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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Fashion Director, Footwear News; Co-Founder, Therma Kota
Hails from: Toronto
Home base: New York
Mosha’s assessment: “In pretty much every key international market, you’ll find superstar Canadians that are killing it. It’s great that in Canada there are more design incubators, but it’s really important that young people are exposed to and aware of all the different jobs that exist in fashion beyond just being a designer. That’s why I think it’s great when people are aware of the top stylists, the hair and makeup artists, the show producers, casters, model agents and models that are Canadian. It’s great when those people maintain a connection to Canada and participate in events that help inspire others to talk about their work.”
Rethinking ‘Made in Canada’: “I’m really lucky to have been exposed to a lot of people in the First Nations community [through her mother, the designer Linda Lundström], which is why, while I love that Canada is feeling celebratory, I think we need to be careful about calling it the 150th anniversary; there were people in Canada long before that. My mom explores what it means to be a Canadian and includes First Nations people in that definition. Now, her organization, The Sewing Circle Project, is helping to foster economic growth in the apparel industry in the First Nations community. It’s not about cultural appropriation of their designs; it’s about having them be a part of the industry from a manufacturing and design perspective in a self-sufficient way.”
Putting our money where our mouth is: “I think Canadians oftentimes seek validation externally more than they do from each other. At the end of the day, unless you’re pursuing something for the art of it, there has to be a business, and in order for there to be a business, there has to be sales—it has to be more than black tie galas and awards. Canadian designers who have figured out a way to be exposed to international buyers, that’s great, but I would love to see more Canadian retailers supporting Canadian designers. That said, Canadian retailers are only going to support Canadian designers if they see a demand. It’s excellent that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau only wears Canadian, as she should, but I think every prominent Canadian needs to be doing that.”
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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.