After 10 years of working in the tech industry, Aly Jamal knew it was time to follow his passion for vintage clothing and streetwear fashion. This led to the full-fledged launch of his brand, Northern Touch Vintage.
“The support has been overwhelming for me,” Jamal said. “I did not expect it to roll out this way. I did not expect it to be this big right away at the start – I started this business two years ago.”
Jamal started Northern Touch as a pop-up shop out of his loft while he worked his full-time tech job. Customers were given appointments to peruse the curated collections that include band and rap t-shirts, hoodies and hats.
When COVID-19 lockdowns prevented in-person engagements, Jamal established the brand’s website, which he said was met with “enormous support” from the community he cultivated.
With this support and the brand’s momentum, Jamal decided to make his side project a full-time business by purchasing the current location of the King St. E shop.
“I kept feeling more empty and empty every time I went into my tech job, and to the point that one day this store was literally built, fully built, [and] I knew it, I had the dream, it came to fruition,” he said. “I went back to work one day and I never felt that empty I did that day, knowing my store is fully built right now and I cannot let people come in – That’s the day I quit, I went into my boss’ office and told him I’m done.”
The original approach of offering customers personal, individual shopping experiences translated to the physical shop.
Customers can book appointments to come to the shop and converse with Jamal one-on-one, so each individual can have “their own personal stylist,” he describes.
“The connection I get to make with people is everything,” Jamal said. “That human connection we have lacked the last couple years I’ve missed, so for me it’s super special to connect with my clients as opposed to them just coming in and buying stuff.”
Despite opening the shop during the pandemic, Jamal said the reception and continued support from both his longtime customers and new ones gave him the confidence to keep pushing the brand forward.
While the King St. location has been in operation for less than a month, Jamal said he is ready to expand once again.
In the coming weeks, Northern Touch Vintage will have another shop in the Queen St. W area.
“It [the new shop] will be eight weeks after the first one and probably five times the size,” he said. “I made the call within the first couple weeks of having this [King St. shop] and with the overwhelming support I have had, I have quickly outgrown this space already.”
As Northern Touch Vintage continues to establish it’s brand across the city, Jamal said he will continue the same practices of making trips to clothing warehouses each day and personally curating the product before it hits shelves.
Jamal was born in Toronto, but spent the majority of his youth in Ottawa. He said he was inspired by Toronto’s streetwear culture and the city’s embrace of brands and lifestyles that he did not experience in his hometown.
Listen to Aly Jamal’s full interview: