Oh, Canadian fashion, how do we define you? What does it mean to be ‘Made in Canada’? And what is it really like to work in the fashion industry now that we’re having “a moment in the sun”? That high praise came from a New York Times article about this year’s Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards—the gala’s biggest iteration to date. And the NYT story was followed by an even more glowing Business of Fashion piece that referred to our homegrown talent as “visionaries.”
With this newfound spotlight in mind and a few days before we celebrate the country’s 150th, FLARE asked some of the most prominent Canadians working in fashion—both at home and internationally, or, more commonly, some combination of both—about what it’s like to make a living in the industry, what the rest of the fashion world thinks of Canada, and whether homegrown talent needs to move abroad to truly make it.
Click through the slideshow to find out why living in Canada is the only option for fashion bloggers Samantha and Cailli Beckerman (“When people hear we are Canadian, we get hugs!”) and why a “superstar salary” made celeb hairstylist Harry Josh leave Vancouver for New York.
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Photo: Mariah Hamilton
Hails from: Toronto
Home base: Toronto
Dani’s assessment: “There’s a lot about the Canadian fashion industry that I like. For one, young designers like Spencer Badu of S.P Badu bring fresh and progressive ideas to the table; and agencies like Lorde Inc., that I believe is changing the game. I’ve been in and around the Canadian fashion industry for the greater part of a decade and when it comes to progress in an uptight space, Lorde Inc. is a glimpse into the future. Prioritizing diversity in an industry that continues to be criticized for being adverse to change, Lorde Inc. only casts models of colour. I’m proud to live in a city that showcases mindfulness and champions diversity.”
The Canadian gatekeepers that hinder the development of new talent: “I think a big pressure point is navigating the insular workings of a very guarded industry. While Canada is vast—and rich in ideas and talent and thoughtfulness—infiltrating the networks of industry gatekeepers is no simple feat. In the media world, there’s a tendency to stick to what is familiar; and in my opinion, there isn’t a lot of investigation into new and emerging talents. Generally, the opportunity to be recognized within Canada isn’t as great until you’re recognized internationally.”
She’s in no hurry to leave Toronto any time soon: “I’ve gotten a lot of amazing opportunities living and working in Toronto that I wouldn’t trade for anything. That said, I also acknowledge that there’s a world out there that has the potential to be grander and more glamorous than my everyday reality. Right now, I am prioritizing my network and the community that I have built in Toronto—mainly my team at my digital agency Kastor & Pollux, and the company I keep at Biannual, the outerwear brand where I am creative director. While budgets may be bigger across the pond, I’m in no rush. Plus, the internet knows no bounds and has allowed me to connect and communicate with people regardless of location.”
Her supportive and diverse community—if not the industry establishment—has made all the difference: “I’ve been fortunate enough to meet really wonderful and kind people from an array of different backgrounds that have acted as mentors to me throughout all my career pivots, giving me the confidence to tackle new challenges. While I am unsure if geography has shaped my professional journey, I do know that the people who I’ve met in Toronto have been integral to the path I’m on now.”