidote to the Instagram grid’s glitzy fare of curated, shoppable lifestyle content.

Here you’ll find downtown denizens of all ages, genders, bodies and backgrounds in offbeat fits — free from the grip of an algorithm and where brands are never tagged.

The account owners’ lenses are more akin to documentarians than designers. You’ll want to know where the person is going more than who made their jacket.

Drawing more than 2,000 followers in five months, 17-year-old high schooler Aissatou Leye of @416_fits has established herself as one of the city’s sharpest (and youngest) chroniclers of downtown style.

Leye uses her iPhone and trained eyes to spot people in interesting outfits and snap quick photos. Simply put, she photographs real people in real clothes.

On the street, it’s the “people being comfortable with themselves,”She said she would look at anyone who catches her eye. “I think that a good outfit comes with the details, the fit (or) understanding colours.”

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Leye attributes her keen eye to magazines and street style blogs, but rather to her parents, Senegalese immigrants, who instilled in Leye the importance of personal style.

“Their number one lesson for me has always just been creating longevity in your closet and buying good quality staple pieces,”She said. This lesson is against the current fast fashion epidemic in which sellers and buyers create designs that are both low-quality but high-priced.

Leye is known for taking photos of her subjects in areas with vintage shops and thrift stores. Queen and Bathurst in Kensington Market, Koreatown in Koreatown, and her own neighbourhood near Bloor & Lansdowne are all great spots for Leye to capture an uninhibited style that defies the norms of mainstream shopping habits.

Leye plans on posting interviews with her subjects to the account in the future. This will give followers a deeper dive into their subject and an idea of how they created their style.

“I think that it’ll be entertaining to see for people,”She spoke. “And maybe make them (not) focus so much on copying others, I guess, but more like drawing inspiration from them.”

Another account for street style in Toronto: @legumesmagA social media-driven alternative to homogenous fashion is also available.

Deion Squires–Rouse captures Torontonians with unique looks. Scrolling through his account feels like flipping through a fashion magazine from a predigital age.

Squires-Rouse shoots his stylish subjects on his Pentax Optio 33WR — a 2003 digital camera with about a quarter the megapixels of the average smartphone — giving a vintage, low-resolution texture to his photos.

It has a style that is reminiscent of @90sartschoolAnother Instagram account,, has gained a cult following because it archives old images of incredibly cool Gen X art students.

Squires-Rouse’s main inspiration, though, is FRUiTS, a Japanese fashion magazine that was influential and documented local subcultures before it was shut down in 2017.

@legumesmag’s title is a riff on it, as well as the purpose Squires Rouse hopes the account will serve for fashion lovers. “People (were) scanning (images from FRUiTS) and putting them in their mood boards,”The 22-year old photographer agreed. “And I noticed that there wasn’t anything like that in Toronto.”

Toronto is home to a wealth of fashion talent. But despite the success stories of breakout designers like Spencer Badu, Beaufille, and Kathryn Bowen it lacks a strong fashion community.

There’s little infrastructure to support a thriving local industry. Toronto Fashion Week has been long since closed. There are few events to attend and very little media that covers nightlife or social scenes where fashion is the main focus.

This may be why Squires Rouse thinks Toronto lacks a coherent style. Fashionable people are left to turn to cultural capitals like New York or London.

It’s even more exciting to find a unique piece or look in Toronto.

What does it take to be snapped up by Squires-Rouse “I can appreciate a good T-shirt, a good button down or a really nice washed pair of jeans,”He said. “It doesn’t have to be outrageous. I just have to notice that maybe you considered what you put on or what you bought before you bought it or before you put it on.”

There’s a voyeuristic pleasure in being able to admire someone’s outfit without staring in public. But the real appeal of both @416_fits and @legumesmag is their look at a kind of insider cool that doesn’t feel exclusive.

There’s an “if you know you know”It’s a feeling of belonging to a secret club that makes following accounts feel like joining. All you have to do is sign up to become a member. There’s no one dictating what to wear, and no one is selling you anything, because there’s nothing to buy.

The two accounts are pure inspiration for a real community of style enthusiasts — no influencers allowed.


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