Catch Up: Arden Wray

Fashion photography is often confused for something unreachable, ultra-editorial, and not at all personal. But Arden Wray refuses to fall into that trap. The OTMzine contributor is launching Boots & Pine today – a photo blog that captures the inventive and personal side of Toronto fashion. But don’t expect it to be just another street style fashion blog.

We caught up with with Wray for a quick Q&A where she explained her personal sense of whimsy and why Toronto really doesn’t lack joie de vivre.

Jenny Sung: What compelled you to launch Boots & Pine?

Arden Wray: My favourite style blogs are always the ones where you get to learn a little bit about the people being featured. It’s much more appealing, to me at least, to have an introduction to a particular creative personality and lifestyle than to just see a waking outfit stopped on the street. If I’m captivated by somebody’s street style look, I’m filled with questions about them. What do they do for a living? Where are they from? What does their home look like? I’ve admired and enjoyed sites like The Selby, Backyard Bill, and Freunde von Freunden for ages, and it always disappointed me that Toronto is rarely, if ever, on their radar. I’m in love with this city and really believe it is a world class, wonderful place to live. I wanted to create something in the same vein as those other sites but with my own stamp on it and featuring people a few blocks away instead of across the world. There are so many interesting, stylish people living in Toronto and I guess I wanted to shine a light on them.

JS: A lot of Canadians have the perception that Toronto style lacks a joie de vivre and that we only wear black. How do you react to that?

AW: In some ways, I can see where that comes from. In Toronto fashion culture, the look can generally be a bit more slick than it is in other places I’ve been. But really, it’s impossible to generalize about the style of a whole city. There are so many unique, delightful personalities living in this place, and not all of them are going to play by the same rules.

JS: You lived in Montreal for some time. How does Toronto’s street style compare to Montreal?

AW: In terms of trends, Montreal is edgier than Toronto. There’s way more of a dominant grunge and rave culture. That definitely translates into Toronto as well, but it comes out polished and revised. I think part of it is that in Montreal, as a young Anglophone at least, which was my experience, you can live for very little money – which is important because there is very little work out there for you, and especially very little which pays a decent wage. You can work part-time at a café and pay 300 dollars a month for your apartment and be fine. In Toronto, that doesn’t exist. Everything costs more, and so generally there’s more of a culture of money permeating this city. I think that translates into the look of the people on the streets.

JS: What makes Boots & Pine different from your regular fashion photography?

AW: It’s important to me to think of this project as portraiture. I’m not approaching the shoots as I would an editorial, or as I would classic street style. I’m going into people’s homes, some who I’ve known for a while and some who I’m meeting for the first time, spending a couple of hours with them in their space, and trying to create a document which captures them accurately and tenderly as creative individuals. There’s a real personal element to this that I hope will come across through the pictures. We’re chatting and getting to know each other and hanging out for the whole time we’re shooting. So far, it’s been such an awesome experience and I can’t wait to continue.

JS: Some people lament the whole medium of the street-style photo blog, yet your site seems to be full of optimism and a bit of whimsy. Where does your attitude come from, and what makes your site different from the hundreds of others out there?

AW: I think it was inevitable that my site would feel that way, and I laughed a bit reading your question because those are words that always end up coming up with my work. I think honestly I’m just a bit of a dork. I don’t think even if I tried anything I did would be as slick and cool as a lot of what’s out there. So, I guess that’s what sets it apart! I really want to keep the whole thing friendly and personal and about creativity, individuality, and expression more than capital F fashion.

All photos by Arden Wray. More can be found on Boots & Pine!