Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

On "How to be Silicon Valley", Part 3

Your Reading Assignment

Paul Graham, whose essay How to be Silicon Valley was the inspiration for this blog entry, has written a follow-up titled Why Startups Condense in America. I’ll write up more on it later.

How to be Milan?

One of the more interesting responses to my posting on Silicon Valley came from Danielle Meder, who comes from a completely different industry: fashion. In her blog, final fashion, she writes:

One of my favourite local characters, Accordion Guy, offers on his blog a recipe for Toronto to become Silicon Valley. It seems that fashion is not the only industry where Toronto struggles to define itself. Despite the fact that it is a city that is liberal, creative and economically strong, Toronto constantly deals with identity issues. Too often we define ourselves by what we are not or measure ourselves against inappropriate benchmarks (we are not New York and never will be) rather than positively asserting what we are.

Danielle points out something that some people from the tech field have pointed out in previous comments: that the Canadian aversion to self-promotion is a problem. Come to think of it, I can’t think of much in the way of my wardrobe that could be described as “Canadian”, save for a couple of dress shirts from Tip Top (who’ve improved a bit over the past few years) a couple of vests from local guys Hoax Couture and some stuff from Mexx Everything else was designed by Americans, Germans or Italians and stitched (or possibly glued) by Indonesians.

Although the stereotype is for geeks to actively eschew fashion, it does matter to a number of us. I’m sure I’ve written at least one decent fashion blog entry, and I’ll be the first to admit that the accordion is a thirty-pound fashion accessory (albeit one that makes nouse and can convert music into free beer).

Consider the DemoCamp “brain trust”: I don’t think I’ve seen David Crow without a blazer or Sutha Kamal or Thomas Purves without a good dress shirt on. I sometimes tend towards the raffish — check out my ties and shoes or the Pants of Power — but I’ll go back to the classics when the occasion demands it.

I’m not up on the state of the fashion industry in Toronto, so I doubt if I can contribute anything useful to the “How can we promote Toronto’s fashion industry?” conversation. (Hey, I haven’t even caught up with this French-cuffs-and-cufflinks trend; I don’t have a single French cuff shirt and one of my three sets of cufflinks are black with silver Playboy bunnies on them — they might come in handy if ever someone throws a Dean Martin theme party). If you’ve got any ideas, drop by this entry in Danielle’s blog and leave a comment!

4 replies on “On "How to be Silicon Valley", Part 3”

Thanks for the shout-out Accordion guy! We’ve never met formally but I used to watch you walk by with your accordion at such locations as the Om festival and my old apt in Kensington…

As for Canada/Toronto’s fashion identity… the real problem that I ‘ve identified so far is that Canadians are in love with the deal, meaning our major markets are south of the border or abroad in Europe and Asia, where people are willing to pay for quality. Our fashion identity is more focused on manufacturing/exporting than consuming our own merch.

One of the things I like about our national identity is that you can’t put your finger on it… and the way somehow we are both liberal and conservative at the same time, in different ways… =)

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