This year I was faced with a difficult reality, the building which houses my studio was sold. Being that it’s at a prime location which is quickly being gentrified, many of my neighbours and I feared the worst.
Just a little background, I moved to Toronto about 12 years ago, and I’ve spent 11 of those 12 years living and working in the Kensington Market/College & Bathurst area. I’ve come to love the area and it’s become very much a part of my life and very much a part of theJennifer Fukushima brand. I’m so very fortunate to have access to countless fresh produce markets, numerous health food stores, cheese shops, bakeries and plenty of vegan & vegetarian fare.
In addition, I live 5 minutes from my studio which allows me to spend long hours working on my line and doing what I love without a dreaded commute. I got pretty lucky.
My studio is located in a decaying building in Toronto’s Chinatown West. The six story building was once a garment district mecca housing countless production companies in its heyday. Today it is home to a large Asian grocery store, many small Asian businesses, a United Way office which offers English classes and several storage units. And somehow, throughout all the changes that have taken place over the years, several fashion production houses have managed to remain, thrive and flourish. Over the years, emerging artists and designers have moved in, including myself. My friends and neighbours include:
Cat & Kelly offer product development and production for emerging and established fashion brands.
Megan designs a hip line of clothing and accessories with a sense of humour.
Paria designs a line of refined and modern womenswear. She also works with various clients to create custom event wear and is currently in the process of launching a new fashion related venture.
Kristiann creates a fun, feminine, modern line of sewing patterns.
Leilanni Todd creates a hip, young line of swimwear.
Paul creates tailored, refined coats for women. He also does product development and production for various location designers.
Marisa Hoicka creates fine art, performance art, films and more.
As you can see, we have quite a network of designers and creators here in our building. We benefit from our proximity and have a very supportive community here. Plus the rent has remained very affordable, which is essential to running a business in such a competitive industry.
So naturally, when I heard the building had been sold, my first thought was that the new owners would no doubt set us on our way, tear the building down and erect another condo. Late nights spent sifting through Craigslist ads revealed that the only studio space I would be able to afford would involve a minimum 1 hour commute. I began preparing myself to face the reality that I might have to leave my neighbourhood in order to be closer to my studio.
Fast forward a few weeks and we’ve had an informal meeting with the new management. Our new manager has informed us that he and his colleagues want to keep the creative feel, though most of their plans are still up in the air. We haven’t been given any definite answers yet, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to stay here as things change.
To learn more about my line, visit the Jennifer Fukushima website.
Photography by Madeleine Jones.