Love by design: How Rob Shostak's city-centric Halloween costumes are a love letter to Toronto
From Honest Ed's to city hall to, now, the flooded Toronto Islands, Shostak has made paying homage to home an annual tradition.
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When the Toronto Islands were besieged by intense rain and flooding over the summer, Rob Shostak’s first thought was that his beach plans were sunk.
But then he realized his Halloween plans were just shaping up. The designer and artist quietly started dreaming up a flooded island costume, finally debuting it Friday night.
Get-ups like this have made Shostak the king of Toronto-centric Halloween costumes. Over the years he’s gone viral dressing as Honest Ed’s, emblazoned in the store’s iconic posters and wrapped in a light-up model of its landmark sign; Trinity Bellwoods Park, which he fashioned out of a blazer made from fake lawn material sprinkled with white squirrels and beer cans; Toronto City Hall, complete with a miniature Mayor John Tory and a hat in the shape of council chambers; and OCAD’s Sharp Centre, made from Starbucks boxes and bright fabric.
“I see this series of costumes as my love letter to the city,” he says. “I call it ‘Toronto is my Boyfriend.’”
The elaborate costumes, all designed and made within six weeks and kept tightly under wraps until his first Halloween party each year, started when Shostak moved to the city from Montreal about 12 years ago. He noticed the TTC map looked like outstretched arms, which he recreated with streamers and paper.
After returning from a stint in Vancouver, where he masqueraded as the 2010 Olympic torch, a friend mentioned some architects dressing up as their buildings. Shostak tried to rally his pals to make costumes of their own favourites but was the only one who followed through.
That's what prompted his Sharp Centre costume. The building, he said, was one reason he chose Toronto when scouting cities in which to complete his master's degree in architecture.
“I thought, ‘A city that allows this (building) to happen is a city I want to live in,’” Shostak says. Years later he exhibited the costume at OCAD, where the building's architect, Will Alsop, was thrilled to meet him.
While he appreciates the praise from Alsop and media, Shostak says that's not why he does it.
“The thing that makes me happy is that it resonates with people,” he says, noting he’s been stopped by pedestrians who want to share their adoration of the sites he's depicting. “It is a labour of love.”
Want to follow in Shostak's footsteps? May we suggest the following Toronto-themed costumes:
Markham cow sculpture
Dress in silver and paint your face to match. Wear silver cow ears and silver leafs for the wreath around the sculpture’s neck.
Red Path Waterfront Fest giant duck
Wear yellow and craft yourself an orange beak and wings from cardboard and feathers.
Overheated real-estate market
Paint or glue felt houses onto an outfit. Label the homes as “for sale” or “sold." Use tissue paper for a fiery headpiece.
Tweet your own ideas to Metro using the hashtag #TrickOrTreatTO