The Genteel
April 17, 2021


The Deadly Nightshades (Photograph courtesy of The Deadly Nightshades).

Late last year, the BBC aired a segment about Toronto's plentiful and competitive vintage fashion scene, which the BBC noted "is attracting shoppers from all across the world." Among the profiled was a group of young Canadian designers collectively known as The Deadly Nightshades (The DNS) which runs The Style Spin, a unique bike tour that takes the public on a behind-the-scenes spin around Toronto's fashion landscape.

The Nightshades and their manifesto.
The Nightshades biking manifesto (Image
courtesy of The Deadly Nightshades).

The women of The DNS (Kirsten White, Laura Mensinga, Irene Stickney, Cat Essiambre, Niamh McManus, Meg Orlinski, and Patricia Youn) first met at Ryerson University's School of Fashion, quickly bonded over similar interests, and eventually began working together on projects. They shared the belief that the fashion industry sometimes lacked soul and were compelled to give it one through their vision for ethical and sustainable design. Biking, their other shared passion, is how the ladies choose to travel from work to play and back, even in the dead of winter. Whatever the event, they roll together as a gang, in matching jackets and head-turning duds. Each member of the collective works in the apparel or bike industry, and their passion for sustainable design has carried through into their daily life practices.

Having received media attention and encouraging feedback from clients, one might think the group is tempted to expand its offerings; perhaps turning the tour into a must-see for any Toronto-bound, fashion-loving traveler. However, DNS feels that the tour is already special, "We'd prefer to have six amazing tours that leave people wanting more, rather than 26 disorganized ones. We don't want stops just for the sake of it. We want to have great, exciting designers with inspiring studios and strong work." This summer, however, The DNS does plan on changing up its offerings by adding themed studio tours.

We don't want stops just for the sake of it. We want to have great, exciting designers with inspiring studios and strong work. 

The DNS' raison d’être is more than just bike tours. Last winter, the group created a short film, Fabric Bike, which documents the three-month process of making a bike out of recycled and reclaimed materials (and finished off with touches of sea foam green and gold - its' trademark colours). The bicycle, itself, was the inspiration for the project, which the group describes as "reliable, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing" - everything The DNS stands for. The film was a heartfelt collaboration that showcased each member's contributions and skills towards the creation of the Fabric Bike. Fabric Bike is now touring with the Bicycle Film Festival, a platform that celebrates the bicycle through music, art and film.

Biking culture is making a comeback in Toronto. In May 2011, BIXI was launched on the streets of Toronto, a bike sharing system that allows members unlimited access to BIXI bikes stationed around the city. In a city with (sometimes) unreliable public transportation but regular traffic jams, biking is a reliable way to get around. The DNS adds that, "it's the best way to party hop in Toronto, hands down." Designers such as Trinity Kerr have become passionate about the growing urban bike movement. Being an avid biker, Kerr knew that ordinary clothes weren't suitable for the task, so she created Pedaler Clothing, designing and producing cycling clothing that looks like everyday street-wear. 

As for DNS' goals in 2012, the girls are raising funds in order to buy a professional digital camera so they can shoot more videos which would document their future creations. The group continues to do whatever it can to bring awareness to sustainable and responsible design. Individually, the members have taken on their own solo projects. Stickney teaches people how to make, remake and mend their clothes at her studio, The Make Den. She also works with a charity called PACT, where she teaches at-risk youth children how to sew. As we speak, Stickney's students are making prom dresses for girls in their communities. Mesinga and Youn are both working for companies that produce locally-made messenger bags from recycled materials. White makes web- and video-based look books with the goal of promoting sustainable portfolios, and premiered her first look book at the Toronto Alternative Fashion Week. 

If you ask the members about their biggest accomplishment since forming the collective, don't be surprised if they say, "Sticking together! One love!" It's the perfect way to summarize DNS, a community built by a group of friends with shared beliefs, that has injected the fashion world with its own brand of biker soul.




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