Now, we’ve certainly seen our fair share of artists choosing Malls as a location for their music videos, especially in the 80’s and 90’s where Mall culture was at its zenith, but we have never seen an artist write a song or make a music video specifically for the opening of his or her very own Mall fashion store. Musician Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as Drake, is the pioneer in question, having just opened his very first ‘OVO’ (October’s Very Own) brand fashion store in one of Canada’s greatest and most upmarket Shopping Centres, the Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.
The video opens with the Unmistakable font of the famous Yorkdale Centre
Drake is a Canadian-born rap/hip-hop artist who is just old enough (31) to to have got a good look into classic 90’s Mall culture. As such it makes perfect sense that he would choose one of Toronto’s best in which to launch his brand. The man is as Canadian as it gets, having starred in a famous show which has seen almost every Canadian celebrities pass through it - the classic teen series Degrassi. After breaking away from the show in 2007, he released his first album ‘Thank Me Later’ in 2010 and amazingly it hit number one on the Billboard charts. Since then, he has become one of the biggest urban artists around today.
In 2012, Drake started his own record label, under Warner Bros. Record’s umbrella, called OVO Sound. It remains a small label which has had some decent success, especially when Drake himself released an album under his own label. Around the same time, he also created a fashion brand under the OVO name. Initially the label operated in partnership with other labels such as Roots Canada, but by 2014 OVO was its own brand and opened its very first stand-alone store in downtown Toronto. Fast-forward to 2017 and Drake has just opened a new flagship in Toronto’s Yorkdale Centre, one of the premium Canadian Malls and the country’s fourth largest, which contains some of the most sought-after fashion brands from around the world.
Rolling through the Mall in style!
Yorkdale is massive, running over six glorious levels and holding almost 300 stores and eateries. The Centre opened way back in 1964 and has not missed a beat since. In just about every decade, the Yorkdale Mall has renovated and updated itself - most recently the Centre opened a brand new expansion in late 2016, adding a whole new section featuring a three-level Nordstrom and equally massive Uniqlo. Other tenants include Versace, Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Gucci and Prada - all nestled within stunning store fronts, dripping in golds and marbles. The core of the Mall still contains the kind of Mall goodness that everyone can enjoy, but recently the owners have chosen to focus in on the more higher-end brands; It’s no surprise then that Drake chose this venerable Centre to go seriously upscale.
The video, released just before the store’s official opening, features Drake and posse strutting through the Yorkdale Centre, all wearing sweaters and shirts featuring the now unmistakable owl motif synonymous with the OVO brand. At one point he is atop a giant, shiny Cadillac Escalade as it cruises through the Mall. The song, called ‘Gyalchester’, plays as they pull shapes at the camera. The video was filmed late at night after the Mall’s closing to avoid affecting any of the stores and to avoid driving over any enthusiastic shoppers in the Cadillac behemoth. Being a simple premise, the video was done and dusted within a few hours.
The OVO store opened in the new section of the Mall (just opposite the massive Uniqlo and Muji stores) on Saturday August 5th to great fanfare. Fans of the artist and the brand packed the Yorkdale and extra security could be seen everywhere. Lines began on the Friday morning before the opening but unfortunately the people had to be ushered out of the Mall until 05:30 the next morning, when they were allowed back in. Amazingly many people stayed overnight; we’ve only seen this level of dedication at a new iPhone release! By the time the doors were ready to open, around a thousand people were queued up, ready to get their hands on some free goodies. Incredibly though, Drake was a no-show on the day, even though he was in town for a live music event which had many believing he would attend. That was a tad strange as many people were likely eager to see him, but that didn’t seem to damper things too much.
Behind the giant golden doorway, the store is sparse, with only a few items on display. The interior is almost completely off-white marble with gold fixtures and racks. The store is bright, with every surface seemingly glowing with light. It really looks right at home in a wing of the Mall which oozes with famous Italian, French and English fashion labels. Only a few items were on offer such as shoes, t-shirts, tank-tops, hoodies, tracksuits and a few accessories. While not insanely expensive, things are not cheap!
Thousands of eager shoppers turned up on opening day
The store's main entrance
Drake is one of a line of famous hip-hop artists to become budding entrepreneurs - the likes of Sean Combs and Dr. Dre have had huge success outside of their music careers selling their names as a brand. He has since opened stores in New York City, Los Angeles and even as far as London. However, for his flagship, Drake chose his local Mall - a Mall he no doubt visited many times growing up because his childhood home in the suburb of Forest Hill was a mere 10 minute drive away from the Centre. The fact that he also chose to promote OVO by walking through his local Mall at night goes to show he is a true Mallrat at heart. We may not all like the music, but we are all Mall comrades!