Drake seizes the opportunity to outfit fans with legit merchandise with his official stamp of approval. They lined up around the block and down the graffiti-tagged alleyway and they did so pretty much all day, said neighbouring retail owner Bev Hisey. [More photos added]
Media were not invited and some were barred from entering Saturday’s opening of OVO Store at a nondescript location in Toronto. There were no official announcements except for a message on Drake’s Instagram account two weeks ago saying: “Proud of my guy @oliverelkhatib OVO Store opening soon. #6Side”. Oliver El-Khatib is the rapper and Raptors’ global ambassador’s co-manager, friend and co-founder of their record label OVO Sound, according to creative co-conspirator boi-1da.
Aside from the social media mention to his 7 million followers on Instagram, the label logo lining the window of the retail space at 899 Dundas Street West, and an October’s Very Own logo above the window, there was little to give away their plans. The OVO sign was no longer there on Dec 6 for the opening. It was as absent as the street number and the business name. Instead, a simple, neon, white light outlining the shape of an owl adorned the main wall behind the check-out counter. The only references were the images of hands clasped in prayer, the number six and the owl logo, all pretty abstract, leaving passersby to ask “what’s happening here, what’s this place, what’s everyone waiting in line for?”
The images and words on the clothing are related to Drake’s albums including the forthcoming one in 2015, Views from the 6, a title which refers to the OVO team’s ongoing efforts to re-label Toronto, known as the 416, after the area code, and more recently 647, as the six.
Some fans, like Kevin and his friends traveled over an-hour-and-a-half from areas like North York, the 905, to see the OVO merchandise up close and personal. For Kevin, it’s because he likes “the clothing that Drake rocks in his videos. He wears his own clothing line in his videos”.
The site resembles a people-filled goldfish tank, with only one glass side for viewing in from the sidewalk. The interior is painted in white with minimalist shelf spacing for sweatshirts, t-shirts, baseball caps and toques folded meticulously and placed just so. I was reminded that those items were for display-only and the merchandise on the opposite wall on hangers were for handling; in other words, don’t mess the shit up, but professional-like. Despite the crowd, they managed to keep every item evenly spaced on the rack during my entire time there. A bouncer paced the number of people let in at one time. It felt like I was at a club in Copenhagen. Then the sales clerk asked me if he could offer me anything – I thought he meant a drink.
An OVO pop-up appeared briefly at the same location in August just before OVO Fest and disappeared just as quickly. It’s the only retail space currently and is an extended pop-up that is expected to stay for about a year.