Emerging stylist Bobby Bowen on Toronto’s underground fashion scene

Meet the young creative making waves.

[F]rom setting up his own magazine Bully (an outlet for up-and-coming musicians, designers and artists) to styling rising Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier and OVO’s R&B duo Majid Jordan – stylist to know Bobby Bowen is going against the grain. We caught up with the Barbadian-Canadian on the set of Moose Knuckles’ Fall ’18 campaign, to chat the new face of fashion, not following any rules and the emerging Toronto brands switching things up…

Hey Bobby! How did you get into styling? Was it always something you were interested in pursuing? 

When I was young I would read magazines like V Man, Another Man and I live for Hunger! All of that. I would always just look at the credits and see who styled it and think ‘Oh, I wanna do that one day! I started assisting a stylist out here in Toronto and then she would be really busy and give me jobs to help me build my book. And then I started doing it on my own and I’m freelance. I don’t want someone to tell me who to shoot with because I have my own aesthetic. I want people to look at my work and be like “Oh Bobby did that.”

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Your aesthetic feels very 90s inspired. Is that a conscious thing?

Yeah, I’m huge into 90s R&B hip-hop. Aaliyah is my biggest influence of life. But then I’m of Carribean background so I see a lot of West Indian and Jamaican influence as well. I like mixing and matching different things.

There’s definitely a bustling creative scene in Toronto right now…

Honestly Toronto is buzzing! All the fire is coming from here, whether it’s music, fashion, art. Just so much, it’s crazy. Right now I’m really loving people like (design and creative duo) Kids Studio, like the new emerging artists and giving them an outlet. Really cool people, just different collectives. I feel like there was a time when Toronto was like ‘every man for himself.’ Whereas now it’s like I’ve got to help you to come up together. It’s one of the best places to be right now.

How would you define the fashion scene out here? What emerging brands from the capital should we be following? 

Fashion gets younger and younger every year. It’s all about the new kids like n ē v a and S.P. Badu. In New York there was obviously that Hood by Air moment, but that’s happening in Toronto and it’s so good. At the moment there’s this vibe of vintage mixed with contemporary, but street as well. I think we do it really well – we don’t do it where it’s like all these street wear labels like Supreme etc. It’s a mixture of high-low and new brands who we don’t know yet. It just looks good.

Do you think fashion has opened up more and become more inclusive with the rise of Instagram?

For sure, 100%. Toronto in the past everything was white girl models on the runway – now it’s all about street casting. I rarely go to the agencies for models, I’ll either do it myself or go to new street casting agencies like Lorde Inc – which my girl Nafisa does. In Toronto you can just start something and you’re doing it. Like if you want someone I’ll find someone, you know?

Do you have a dream client? 

Oh girl, Rihanna down! Rihanna any day. My dad’s from Barbados and I try to go once a year). She’s so honest – that’s her.

You’ve also recently launched your own magazine Bully. Tell me more about the concept behind this?

It’s me and two other people – Christopher Sherman who is creative director and photographer. And Alex Circa who is art director and also a photographer. You know in Toronto you have magazines like Flare, but it’s an older style. That style doesn’t really exist in my opinion. I’m doing Bully magazine for the new kids and to show their work, whether you’re a designer, artist or singer. Flare is a great magazine but it’s not reaching out to this youth and emerging artists. It’s like, “where are you showcasing your work?” Bully has no rules: it’s for those who have been bullied in this industry and now it’s time to fight back. It’s provocative, gender-fluid, loud and everything goes!