IDYSM: Hey Amin, thanks so much for doing this. So, I always like to set the scene when we start these interviews, so can you please let us know where you are as we do this.
AMIN: I’m currently in the South of France, which I know sounds a bit douchey, but I’m here for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
IDYSM: It’s a broad question to jump in with, but what makes Toronto such an exciting place to be right now?
AMIN: I think we’re part of the first true generation that is a result of this city’s cultural mash up.
We have this vast immigrant culture that continues to grow and even the 2nd or 3rd generation folks seem to hang on to the cultures of their immigrant parents or grandparents.
Sure, other cities have large immigration, but in Canada more people from more places tend to end up in Toronto and they tend to hang on to where they came from. And people like me grew up fully submersed in this diversity and don’t really know any other reality. So to this generation, in this city, that is just what the culture is. And of course this extends into all the sub-cultures.
These days you can’t even tell the difference between hipster, hip hop, or hippie let alone the country, culture or religion someone comes from.
Looking to music, you can see some of this in Drake, who moves from hip hop, to r&b, to pop seamlessly while he shifts from smoking weed to smoking shisha. He’s a pretty good example of the creative mash-up that makes Toronto the place right now.
IDYSM: How long have you been in Toronto for, and how much has it changed and evolved over the years?
AMIN: I was born and raised in Toronto. For me the biggest change, outside of the nickname now being a number, is that the sub-culture that I grew up in has simply become the culture.
Back in the day, different people from different backgrounds connecting over reggae and dancehall or roti and doubles felt a bit on the outside. But now, all of that that is very much a part of Toronto’s identity.
Also, the city has some new found international recognition. That’s new. I think Vogue named Queen Street West 2nd coolest neighbourhood in the world. Not sure exactly what that means, but people are talking about the city.
We’ve also recently evolved into a basketball city, not only with the Raptors success and renowned fan base, but also by having Toronto-born folks be the top draft picks and others winning championships.
So it’s changed a lot here over the past 5 years even and it’s nice to be in the middle of it.
IDYSM: Toronto is renowned for it’s multiculturalism and open-mindedness, how much do these factors play in both your work, and what can be achieved there?
AMIN: I will say that in terms of my work, I do feel like one of the earliest (at least in Canada) to weave this social shift into the DNA of a business.
15 years ago I started OneMethod and there weren’t any other shops like it run by guys like me. We mostly developed design and digital advertising but our office played hip hop non stop, we released dancehall mixtapes, and I started designing custom pimped out cars of the rich and famous on the side with one of the Toronto Raptors.
Years after OneMethod opened up, that same multicultural street vibe that our company was built on would start seeping into mass acceptance and all of a sudden our shop had a bit of a rep and a lot of demand. We started seeing people come to us specifically for the fact that we’re different, even if (or maybe precisely because) it made them feel uncomfortable.
As for what can be achieved, it’s really unlimited. I mean, the city is open to gringos and brown guys selling tacos (at one of my restaurants, La Carnita), people come by our digital design studio to buy streetwear (our in house clothing lines, ONEMETH and FADED), and I can’t really think of an idea that is too out there for this time/place.
IDYSM: As someone who works across and within so many industries and areas, do you feel that you are afforded an environment and mentality that may be hard to find elsewhere in the world?
AMIN: Completely. Today’s Toronto is very unique. I’m lucky enough to travel a lot and I haven’t stumbled across any other city that matches up in this aspect.
A lot of people would compare us to New York (although people from New York refuse to compare themselves to anybody). And while I view New York as my second home, I still don’t see the level of cultural intermingling there that has taken place here over the last couple of decades.
Same goes for Paris, which I was just in. Other cities like these have a million amazing things about them, but in terms of mixing everything together to create something entirely new, they just don’t have what Toronto is working with.
IDYSM: Your work through OneMethod will have allowed you to see first hand how creativity is growing in Toronto. What does your work in this area entail, and just how have things grown in recent years?
AMIN: About 5 years ago Toronto was in the middle of a creative shift in food and restaurants, and that allowed us to create a tiny taco restaurant that has since become a whole thing.
Being able to play in that space, at that time in the city was incredibly exciting and creatively rewarding. And more recently the city certainly has seen an increased focus on creating locally made fine products.
Again, we have been able to immerse ourselves in that shift as we created a street wear line made from locally manufactured fabrics. It’s hard to say if we are riding these waves or pushing them, but it’s easy to see that there is some serious shifting and growth happening in the city right now and everyone has an opportunity to be a part of it.
IDYSM: OneMethod if just one part of what you do though. Can you expand on what you do, and give us an outline of what an average day might be for you?
AMIN: Above all, I am a creative class entrepreneur. I look for business opportunities that connect with my definition of creativity. I love building brands and making things in general.
And while sometimes this causes me to lose a little, there is almost always some benefit from following something you truly believe in.
OneMethod specifically is one of the country’s premier design and advertising shops. We work with all sorts of big and small brands creating local and international work. And as mentioned, we have also been involved in building some of the hottest restaurants in the city (expanding globally) plus we have an up and coming clothing line that people are really getting behind.
My average day is mostly a juggling routine from when I wake up to when I crash out, with the bulk of my focus placed on OneMethod (my original baby).
It’s a lot of what you’d expect in terms of meetings and decisions and all that, but it all remains very fluid as you would expect from our open workspace and my doorless office.
And of course a bit part of my day to day is catching up with the team. Luckily, over the past 15 years we’ve amassed a pretty solid crew and something that almost resembles a process so I’ve got lots of help keeping the machine(s) going.
IDYSM: I can imagine that life is pretty hectic, so how does the city’s energy feed into what you do and the decisions you make across all of your work?
AMIN: That creative energy is just part of who I am now, it’s not something I have to overtly think about.
Talent wise, a lot of the young creatives that are coming out of this city just have it. And that right there continually shifts and reignites the inspiration.
For decisions though, I don’t know if it consciously factors into anything. I suppose if you have to think about being creative, you’re probably not being very creative (if that makes sense).
IDYSM: What inspires you?
AMIN: Mostly Kanye .)
But seriously, his fuck you attitude, uncompromising vision, and his natural ability to provoke conversation certainly inspires me. Whether you like him or not, he has an undeniable commitment to creativity.
IDYSM: How much has the influence of Drake and OVO sound played in both your work, and Toronto’s growth?
AMIN: I wouldn’t say Drake/OVO has directly influenced our work, although we do listen to a fair bit of it at the office and he did crash our 10-year anniversary party.
But I do think the same global shifts that have helped more people be open to a Drake are not only built into our company but have also helped us reach new levels of success.
And as for Toronto’s growth, Drake and his team are definitely a big part of all that, but they are also only a few tracks on this city’s metaphorical mixtape.
IDYSM: Contemporary fashion has been building a solid reputation globally (we spoke to Tung Vo at wings + horns & Reigning Champ recently). What inspired you to move into this world with ONEMETH?
AMIN: Truthfully speaking, the whole idea for the clothing line came from a failure.
We pitched the Toronto Raptors on some brand work and ended up losing. Within that pitch was an idea we all loved, an idea for a streetwear line that we didn’t want to see die. So we decided to make a go of it on our own.
I should note here that I’ve had a passion for fashion for far too long. I remember scrounging change as a kid in elementary school for that rare trip to the Polo store at the outlet mall to find that one gem I could afford to scoop up.
I treated those pieces like works of art and meticulously took care of them.
Couple all that with my maker mentality and a curiosity for how things are made and this challenge spoke to me for all sorts of reasons.
IDYSM: How much of the label and it’s product represents you and the inspiration that Toronto has given you?
AMIN: That’s a difficult one to answer. Working with my design partner on the label, Jonathan Shimoni, has taught me a ton about the process and art of it all.
We talk a lot about the details of each garment, regularly debating cuts and fits. So subconsciously, I suppose there are infinite expressions of myself and my city in the clothing. But on a conscious level there isn’t much there.
You can definitely see a lot of my aesthetic in many of the pieces, but I wouldn’t say the work represents me or Toronto. If anything, I think our design aesthetic is definitely more of a progressive global look, which certainly shows in our sales that come from a truly global audience.
IDYSM: The label has been spotted on the likes of Justin Bieber, which must have been great for sales?
AMIN: I mean yeah, that’s an incredible thing right there.
We definitely see sales spikes when he wears our stuff but beyond the numbers, it’s just nice to know that someone who wears nothing but the top brands in the world also happens to wear our goods.
IDYSM: Where do you think the menswear scene is at right now, and how does ONEMETH fit in with this (or not)?
AMIN: Right now we fall into what people call streetwear. But the idea of streetwear is evolving.
It used to be about bold graphic tees and logos (an area we started with, then moved on from), but things are moving to a more minimal aesthetic.
Our gear definitely has that progressive and artful feel to it. There is an emphasis on quality craftsmanship, with interesting subtle details, and purposeful cuts/fits.
Much like the category, and fashion in general, our look will evolve over time, and so will our audience.
IDYSM: What does the future hold for you, ONEMETH, OneMethod and your other ventures through Toronto?
AMIN: I’m not a man that looks too far ahead. I have trouble thinking about the next 3 months never mind the next 3 years.
Instead, I’ve built my world around moving with the flow, adapting quickly and trusting my gut, which I think is more helpful today than ever.
So to (not really) answer the question, I guess your guess is as good as mine .)
IDYSM: It’s a signature question that ends all ‘In Their Shoes’ interviews and I can’t wait to hear your answer;…what’s on your feet right now?
AMIN: My versatile favourite, Rick Owens high-top canvas sneakers.
A huge thanks to Amin for his time, and for Farouq Samnani for the hook up.