Hamilton shop clothes the stars in Oscar frontrunner The Shape of Water

Little glimpses of Hamilton are scattered all over Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which is up for more than a dozen Academy Awards this weekend.

Vintagesoulgeek now working with Netflix on upcoming Umbrella Academy

Sally Hawkins, left, and Doug Jones, right, appear in The Shape of Water, which is nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. (Kerry Hayes/Fox Searchlight Pictures/The Associated Press)

Little glimpses of Hamilton are scattered all over Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which is up for 13 Academy Awards this weekend.

Sure, there's the shot that's obvious to even the most casual observer in city hall's exterior feature in the film, with the building's throwback design seamlessly fitting into the eclectic romance's 1960s setting.

But less blatant are the scores of clothes worn onscreen that came straight from Vintagesoulgeek, a vintage clothing store in the city's International Village.

Nik Bulajic runs the shop alongside his wife, Connie. He had no idea when he signed on to work with del Toro's production company that the film would become this huge.

"When someone is telling you about a love story between a mute lady and a fish man, you can't really envision it," he said with a laugh. "But this is really exciting."

That's about as apt a description of the film as you'll find. In The Shape of Water, Sally Hawkins stars as a mute janitor at a U.S. government laboratory where officials are holding hostage some sort of fish-god/merman/Creature from the Black Lagoon-type. It was filmed largely in Hamilton and Toronto.

Bulajic's involvement in the film started around two years ago, when some people involved in the project walked into his shop and found lots of pieces they liked.

Vintagesoulgeek deals predominantly in clothes from the 1920s to the 1970s. All of the pieces were collected and curated by three generations of his wife's family — his wife, her mother, and her grandmother.

Nikola Bulajic and his wife own Vintagesoulgeek, a vintage clothing store in the International Village. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"Every piece you see inside my store was inside my house at some point," he said. As you might imagine, that's made for some cramped quarters at times.

"We had to convert three bedrooms in our house into closets. Her closets have closets. One of her closets has a bathroom," Bulajic said.

The shop got a taste of del Toro's much-vaunted attention to detail, too. The original ask from the crew was items from the early 1960s that were all in a muted blue or yellow colour, as the director was going with that aesthetic.

"Then they called all of a sudden and said, 'No, no, never mind, it's all muted green now.'"

Del Toro talked about that choice in a recent interview with Fox 5, talking about how the colour green was used repeatedly, in everything from soap to wall colour to a focus on key lime pie.

"The idea is green is the future. And this is a time — 1962 — where America is obsessed with the future. And in comes this creature that is an elemental god — he's not an animal, he's an elemental god from a river that represents the most ancient, holy past for another culture," the director said.

"And he's being tortured and studied and prodded by a character particularly that doesn't see it for the divine and beautiful thing that it is."

The Shape of Water leads the pack at this year's Academy Awards, with a staggering 13 nominations, including best picture, best director, and yes, best costume design.

Director Guillermo del Toro latest The Shape of Water was largely filmed in Hamilton and Toronto. (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Bulajic is obviously rooting for it. "That film is Hamilton through and through," he said.

Now, with a toe in the water of the film industry, other productions have come calling. Vintagesoulgeek is currently working with Netflix on its upcoming Umbrella Academy series, based on former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way's comic books of the same name.

"We're starting to lay some roots here in the film industry. It's great."



Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.