The new handmade: Toronto shop 100% Silk aims to change the way we view handmade fabric

Slow fashion, traditional techniques and contemporary design.

Slow fashion, traditional techniques and contemporary design

(Courtesy 100% Silk)

You'll be tempted to touch all the different textures and intricate details on each item in the 100% Silk Shop & Gallery, a new temporary shop focusing on handmade goods in Toronto. From the tiny details of a handmade bobbin lace collar to a jacket made from recycled Moroccan rugs, there is a beautiful handmade fabric to engage with in every section.

Inside the 100% Silk Shop & Gallery (Courtesy 100% Silk)

The shop on Queen West, which opened its doors September 1st and will remain open until January 2018, was created by thirty-year-old designer Lee Dekel in collaboration with artist Zach Besner and Toronto furniture project Spaced. It features Dekel's own fashion label, 100% Silk, which is handmade in Toronto, Ghana and Uzbekistan, and an array of independent designers based in Canada and internationally, such as Mozh Mozh, a Peruvian brand created by designer Mozhdeh Matin and Spanish line Accidente Con Flores by Ola Kawalko and Adrián Martínez Marí.

Mozh Mozh uses high-quality local alpaca and cotton, while working with female artisans of native villages to conserve the long history of textiles and techniques in Peru. Based in Ibiza, Accidente Con Flores also works with local artisans and collaborates with suppliers on the island to create "timeless and constantly growing collections available at any time". Their core values are "environmental consciousness, sustainability, quality and social responsibility". 

Mozh Mozh (Courtesy Mozh Mozh)

Also thrown into the mix are are carefully-sourced ceramics, paintings, and textiles such as blankets from West Africa and Central Asia.

Dekel aims to perpetuate a movement in fashion that is both towards educating people about the clothing, such as where it comes from, how it was made, etc., and slow-fashion garments that combine timeless traditional handmade techniques, such as knitting and weaving, with a modern, playful and contemporary aesthetic.

Hand-dyed smoking jacket and dip-dye shorts by 100% Silk

All the pieces in the shop, whether they are new or vintage, contain aesthetic elements from past and present, a sensibility that Dekel wanted to cultivate intentionally — a psychedelic sense of timelessness.

"It's basically my dream closet," Dekel says excitedly when I visit her in the shop on its opening night.

The name of the store is meant to be cheeky, as Dekel was initially inspired by the thrill of coming across that genuine "100% Silk" tag while thrifting. "100% Silk tags have such an aura around them," Dekel says, because they indicate a high-quality textile.

Another view inside the 100% Silk Shop & Gallery (Courtesy 100% Silk)

Dekel attended Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied design and textiles, including weaving and dyeing, having always had a love for folk textiles especially.

"The nice thing about a textile is that it's art you can touch," she says. "There are so many more dimensions than a painting in a gallery — the relationship is completely different".

She interned for Osei Duro, a line created in 2011 by Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh and which she also now carries in her shop. She then became their production manager and started 100% Silk a few years later. Dekel learned a lot from her time with them, and now utilizes similar practices for her own line. Designers like Osei Duro work with local artisans to redesign a textile with their point of view in mind, merging the two aesthetics to create something completely different.

Dekel traveled for a year and half to create the garments for 100% Silk, and she met so many other talented designers that she decided to open the shop. She considers it to be "a showroom for incredible artists".

In talking with Dekel, it's clear that she is passionate about two things: textiles and people. "The reason these crafts have been around for so long is because they speak to something in the human spirit," she says. She notes that we are currently seeing a revolution in the food industry with the tendency towards local, ethical and organic produce, but the fashion industry has seemingly gone the opposite direction.

Tie back halter by 100% Silk

"People identify so much with the food they eat and I want to carry that [sentiment] into clothing," says Dekel.

Even if we don't want to be, we are constantly embroiled in matters of fashion sustainability simply by way of having to wear clothing on our bodies. Slowly but surely, fashion is changing. With more transparency and information being made available to consumers, people can make better choices, whether it's investing in a piece that will last a lifetime instead of falling apart in the dryer, or simply deciding to shop second-hand more frequently. It's the innovative brands like the ones in 100% Silk Shop & Gallery that are starting over with playful, innovative and mindful ways of engaging with fashion.