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?
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.
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.