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: Felix Wong
Hails from: Toronto
Home base: New York
Tanya’s assessment: “My impression is there is no lack of enthusiasm to make [the Canadian fashion industry] successful—I am very impressed with CAFA and the community that supports Canadian designers. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Canada has reached the status of a fashion destination yet—trade shows, fashion weeks and showrooms are all located elsewhere, which puts the stress on Canadian designers to travel to make their businesses work. I think there is an opportunity to improve the interest around ‘buying Canadian’ and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has done a fantastic job at being a spokesperson for this, but retailers need to catch up. Canadian press and retailers still look to the international stage for validation that a designer has ‘made it’ and I think there should be more credit and support given to those that are local.”
The land of opportunity: “One major opportunity that I have in New York that I don’t think I would have in Canada is having access to resources like manufacturing. We work only a couple subway stops away from where we buy zippers, lining, fabric, work on embroidery, wash our denim and produce our furs—it allows for a lot of creative experimentation when you have manufacturing partners in your backyard. Another thing that’s been beneficial is the formal support that the CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] provides. One of the biggest things in my career has been support from the CFDA through opportunities like Retail Lab, where we had our first-ever standalone retail location, and the Vogue Fashion Fund, through which, after only two years in business, I had access to the industry’s best mentors.”
Slow and steady growth is best: “Canadians have a deep interest in the arts. When I was growing up I would have never dreamed TIFF would become what it has. I can see a similar future for the fashion industry, but it can only happen if the economy is there to support it. There shouldn’t be a rush to become an international fashion city—there should be more conversations around what designers need, what monetary support is realistic in helping them be successful, and the growth will happen slowly and sustainably. Organizations like CAFA have the right