The Changing Canadian Fashion Industry

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The Changing Canadian Fashion Industry

2016 has been a tough year for fashion in Canada. The Canadian fashion industry is in a state of uncertainty as many coveted Canadian retailers have closed. There have also been expansive editorial changes, restructuring within Canadian fashion publication and the cancellation of Toronto Fashion Week. But, with the changing landscape of Canadian fashion, designers and those within the industry have been tasked with finding new and innovative ways to get back on track.

There has been a longstanding need for greater funding for Canadian fashion designers. While there is no lack of drive and talent within Canada, the problem lies in the funding and opportunity for local designers. This need extends to both private investments as well as for government funding within the arts. While government grants are awarded to various other disciplines in the arts, there has been much upset that fashion is not treated with the same support as writers, artists and filmmakers. The fashion industry has expressed their need to be recognized as a vital part of Canadian art and culture, and, until that happens, much of the success and support in launching the careers of successful Canadian talent can be attributed to the work of the grassroots organizations filling in the gaps.

canada fashion 1.JPG Ellie Mae Fall/Winter 17 from Toronto Fashion Week (March, 2016)

Local initiatives such as the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) are celebrated for nurturing local talent. Just shy of 30 years of service, TFI has become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship fostering some of Canada’a preeminent designers by providing them strategic business-building programs and services including one-on-one mentorship, educational seminars and master classes, shared workspaces and in-house design studios (in addition to a host of other services to designers). And, since its launch, its model has been adopted in cities all over the world. However, one of their central events, the TFI Press and Buyers Brunch, occurred during Toronto Fashion week. With it ending so abruptly this year, we are left to wonder where new designers will get the exposure that they desperately need.

There has also been a shift in consumer behavior. Canadians no longer need to travel across the boarder with the same frequency to scour the stores for the lasted fashion and style trends as many of the American retailers and designers are now prominent staples in Canadian malls. With the increasing competition from international retailers, Canadian designers now need to find new financial and operational resources to compete on a global scale. There is question on if Canada is economically ready for the influx of foreign competitors when they own retailers are rapidly closing stores and declaring bankruptcy. The space left from the numerous mid-range Canadian retailers closing left in malls have made room for foreign stores who are scooping up the real estate in our malls. But what will that mean for Canadian designers?

This year brought the larger American department stores to Canada and for the better; Saks 5th Avenue has successfully integrated Canadian designs and models into their stores partnering with the historic Hudson’s Bay Company to offer a wide selection of Canadian labels. While Nordstrom has been strategic in rolling out their stores in stages, allowing maintaining consistency in the products available, we can only hope that they will follow by including Canadian designers into their new expansion into Toronto in September.

Simons 3.JPG Simons Department Store Media Preview for their Spring/Summer 2016 collections

However, some Canadian fashion companies have been able to profit from the changing market. With the recent expansion of Simons, one of Canada’s oldest family-owned retailers all across Canada, this 175-year old company is seeing a resurgence all over the company that can largely be credited to their focus of curating niche collections of contemporary designers and in-depth understanding of the Canadian retail market. “Our customers have shown time and time again that they have a strong and loyal interest in supporting local Canadian designers. Within our international designer department “Edito”, many Canadian designers outperform the international collections. It has always been in Simons’ DNA to listen to our customers and give them what they want. I feel the Canadian arts community has never been stronger; there is an abundance of talent waiting to be discovered.” says Richard Simons, VP of Merchandising at Simons.

And with a host of talented Canadian designers creating world-class collections, we can only hope that they will find the necessary support to help their talent flourish and survive in the ever-changing global market. And until then, we’ll just have continue to promote such initiatives as the slow fashion movement urging people to purchase clothing made with high quality materials and better craftsmanship to help continue and support of local designers.

Simons 1.JPG Simons Department Store Media Preview for their Spring/Summer 2016 collections