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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Founder & Principal, Zoï Agency
Hails from: Montreal
Home base: “I have three offices. I opened in New York in 2010. I was between New York and Montreal weekly, and now I’m between Montreal, Toronto and New York pretty much every week. If I only had offices in Montreal, even if I did PR across Canada, I don’t know if I’d still be around 17 years later. I do believe that the New York office has helped tremendously and allows us to further grow”
Maria’s assessment: “Way back, in 2005 and 2006, looking at Montreal and Toronto, I found that there was a lot of hope. A lot of brands were launching and everyone had these big dreams. After 10 years, some people lost hope, some ran out of money, but some brands did last. Most of the brands that did had to go abroad to find that success. Now, we’re back at that stage where there’s more hope, but people have realized a lot over the years—that being local is extremely important, but you have to have a global perspective and network. If you don’t, it’s very hard to succeed, even in your own market. You don’t have to leave Canada. Byron and Dexter [Peart of Want Les Essentiels] are a perfect example—they’re based out of Montreal. But you have to travel; you have to create networks abroad.”
We need to look to other industries to find success: “I’m constantly amazed by the talent and business successes that exist in Canada. We have these amazing IT and digital companies and I think a lot of the answers are here in our own backyard. The fact that CAFA has brought people together is great, but now the fashion world needs to open up and realize how important these other industries are to us. We have the talent here, but we have to work together. We have to start looking at all the resources we have outside of the industry.”
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This post is part of The Canada Project, a representative survey of Canadians from across the country. You can find out more right here.