Last Thursday was the Pardon Le Dopeness Fashion Exhibit, aka hip-hop jam, on Queen Street West in downtown Toronto. It was a bitter night, cold, raining, hovering around the freezing mark. The crackheads on the corner, church stoops, and receding storefronts sent a wretched chill into the already oppressive air. But that’s not to say there wasn’t any light, anywhere. Down a couple shops from the Bathurst and Queen intersection was a mob of trendy-looking ‘Dopeness’ enthusiasts getting their swag on on a Thursday night, smoking dope outside the loft-style gallery. Burd from Burd & Keyz was one among the crowd, as well as The 6th Letter, both up-and-coming hip-hop artists on the Northern radar. As you moved in closer and became one with the mob, there were girls in fox fur jackets, girls in multicolored leggings, trench-coats, ball caps, and all the accessories which dignify a hip-hop hipster, or in actuality, a stereotypical culture blogger. These are our people, our readers, our fans, our customers! And they all had gathered together on this city’s unofficial (weekly) holiday, Thursday – thanks to The Weeknd – to celebrate the excellence of a homemade urban fashion brand, Pardon.
Inside the shop the hard rumble of Ricky Rozay’s “9 Piece” boomed over the stereo, “I’m smoking dope, I’m on my cell phone,” while 9 or so articles of featured Pardon clothing hung from meatpacking hooks wired to the ceiling. “If you could pick one piece, just one, to take home with you, which one would it be?” I asked Burd, as we stood up against the white drywall at the front of the shop. Burd didn’t respond – he was grooving to the music – so I went ahead and chose the zebra-print trousers, while Raymond, my short and fidgety photographer from Lebanon, chose the classic red on white varsity jacket. There were a lot of noble choices up on the meat hooks, a winter jacket with the traditional hunting pattern, what could have been a ladies varsity jacket, purple with metallic studs that didn’t require you recycle your 3D frames, and a couple more traditional pieces, a black hoody, swamp green chinos, that kind of thing. It was a pretty good lineup, I thought. “Goes well with the ladies,” chimed in Burd, who was listening after all. Matt and Eric at Pardon evidently know how to throw a killer party. Not only did they have booze, clothes on meat hooks, a nice spot with hardwood floors and an upstairs dance floor, but they had a 2:1 ratio of hot girls to fly guys. Chicks in print blouses, furs, with bold lipsticks and primrose scents, proliferated from little circles around the party, and made the company seem a little less… detached. After all, these were our people, bloggers, musicians, hip-hop enthusiasts!
At the end of the night, around midnight, long after Raymond had bid farewell, Burd and I trekked across the street to have some poutine, Smoke’s to be exact. It was still raining outside, a damp and swirling rain, so Burd and I took a seat against the heater where there was a wall-length chalkboard. As soon as we got comfortable some dude in a sable hat – like George’s hat from Seinfeld – asked me to take a photo of him and his girlfriend in front of the chalkboard. They had designed some sort of inscription in yellow and white chalk and wanted me to capture it in megapixels. “Thank you so much, bro,” exclaimed the dude in the sable hat, while his girlfriend winked at me as I snapped the photograph. “No problem,” I said, reclaiming my seat at the counter with my food. Burd was back on his cellphone and telling one of his friends how the Pardon party was straight out of How to Make it in America, the HBO show, anecdotes and all. So I quietly hunkered down and ate my poutine in calm.
By 1 o’clock Burd and I had made our way back to his car and were vibing out to his Keyz of Life CD with the windows cracked. “I’m getting inspired from all this music,” I said out loud, but Burd didn’t answer. He was fast asleep, snoring at the wheel; Luckily he was in park. As the record “Shine” oozed from the stereo, I glanced out the vehicle and counted the various couples departing from the Pardon party. They all appeared happy, smiling, laughing, hand in hand on the sidewalk, glowing from the liquor and bud, heading off to another party somewhere, or home to curl up under a blanket and share each other’s warmth. I watched them in silence, our people, the bloggers, and took mental notes in my head. Then I went home and wrote this.
– By @petermarrack
photography by Raymond Gemayel
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