Patriotic Royalties

Jason Matlo: designed and made in Canada.

One of the things I was surprised to learn when moving back to Canada last year was the fact that Canadian radio stations were obliged to play a certain amount of Canadian music. This was generally bad news, as music is certainly not one of Canada’s strengths (aside from Neil Young, it is slim pickings…) The government here requires that radio stations here play anywhere between 10 to 35% of Canadian music.

Some may consider this policy quite controlling, but I must say it is a great way to ensure that royalties are being paid to Canadian artists, and I am sure the Canadian recording industry is much stronger because of this policy. (Another annoying yet interesting policy that profits Canadian musicians is the “tax” we pay on blank CD’s. This goes to the recording industry to make up for lost revenue because of illegal downloads. They are considering imposing a similar “tax” on iPods and MP3 players.) But I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I’d like to know, why this doesn’t apply to any other sectors?

Obakki: designed and made in Canada.

Imagine if this were applied to fashion. My interview with Joe Mimran (Joe Fresh) a few months ago got me pretty depressed about the fact that the Canadian government (aside from the government of Quebec) does absolutely nothing to support the fashion industry. Jason Matlo, in his interview with I’m The It Girl a few weeks ago, described the Canadian fashion industry as having ” a really bad reputation and it’s a hard place to build a business because I feel, strongly, that Canadian retailers don’t support Canadian brands.” Well what if the government FORCED Canadian retailers to support Canadian brands, like they force Canadian radio stations to support Canadian recording artists? Retailers would have to buy a certain amount of their stock from Canadian brands, and that was the law.

I am sure that in some ways this would probably break some free trade agreements or something… but in theory it would be brilliant. Imagine if all western countries developed a similar policy? I know that England used to have a huge manufacturing industry, which has now all but disappeared because production has moved to the Far East. The United States could also benefit from a similar program, as could France and Italy.

Nixxi: designed and made in Canada.

Yes, there’d have to regulations (would the product have to come from Canadian designers? Canadian Materials? Canadian manufacturers? Or a combination?) and it would be quite complicated to enforce, but the boost to the economy would definitely make up for any expense and effort involved.

And imagine what it would do for the Canadian fashion industry. How would it change if 20% of our clothing had to be Canadian brands? At the beginning, it would obviously be very difficult, as we’d be limited in the brands and selection available to us (I’d probably have a wardrobe full of Obakki, Jason Matlo, and Nixxi) but the Canadian brands would have the resources to grow, and we’d see a new crop of designers born into an industry that would actually SUPPORT them. Plus, we might see the return of some of the amazing Canadian talent (Mark Fast, Erdem, and many others) that have had to set up shop in another country to succeed in fashion.

Yes, I know this is fantasy land thinking, and of course this would have a devastating impact on the developing countries that product most of our consumer goods. But a program like this could work if it was enforced slowly, and of course if the regulation only applied to a small percentage of the clothing sold here. I know that Brazil has very high import taxes on clothing, and as a result, Brazilians buy Brazilian clothing brands, and the fashion industry there is thriving. We could have the same if the Canadian government believed that the fashion industry was one worth supporting.

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  • Jasonmatlo

    Alexandra. Well stated. The voice of Canadian fashion!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    You’re not such a bad voice yourself!

  • http://mayabeus.blogspot.com/ Maya Beus

    I think you bring on an interesting point. I always like how in Uk they always push Made in UK as a major selling point, and people do like it more. So maybe answer is not in legal “arm twisting” but in a state of mind of people who buy.

    m

    + + + + + + + + + + +
    http://mayabeus.blogspot.com/

  • Anonymous

    Yes, people are interesting if it is food that is “Made in Canada” but less
    so with fashion.

  • http://www.imtheitgirl.com anya

    Brilliant! Forced Can-Con!

    I agree with Jason, Canadian retailers are tough. As are Canadian consumers. So many times I heard the same statement: “Why would I spend that amount of money on a Canadian so and so, when for the same amount, I can buy D&G, Marc Jacobs or whatever…?” Drives me bonkers. There is a misconception with the consumer that things made outside of Canada are more luxurious etc. I guess it would be a part of the retailer to educate the public in order to successfully carry the lines. HR just sticks the locals in the corner and spends all their money marketing the big names that probably don’t even need the marketing to begin with. And I’m sure the publications are not helping much. Just looking at the big editorials this month, there are very few, if any, Canadian items featured (fur would be an exception, I guess). I know Lisa Tant at Flare always tries to push Greta Constantine and their dress made a cover of Fashion too, but I can’t really think of a another young Canadian designer (that still lives in Canada) that is the being embraced by the media. I guess Line and Pink Tartan have had a lot of success in the past. But that’s only a selected few out of hundreds. Not sure… We got to somehow turn them into media darlings for the public to notice.

    I’d like to expand my Canadian wardrobe with VAWK, Abel Munoz, Line, Greta Constantine, Furi, Obakki, Matlo, Lily + Jae.

  • http://www.imtheitgirl.com anya

    Oh man, that was one long comment for 1:30am! Typos galore!

  • Anonymous

    You’ve made some good points. I guess the one issue I have from buying from
    young designers (ANY young designer, not necessarily Canadian) is that the
    prices don’t always match the quality. If you are going to price your
    product like Marc Jacobs and co, you had better have a level of quality that
    is somewhat comparable. Yes, this is tough because a smaller business has
    lower margins as it is… but I still think it is somewhat necessary. I
    guess this is the dilemma of the smaller brand. But the ones I mentioned
    don’t have those issues, as they are reasonably priced, and the quality is
    good or excellent.

  • Paige

    It’s interesting how studying fashion can open your eyes to the many different facets, corners nooks and crannies that fashion truly is. I used to feel the same way about “Canadian Made”… it brought to mind images of boring Roots sweatshirts and way too many wildlife references. After becoming a fashion student however, I began to pay attention to Canadian designers (and you do have to pay attention because as Anya mentioned, they are in the corner, hidden in the back). It’s clear that Canadians are not just lumberjack mountain climbers. We have a fascinating and almost pragmatic aesthetic; simple, interesting, beautiful. I believe that, in many ways, is so much more indicative of Canadian culture (especially the new, multicultural Canada) than any other public forum might lead the world to believe. Perhaps if we recognized the importance of that expression we could continue to keep Canadian companies and talent our own. I would consider The Bay a “cultural contribution”, but it is no longer Canadian, in part, because we turned our back on the fact that beauty, nationalism and MONEY can work together as one.

  • Paige

    It’s interesting how studying fashion can open your eyes to the many different facets, corners nooks and crannies that fashion truly is. I used to feel the same way about “Canadian Made”… it brought to mind images of boring Roots sweatshirts and way too many wildlife references. After becoming a fashion student however, I began to pay attention to Canadian designers (and you do have to pay attention because as Anya mentioned, they are in the corner, hidden in the back). It’s clear that Canadians are not just lumberjack mountain climbers. We have a fascinating and almost pragmatic aesthetic; simple, interesting, beautiful. I believe that, in many ways, is so much more indicative of Canadian culture (especially the new, multicultural Canada) than any other public forum might lead the world to believe. Perhaps if we recognized the importance of that expression we could continue to keep Canadian companies and talent our own. I would consider The Bay a “cultural contribution”, but it is no longer Canadian, in part, because we turned our back on the fact that beauty, nationalism and MONEY can work together as one.

  • http://twitter.com/dianasof Diana Zapata

    My eyes have recently been opened to the important concept of Supporting Local, whether it means local farms or music or fashion. I pay more attention to where my money goes not just because it’s not only comforting to know where certain products came from, but it also makes you think more critically about products and their consumption, and the ethical issues behind them (how can you guarantee, 100%, that your clothes were made in respectable working conditons, or that the vegetables in your salad don’t contain harmful chemicals?). It’s also fun to discover the different aesthetics burgeoning in one single city!

  • http://twitter.com/dianasof Diana Zapata

    My eyes have recently been opened to the important concept of Supporting Local, whether it means local farms or music or fashion. I pay more attention to where my money goes not just because it’s not only comforting to know where certain products came from, but it also makes you think more critically about products and their consumption, and the ethical issues behind them (how can you guarantee, 100%, that your clothes were made in respectable working conditons, or that the vegetables in your salad don’t contain harmful chemicals?). It’s also fun to discover the different aesthetics burgeoning in one single city!