Photo by George Pimentel

While many fashion shows, presentations and events are taking place throughout the month of March in Toronto, this week is the Fashion Design Council of Canada’s official Fashion Week. As I was looking at the scattered schedule, I thought about how challenging it is to be a fashion designer here. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying – “You’re only as good as your last collection.” In this country, one season with a small misstep or unscrupulous client could spell the end of your entire business.

The road to fashion success in Canada is littered with the pins, needles and crushed souls of young hopeful designers. To make it big demands a mix of creativity, business smarts, and marketing savvy—a dose of madness helps, too.

The bases are loaded against our fashion talent. Unlike the designs from their American and international competitors that sit on nearby store racks, producing in Canada challenges local designers with limited resources, small orders and high-priced labour. And many times, as my designer friends tell me, some of the small boutiques they sell to take forever to pay their bills—if they pay at all. It’s a sad fact that all of our success stories keep the sewing machines humming thanks to orders from American stores.

I’m often asked for advice from aspiring designers on how to get into the pages of FLARE. I listen to their goals – selling across Canada in one year; across North America in two years; and then a fragrance and possibly home décor collection in year three – and shake my head. While it’s great to think big (no one gets anywhere by thinking in a small box), a well-researched business plan is 100% essential. I see so many brilliant talents go to waste because they’re too proud / egotistical / misguided to think that they need help with their image or presentation.

Sit down with a business specialist who can help you map out your marketing and manufacturing needs with a financial statement. Get the advice of an editorial stylist to make sure your designs have viability. And always, always take the time to get to know your target customer. After all, do we really need another red carpet-inspired label?

I’ll be back again next week. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter

Read FLARE’s coverage of the LG Fashion Week in Toronto here.