The Globe and Mail’s unofficial Kitsilano spokesperson, Hadani Ditmars, covers Kits again with a profile of the new Orb Clothing store on West 4th. For those of you that didn’t catch it yesterday, here it is…
If Kitsilano were ever to become its own breakaway republic, its national uniform would be the hoodie.
But if it had, say, its own army, a battle might well break out over who would be the official uniform supplier. But before you start fantasizing about tall blond militia swathed in Lululemon duking it out with girls dressed in rival body wear, consider this. The arrival of Orb’s new flagship store on West 4th Avenue may mean there’s already a winner by acclamation.
It would be hard to imagine a store more Kitsilano than this. Although owner Glenn Taylor says he’s beyond demographics, his clever mix of stylish casual wear and environmentally friendly design is a neighbourhood shoo-in, especially when you top it off with a humanitarian angle (monthly donations to customers’ favourite charities are promised) and an artsy edge (local singer-songwriters star in the Orb catalogue).
While the former hippie enclave never really lost its boho roots in its consumerist sea change of the past two decades, its property values – not to mention retail rents – went so sky-high that no self-respecting head shop could afford to set up there today.
The genius of Orb is that it has taken its skater-girl roots and made them accessible to all ages – in theory at least. We’re still waiting for the 40-and-fabulous set to embrace these clothes.
With its three lines of women’s wear – Mind, Body and Soul – Orb offers variety in spades. Mind is notable for its range of print T-shirts, often with art-nouveau-like motifs. These are produced by the Orb design collective and sometimes even integrated into the store design itself. Body promises “freedom of movement” apparel (in this age of omni-surveillance, a basic human right has become a fashion concept) and Soul includes more feminine pieces with butterfly and floral designs.
In a sea of retailers selling T-shirts, hoodies and yoga wear, Orb also stands out for its store design. Occupying the former locale of housewares shop Hafatzim, Orb has made good use of the light-filled, airy space.
The first level, with 1,800 square feet of polished concrete floors and river-rock wall, acts as a suitable gallery for Orb apparel, displayed on Molo soft seating and walls. Dressing-room doors are festooned with stylized Orb-designed artwork that will be auctioned off each month for the winner’s charity of choice.
Graphic tableaus stare out from the far wall with slogans like “Our past, present and future are intertwined” and an image of a dark beauty in an Orb T-shirt locked in a smiling namaste pose (Actually, they’ve hit the neighbourhood demographic square on: She looks just like a girl we saw at the nearby juice bar at Capers last weekend).
Upstairs, a gorgeously minimalist space – 1,400 square feet of hardwood – is billed as a “design lab” and the future site of “empowering Orb events” (one can only imagine). It’s also a showcase for sustainable fashion and housewares.
If a cryogenically frozen hippie from one of those long-gone head shops were to awake in 2008 Kitsilano, he might be a bit surprised. But no worries. After the revolution, everyone will dress in hoodies and armies of Orb Girls will patrol West 4th Avenue, their fashionable yoga poses at the ready.
Last modified: April 6, 2008