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‘High-Fashion Tomboy’ Brings Street-Style Flair to Toronto

Reese Wonge reveals top places to assemble chic, high-energy looks in the Queen City — and to ‘just breathe’ along the way.

Geox Campaign Reese Wonge

Reese Wonge always loved shopping and experimenting with trends (“Neon polka-dot top: Why not?”), but she never envisioned fashion as her line of work.

The 29-year-old Toronto native, known for her hip street style, boasts an Instagram following of over 77,000 (@reesewonge), attracts 3,000 unique monthly viewers to her blog and has collaborated on campaigns with several luxury brands. She also posts videos to YouTube.

Yet she was not always so focused. After graduating from college in Windsor, three hours from Toronto, Wonge struggled for a year to identify a career path. “I couldn’t figure it out, so I moved across the country,” she says. “Being in a new space and being uncomfortable really helps push you to try new things. I think that was the biggest part of finding who I was.”

In Calgary, she found work with an energy company. Eager to escape the stresses of professional life and express her creative side, she founded her blog, OuiToWeekends.com, where she documents her style, beauty and travel picks with high-end photography.

“My style is high fashion but with a tomboy mix,” says Wonge, who prefers pants and trousers to dresses. After spending six years in Calgary — and meeting her husband, a former pro basketball player who appears in her posts — she returned a year and a half ago to Toronto, where she balances her environmental-tech day job with blogging. “You put so much time and effort into schooling and find something you enjoy, but you can also be a creative.”

How has Toronto inspired how you dress?

R.W.: Toronto’s a super-multicultural city. Currently, I’m really obsessed with Asian style. I went to Japan earlier this year and fell in love with Japanese and Korean street style. Depending on which pockets of the city you’re in, you definitely see a lot of high-style street style. It can be like New York Fashion Week on a day-to-day basis … You walk down the street and you could see a person in a tutu, and they don’t care! They’re fierce — they’re wearing it with pride. Being inspired in the street, that’s my favorite thing.

How has the city changed since you moved back?

R.W.: The whole skyline’s different from what I remember! Now so many skyscrapers have gone up that you can barely see the Fairmont Royal York [hotel], which is an iconic building, from the highway. It’s just growing so fast. I think the best thing about Toronto is the hustle and bustle. It’s like a baby New York — I know everyone says that, but it’s true.

Which neighborhoods do you look to for shopping?

R.W.: Chinatown, Little Italy and Little Portugal — they’ve all turned into these little pockets full of cute restaurants and trendy shops. You have your main street, or our Queen Street. Bloor is more high-end.

Ossington before was just a cute little neighborhood, and now it’s turned into super-trendy shops and restaurants. The shops are a variety of vintage shops and local Canadian fashion, things you wouldn’t go into a mall and find … For luxury, if you’re willing to walk outside and pop into all the really luxe shops, Yorkville is definitely the place for that. [For something unique], I would do Ossington, Kensington Market. Queen Street has your typical mall stuff but also one-offs and a good mix of vintage shops, too. You can certainly find anything you’re looking for on Queen.

How would you go from day to night, clothing-wise?

R.W.: I actually love work clothes. I live for a button-up blouse and a really great pair of pants. Daytime I can wear that with flats, and then nighttime I’d just button it down and throw on a good pair of pumps. And that’s definitely my go-to from work to meeting friends or my husband for a drink … King West is my favorite trendy area for all the cool bars and clubs and restaurants. If, on any given night of the week, you want to get dressed up and go out, King West is where to go.

Your blog is all about escape. Where would you go to unwind and recharge?

R.W.: I’m a huge reader. There’s a really cute vintage bookshop called The Monkey’s Paw. It’s really neat — it has a [book] vending machine. And then there’s this library in the university center, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. It’s really big, and you can get really old books there. To unwind, I’m in a book in one of those places… [For exercise and well-being], I try to go to the gym a few times a week.

Which places in Toronto have special meaning for you?

R.W.: We had our wedding reception at a little French restaurant in the Distillery District — I love that place. And I love the water. I go to Polson Pier to sit and take everything in. I found a really cute strip of beach a little bit more west, and nobody goes there. [For my fashion shoots], I love Liberty Village — it’s a little bit like Brooklyn, with the old factory buildings. It’s one of my favorite places to shoot because I’m a little more street style. I also like Yorkville, which is super ritzy and reminds me of [New York’s] SoHo.

Which looks do people really love that you’ve posted?

R.W.: I’m such a shoe girl — I’m always posting shoes. I feel like people pick: You’re either a shoe or a bag girl. But there are so many people who love shoes! And the balance between comfort and style is hard to find … On days when I know I’ll be out and about on meetings I try to wear a more comfortable shoe — so a great pair of flats or a small chunkier heel so I can hustle and run around efficiently. On days when I’m doing more admin work and sitting in the office, the sky’s the limit! I always keep a great pair of comfortable shoes in the car in case something comes up and I need to be on the go.

Comfort is a big part of Italian fashion. What do you love about Italian style?

R.W.: I love that it breaks the rules of style — like pairing different prints — but it’s done so well. Everything is beautifully tailored, and even when it isn’t tailored, it looks like it was. It’s timeless!

How do you distinguish yourself as a fashion blogger?

R.W.: I’ve tried to be true to who I am. The great part about the industry is that you can be yourself entirely, and there is an audience for that. I’m a working girl who’s also really in love with fashion, and I’m a science girl who really loves fashion, so by being true to that I’ve been able to connect with a lot of women who also work during the day but really love style, so we can identify and build a little community.