“Simple Essentials” Brand Kotn Opens First West Coast Store in Gastown

The Toronto-based label prides itself on its minimalist, ethically made and affordable wardrobe basics.

November 27, 2018

By Lucy Lau / Photo: Jennilee Marigomen

A good T-shirt can get a lot of mileage in your wardrobe, but it can be surprisingly hard to find. Take it from someone whose go-to T was, at one point, a men’s size-medium Fruit of the Loom top obtained at a frat party during uni. The plain white shirts, which were handed to guests upon entry at some on-campus glow-in-the-dark bash, were meant to be a sort of blank canvas for other beer-guzzling, fluorescent marker–wielding attendees that night, but I made a point of protecting mine from would-be graffitists once I realized how well the T fit me: it hit just below the hip, was fitted but not too fitted and held its shape impressively.

That free garment became a staple in my closet until one too many times in the wash forced it into retirement last year. I was on the hunt for a new go-to for the next little while—scouring everywhere from department stores to Wal-Mart—which ultimately prompted a visit to Kotn’s pop-up shop in Gastown this summer.

(Photo: Jennilee Marigomen)

The Toronto-based brand, which prides itself on its minimalist, ethically made and affordable basics, has received shout outs in publications like GQ for its unfussy Ts, and I’m happy to report that the black top I nabbed lived up to the hype. Soft, breathable and crafted from Egyptian cotton—the company partners directly with cotton farmers in the Nile Delta to ensure fair wages and that markups on the end product remain low—my “essential crew” has taken me through work days, unplanned happy-hour outings, casual day hikes and, most importantly, a generous number of spin cycles.

But don’t take my word for it: the business, which takes its name from the Arabic term for cotton, has now set up shop at 348 Water Street permanently, and it’s brought with it its entire selection of men’s and women’s T-shirts, turtlenecks, sweatpants and dresses (from $30). Other tidbits about Kotn: it’s a certified B corporation, meaning it meets rigorous standards for sustainability and social impact, and it’s involved with charitable efforts to boost children’s literacy in Egypt, so you can actually feel kind of good about shopping.

Check out a few of our top picks from Kotn below before you visit the store IRL.

Kotn women’s essential crew in white, $30
Kotn men’s half-zip sweatshirt in olive, $108
Kotn women’s mock neck dress in poppy, $78
Kotn men’s turtleneck in navy, $48

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