Where to Find Canadian Fashion: A Beginning

Editor’s note: 132/3/2013: Updated thanks to the upcoming Toronto Fashion Week and the recent showing of Moose & Beaver.

I was watching the monthly Twitter chat Fashion Unfold when the topic of Canadian fashion came up. The topic, specifically was the difficulty in finding and buying it. There were two general conclusions:

Canadian fashion is hard to find –  it really isn’t.

Canadian fashion is expensive. Yes, compared to H&M and Zara, it is. 

First, let’s start with an extremely basic list from Wikipedia. This is just to give a tiny taste of what’s out there. This list just has Canadians who are in fashion, not those who live and work in the country. For example, Tara Jarmon is Canadian but her label is based in Paris. Erdem and Mark Fast are Canadian but their labels are based in London, England. Avril Lavigne – well, that’s a celebrity line and isn’t really what this is about.

A better list is this one from World Master Card Fashion Week or Toronto Fashion Week as it’s commonly called.

Here’s the Montreal listVancouver’s and Atlantic fashion week.

For a more indie perspective, here are the designers who are showing at FAT. Then you have up-and-comers who learn about the industry from the Toronto Fashion Incubator such as the Mod Appeal and those who go it alone like Evan Biddell, Philip Sparks,  and Breeyn McCarney. There’s Krane, Klaxon Howl and so many more.

This is the beginning of the designers who live and work in this country. I haven’t even listed the accessories designers who also ply their trade. (Jessica Jensen (handbags), Nella Bella (vegan handbags), KayTran (sunglasses), knitwear from Dylanium Knits etc. etc. etc.

If you read women’s magazines, then pick up FLARE or go to Flare.com. They feature Canadian designers in their editorials on a regular basis.

Once you start familiarizing yourself with the names and their aesthetic, you might want to buy something from them. They are expensive compared to H&M, Zara, the Gap and Forever 21. It’s a complicated formula but basically it boils down to demand, supply and production. Most of the designers produce their work in Canada where costs are higher. They aren’t producing the mass quantities like H&M and Zara and they’re not stocked in as many places. There is the cheap and cheerful Joe Fresh but that’s easy to find and buy.

I am not endorsing buying Canadian fashion just because they’re Canadian but if you want to, there are a few places you can look.

So where can you find Canadian designers? The first stop should be their websites. Most of them will list stockists. Some will have ecommerce available. There are a a few websites that specialize in Canadian fashion like Ukamaku where you can buy items. There is also Peacock Parade which does carry some Canadian designers but the site requires membership.

BlogTO did a list of Toronto locations that carry Canadian designers. You can read it here. Other Toronto stores carry Canadian designers including Nathalie-Roze & Co., ShopGirls, Distill and Freedom Collective, who also have an Etsy site.

If you’re looking to save a few pennies, subscribe to their newsletters or email lists. A lot of them have sample sales. Personally, I wait for the Matis sample sales and then go nuts.

Another place to check is your local Winners. Some of the items I’ve bought there include NADA (discontinued)  and a Mackage wool and leather coat for far less than retail. The funny thing is, these items weren’t in the designer section, so I wonder if Winner’s is up on their Canadian designers.

Consignment stores also carry some items. I’ve bought Arthur Mendonca and Andy The-Anh.

Finally, designers are showing their diffusion linkes on the Shopping Channel such as LOVAS’ Wesley B, Jessica Jensen and Lucian Matis. They’re also doing collaborations with Aldo (Mark Fast) and Danier (Greta Contstantine).

Oh, you can also engage them on Twitter. Most of them have a pretty active social media profile. I’m looking for a new bag and would prefer to buy Canadian. A colleague mentioned Jessica Jensen’s bags and I asked if anything there would fit my criteria (need to fit a laptop and a pair of shoes.) Jessica (@JESSICA_JENSEN) immediately got involved in the conversation. She even took this picture for me:

Jessica Jensen Summer Satchel. With shoes and a macbook inside.

You have to love it.

So that’s the basics of finding and buying Canadian fashion. It’s a much bigger topic that I’ve covered here but this should be a decent start.


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