the quest – the surf

I’ve been spending Sunday afternoon perusing the internet for pertinent information regarding my quest to understand my local fashion industry. Unfortunately, I am already pretty well aware of what’s on the net for the Canadian fashion industry… and it ain’t much.

The city of Toronto provides a brief overview of what’s going on here. Over 550 apparel manufacturers – well it appears I may have my work cut out for me. According to the city of Toronto, over 50,000 are employed in the local fashion industry, over half in manufacturing. In the same breath, with apparent lack of irony, the overview mentions that tariffs have now been dropped on imports from LDCs.

The apparel industry is represented by the Canadian Apparel Federation. This industry association maintains directories, provides information regarding government regulation, does lobbying, and promotes Canada’s apparel industry. According the CAF, Canada’s apparel industry employs 94,850 people. About three quarters of the industry is composed of small firms employing under 50 people. Census data indicates that 40% of workers are new immigrants. 55% of the apparel industry is located in Quebec, with smaller concentrations in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. The CAF also publishes Apparel magazine.

The CAF is associated with the Apparel Ontario, which also features industry news, directories, and a woefully empty online forum. I’m thinking I should post a topic. The question is about what?

The Toronto Fashion Incubator is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting new designer-entrepreneurs who wish to start thier own lines. I have visited TFI and found it to be a very helpful, encouraging atmosphere with invaluable resources for new designers.

Toronto Fashion Week has been rejuvenated via corporate sponsorship as l’Oreal Fashion Week, occuring twice-yearly and featuring local and international designers.

Style Magazine is Canada’s own industry magazine. Is it monthly? Not sure, the previous issues section is rather sketchy. There is some trend reporting and industry news, as well as some fashion editorial (featuring clothing from H&M? why??) as well as a buyer’s guide and directory.

Online, presents itself as a hub for the Canadian fashion industry, also featuring directories, as well as up-to-date fashion show coverage, and ostensibly news, though there appears to have been a dearth of news happening since 2004, and the interviews and articles are also not so fresh. The editors are not named and no contact information is apparent.

Well, that’s the easy stage of my research. It’s pretty obvious that there is not a significant online profile for Canadian fashion in any organized or interesting form. It seems that there are periodic efforts to make sense of the industry but there seems to be a lack of traction or enough interest to merit updating and maintaining websites. There is a definite reluctance to properly promote Canadian fashion which leaves even Canadians wondering if there is any such thing as Canadian fashion. Is it because we are self-effacing or is it because there is nothing here to promote?

One of my favourite local characters, Accordion Guy, offers on his blog a recipe for Toronto to become Silicon Valley. It seems that fashion is not the only industry where Toronto struggles to define itself. Despite the fact that it is a city that is liberal, creative and economically strong, Toronto constantly deals with identity issues. Too often we define ourselves by what we are not or measure ourselves against inappropriate benchmarks (we are not New York and never will be) rather than positively asserting what we are.

The conclusions from this afternoon’s surfings? Well, I now have a set of directories of various levels of updatedness. So despite assumptions to the contrary, there indeed exists a fashion industry in Toronto and I have their telephone numbers. It’s time to start dialing.

If we know what we aren’t, what are we? I believe that Canada does have a fashion identity. I must define it, and then post it.

2 thoughts on “the quest – the surf”

  1. This is pretty big topic to undertake. I think many will be grateful to you for putting forth an honest assessment of our industry here in Canada and helping define our “fashion indentity ” .
    I hope you find that things are alot “rosier” than some will admit to. Contrary to what some people think, Montreal is not the center of the fashion manufacturing business in Canada, and many other centers serve specific niches, especially those in the US.
    Maybe you could talk about the companies that find it easier to change signs out front, to read Importer/Exporter rather than remain producing in Canada.
    I am so impressed that a recent University graduate sees the importance of focusing on our industry, when our own government and some “federations” that receive funding don’t really care all that much for a healthy continuance, especially on the domestic manufacturing side.
    Kathleen Fasanella has done more for CDN sewn product manufacturing in the past year than our own “politicos” in Ottawa. I hope your coverage brings the same positive outcome as her coverage has.
    You will soon find out we have a very viable industry in place, which, with smart direction will continue for many many years.

  2. I applaud your efforts. We’re trying to do this for technology companies. And as a tech guy with a fashion bent (though John – one ups me on style), it is incredibly difficult to find interesting Canadian menswear designers (specially those that aren’t afraid to use silk, cotton, wool, linen and other natural fabrics). Annie Thompson did a menswear line for one season a couple of years ago (I was fortunate to pick up a sweet pair of pants). Where are this generations John Fluevog? dSquared?

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