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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Hails from: Toronto
Home base: Los Angeles
Jessica’s assessment: “The Canadian industry is still small, however, the growth and expansion is inspiring. It is slowly becoming more relevant within the country and also on the international stage.”
Why she left Canada in the first place: “I moved to Los Angeles in 2002 after graduating from McGill University to pursue my career as a stylist and fashion editor. Working at Condé Nast in both LA and NYC exposed me to the inner workings of the international fashion industry. As an assistant and young editor, I was on shoots with the leaders in our field—the most renowned fashion editors, photographers, hair and makeup artists, models and celebrities—people I had only read about in magazines or seen on TV. I was now living in the world I had watched on Fashion Television religiously every Sunday night growing up in Toronto.”
Canada’s mass exodus problem: “I have always found it frustrating that all the incredible talent of our country feels the need to move to the United States to ‘make it’. Why does that need to happen? Wouldn’t it be amazing if all the talent just stayed in Canada and we all worked together to grow the industry into something bigger? I am guilty of it myself, but until this exodus stops happening we will continue to stay small. I also think part of the problem is that Canadians are inherently more modest and humble than other nations and perhaps we do not push ourselves into the limelight enough or as often. We are successful but not as self-promoting as, say, a country like the US. The talent needs to stay in Canada. By moving away we are sending the message to the rest of the world and to ourselves that we do not think our own country’s industry can support us or is relevant enough to get behind. We probably also need more resources directed towards developing the industry and defining a unique Canadian point of view.”
Canadian pride, and an outsider’s advantage: “I would love to do more work in Canada. I feel very patriotic and proud to be Canadian. I am always eager to support in any way possible, but unfortunately the opportunity does not present itself as much as I would hope for. I am very grateful for my Canadian roots and heritage as it gives me a very unique perspective in my career. I have always felt like an outsider looking in and that has been important in what I bring to my work.”
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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.