5 Reasons Why the Canadian Fashion Industry Isn’t Thriving

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local

The Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards in Toronto were one of the best fashion events I have attended in Canada.

Early in February I was very lucky to fly to Toronto and attend the CAFA awards. I was also honoured to be part of the nominating committee of this incredible event. I’m dedicating a week of blog posts to this, as I think that Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards are an an important, exciting event in Canadian fashion and something we really need to nurture. Let’s call it Canadian Fashion Week here at Searching for Style, and let’s start with a list about why we really, really need a body like CAFA sorting out the Canadian fashion industry. Here are 5 Reasons Why the Canadian Fashion Industry Isn’t Thriving. (P.S. Notice lack of talent isn’t on this list…because we have a ton of it.)

1. There’s no official governing body. All countries with successful fashion industries have a central governing body, that is non-profit, who manages the industry and its events with the goal of ensuring the brands are properly promoted. For example, there’s the CFDA and the BFC. Canada doesn’t have this, and as a result, there’s no one truly supporting the brands. I am hoping that CAFA will become this missing link.

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local, vancouver fashion week

Vancouver Fashion Week is a company that runs shows to make money – with hardly any buyers or press in attendance.

2. Most fashion weeks are about making profit. When I moved to Vancouver from London, I was confused about the number of people who pay to go to a fashion show. Why would someone do that? Fashion shows are overrated, and I suggest you consult this article to understand why. Anyway, the fact that a lot of these fashion weeks were about making money from ticket sales meant two really annoying things. Firstly, it means that people expect a SHOW. When you pay $25 for a glass of cheap bubbly and a fashion show, you don’t want it to be over in fifteen minutes. So, they do ridiculous things like hire dancers in between “sets” (yes, sometimes there are sets) and stretch out the show to last an hour. Guess what? For those of us who actually HAVE to be at the show, it is work. And I like my work to be done as quickly as possible.

Secondly, there’s the issue of timing. People who buy tickets to a fashion show are usually not free to attend them at 11am on a Tuesday. The “for profit” shows are usually on in the evening, sometimes at 8pm, and sometimes even at 8pm on a Saturday. There are a lot of places I would like to be at 8pm on a Saturday: in the pub with my friends, eating dinner in a nice restaurant, or lying on the sofa watching Family Guy. Note that “being at a fashion show that I am covering for work” is not on that list. Hence why I hardly ever attended a fashion week in Vancouver, because the last thing I want to do on a Saturday night is watch a ninety minute fashion show.

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local

A photo from a Malene Grotrian fashion show in Vancouver, which charges customers for entry. It makes for a fun night out, but not great for attracting industry. Photo by Rick Chung.

I’d also like to point out that this obsession with fashion shows isn’t doing much good for our industry, either. International buyers and media rarely attend Canadian fashion weeks because it is far and they are already sick of going to fashion month in the US and Europe. There’s simply no point for brands to spend masses of money on a fashion show if the right people aren’t going to be in attendance. If we had a governing body, and some financial support (see point 4) then maybe we could have showrooms and events showcasing Canadian fashion brands in the places where there is an audience. I’m suggesting a showroom in New York or Paris so that the world can see some of the best Canadian fashion, without having to schlep to Vancouver. The BFC does this for British designers in Paris, and I’ve seen Brazilian brands showcased like this in Paris, too. This would be an effective way to promote our brands to an influential audience.

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local

Nicole Bridger does a show at Vancouver Eco Fashion Week which involves “real women” models who dance. Sigh. Photo by Christina Luo.

3. Canadian brands don’t work together enough to get the word out. Again, this relates back to point 1, which is the lack of a body organizing them all. But I’ve also noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a “we’re all in this together” attitude in Canada. I noticed this when I arrived in Vancouver, and realized that people were a lot less open to networking than London (that really came as a surprise) and people are a lot more protective of their businesses. Remember that old saying, “there’s safety in numbers”? That doesn’t seem to apply here.

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local

One of the big names at Toronto Fashion Week is Joe Fresh, which really sucks as it is a supermarket fashion brand underserving of catwalk attention.

4. There aren’t enough grants or government funding for fashion brands. It costs a lot of money to start a fashion company and keep it going, and it would be nice for the government to lend a helping hand. The apparel industry is worth 2,560 trillion USD globally, so there’s the potential to make some money for Canada. (I must note that the Quebecois government DOES support the fashion industry, just not the other provinces. Go Quebec!) And if the government doesn’t want to spend the cash (they’d probably rather use it hiring more people to promote and sell oil, right?) then why not create some initiatives that will force people to buy Canadian? Canadian radio stations are forced, by law, to play 20% Canadian music, hence why our music industry does quite well. What if stores were forced to buy 10% products made or designed in Canada? I’m pretty sure putting something like that in place would not only do wonders for our fashion fashion brands, but would be a major boost to the Canadian economy in general.

CAFA, canadian fashion, made in canada, buy local

5. We don’t value our Canadian brands enough. Yes, we love buying our lettuce local, but I don’t feel we put in the same effort when it comes to buying Canadian fashion. The movement is growing, but I feel like people still place too much value on foreign brands, this has to change. And while we are on the subject, I thought I’d introduce you to the 100 Mile Outfit, which is a really cool site that aims to connect designers to consumers and rebuild a local retail culture. (And p.s. – they are based in Vancouver.)

Tune in on Wednesday for an interview with Vicky Milner, the founder of CAFA.

Image sources: CAFA, Vancouver Fashion Week, Joe Fresh show, Nicole Bridger show, Malene Grotrian show, and 100 Mile Outfit

 

  • http://sololisa.com/ Lisa Wong

    Great points, and I agree with a lot of what you’ve said about VFW. However, re. Malene Grotrian’s shows: She sells directly to customers out of her studio, and her shows are skewed toward putting on a special event for her customers, connecting with them, and making them feel pampered. The past few times I’ve gone, I’ve suspected there’s little interest in catering to media and buyers, and why would there be? Her business model is working for her. Not great for creating a feeling of camaraderie in the industry, but definitely smart for her.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Good point – and if they are looking to court media maybe they should just organize a more intimate event to do that, and continue to do their shows for their customers.

  • Garry K

    Good Points about Lack of a Governing Body ,Not Valuing our Canadian Brands enough and Lack of Government Support for the Industry – But Blaming Fashion Weeks for the Industry’s Lack of Success – Is like blaming Movie Theaters for Hollywood turning out Unpopular Movies ….

  • Beverly

    Very valid points and I agree with you on most. I am a designer based in London but recently have come back to Canada to reassess my whole situation. I am still really torn as to what I should do and where I belong. I consistently work with other designers in London and we are all at different stages of our business, we share information, suppliers, sometimes even interns and workspace. I am shocked how cliquey designers are here, instead of nurturing and aiding the growth of the Canadian fashion industry, many are suppressing it. I am not accustomed to this mentality and I feel really lost and alone, while in London I have support and can relate and share experiences with many others in my position. While I do not necessarily agree that the fashion weeks are to blame, I do agree that they are just in it for the money. As I have experienced, it did not benefit me in any way since there were virtually no buyers or retailers at the show. I felt like I was used to promote their event and everyone got what they wanted out of me and I was left with very little. I don’t think I have ever paid for a fashion show in London or Paris even when I was a student.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I disagree on your last point. If movie theaters all had terrible screens, seats, etc…, then people wouldn’t support the industry. That’s what is happening. This isn’t about bad movies (or bad fashion) – it’s the ways in which the industry is showcased.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sorry to hear about your experience! But sadly it sounds normal.

  • Jenna

    Lisa took the words right out of my mouth. I work with Malene and we focus our efforts for our Fashion Shows to our clients as we do not sell wholesale and we only sell directly out of our Gastown Studio Boutique. We do one big show each Fall and intimate shows during the Spring season. We often have a charity focus for our Fashion Shows and bring together other small businesses (shoes, hair, make-up, accessories, musical talent, etc.) to showcase other local companies and community brands. We always invite media and spread the word as much as we can throughout the community with the hopes that they will cover our local fashion brand that is manufactured right here in Vancouver. We also usually hold our Fall show on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening so weekends are kept free for our guests and media. We showcase designs that are currently available so guests get excited about a design on the runway and can buy it shortly after the show. The Fashion industry in Vancouver is a very interesting and diverse scene and we have found that since we are not looking for Buyers, and are looking to showcase new designs to our clientele and fans, these fashion shows work for us and we brand them as “Fashion Events” so guests know they are in for an evening of entertainment with many facets not just the fashion show. Personally, I would love to see more coverage of local, made in Vancouver Fashion brands as this city has a lot of hidden gems that do things differently than the main stream Fashion Weeks.

  • Cass

    I don’t think this article is about blaming Fashion Weeks for anything. Or blaming anyone really. The simple fact, and what I believe the point they are trying to make, is that there are major flaws in how we the industry in this country is currently operating and part of that is that Canadian Fashion Weeks do nothing to benefit, promote, or build local designers and their brands/businesses. Having been involved in fashion weeks in both BC and AB as well as interning in NYC and Miami the way we do things here is completely backwards and not beneficial to anyone involved in the industry.

  • Cass

    there is a difference between putting on an customer preview type event and doing an event for the media and buyers for sure. And both are appropriate – it’s the same as a store having a customer appreciation night or launching a new brand. But unfortunately most shows and fashion weeks in particular are geared too much to the public which does nothing for emerging designers that are trying to attract buyers, media and financial backing so that they can eventually sell to those people that are currently paying to see them show. It’s backwards. Fashion shows are a marketing tool and somehow we’ve completely forgotten that in Canada.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    The fashion show as an event to market direct to the consumer is different from a show catering to media and buyers – and since you are only doing the former, then I think your brand was not a good example in context of this article (sorry :-) I didn’t realize that you did not do any wholesale, and frankly I’m surprised a Vancouver business can manage without! I think it is great that you’re able to sustain a business that caters exclusively to a local clientele.
    The article was intended to show what normally happens in Vancouver, and from what I have seen, this is the norm. And I still think that evenings of entertainment are not highly effective for attracting media because we get invited to so many events and it’s hard to commit several hours to one single event. In order to get more coverage, intimate or media-focused events are more effective.
    But I will agree with you that Canadian media could do more to support local brands. However, the brands that effectively target media will have more success, and that’s done through the correct media pitches, a well-explained story, access to the correct materials (images, info), respect for lead times (show a season before it is in store) and media-focused events.
    It’s hard to get everything right and make everyone happy. I’m glad that your business model is successful and works for you, but I do think that the industry as a whole could find some great successes if they worked together in some capacity.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    You’ve nailed it. And I also think it’s worth mentioning that fashion shows are incredibly expensive to put on, and I’m always shocked when brands dedicate resources to this without knowing that there will be media and buyers in attendance to make the event (and the expense) worthwhile.

  • Irenad

    Not sure if you are aware that UK Vogue and UK Glamour magazine feature many Vancouver Fashion Week designers.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Do they feature the Vancouver brands? Or the international ones that show here?

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    Difficult to share with designers who tend to copy the work of others rather than create originals …

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Lol – I don’t mean showing your sketches to your competition before you’ve launched your product. I mean finding ways to work together to harness support for the industry, and to support each other! Copying happens everywhere, shutting yourself off from other brands is not going to prevent it. And, it’s worth noting that hardly anyone is doing anything truly new. It’s how you make it, brand it, and sell it that gives you originality.

  • http://www.theaugustdiaries.com/ Jill Lansky

    This is awesome, I totally agree with you. There seems to be a lack of community with the designers in Vancouver. And Vancouver Fashion Week is done quite poorly, I’ve gone once and have yet to go back. It needs a serious makeover.

  • Liisa

    Also because the industry is FULL of OLD people. We have STARS in our industry, all leaving this limited industry to go to the U.S and Europe. The whole industry needs to be refurbished.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Old people aren’t bad (Lagerfeld and many of the greats are still working and old) but you are right – young talent is leaving. And that is bad news. If Canada had some financial support or grants for small apparel businesses, I’m pretty sure less would leave.

  • http://demicouture.ca victoria_potter

    Yeah, VFW is horrific

  • http://demicouture.ca victoria_potter

    Too bad her designs are lacklustre

  • Mzcocoh

    *nailed* and so much more. On the other hand, it is growing, but very slowly. It is still very sickening to hear rants about the CFI, it’s clearly calling for all hands on deck. If you as a blogger intend to reach out to make that change, start doing so with your content, we can’t all be hear discussing how terrible the fashion weeks and industries are. On hearing the stories on how the Vancouver fashion week got started, it was mind blowing, kept asking ‘why should it be that difficult’ . I have been at the show three times now, and I must say it has improved and i’m very hopeful it is going yo go places. Right now, everyone is passionate about the industry should started start finding a tool to make it work.

  • Mzcocoh

    *all be here*

  • Mzcocoh

    So I made few errors there, this is an edited version

    *nailed* and so much more. On the other hand, it is growing, but very slowly. It is still very sickening to hear rants about the CFI, it’s clearly calling for all hands on deck. If you as a blogger intend to reach out to make that change, start doing so with your content, we can’t all be hear discussing how terrible the fashion weeks and industries are. On hearing the stories on how the Vancouver Fashion Week got started, it was mind blowing,I kept asking ‘why should it be that difficult’ . I have been at the show three times now until the last season, and I must say it has improved and i’m very hopeful it is going to go places. Right now, if anyone is passionate about the industry, they should started start finding a tool to make it work, and everything is fall nicely come together.

    Great piece by the way, people needed to see how serious this issue is, and you delivered

  • Mzcocoh

    *and everything will fall nicely together*

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    First of all, I edited the comment above and deleted the the other ones so that the incorrect ones are gone. I think the above is what you meant to say :-) Let me know if I’ve made a mistake and of course I can change it.

    And I agree, there’s no point talking about how crap things are if you aren’t going to do anything about it. I am trying to support CAFA as much as possible, and as an editor at Vitamin Daily, I try to support Canadian brands as much as possible. However, I left Canada a few months ago (read the reasons here: http://searchingforstyle.com/2014/01/5-reasons-why-i-am-moving-to-sweden/) and while I do kind of feel like I am abandoning what I think could be an incredible industry, I had to make some decisions that were best for me. That said, if anyone wants any support in doing something to resolve some of the issues above, then feel free to reach out.

  • cmdiaz

    Alexandra I totally agree with your article!! thank you for putting it out there. I studied in Milan at Istituto Marangoni and came back to Vancouver to find no support or community with other designers. Hope Canada will thrive in fashion, too many talented people here!

  • Garry K

    I won’t speak about Toronto Fashion Week but if you know anything about the 2 Fashion Weeks in Vancouver – You would know that BC Fashion Week did not get enough support from local designers to sustain itself , and Vancouver Fashion Week has had to evolve into a showcase for International Designers to survive and continue on its path …Apparently Canadian Designers in this part of the country at least are not that interested in “showcasing “their fashions as part of a Fashion Week – perhaps believing their private and public events do just that

  • Mzcocoh

    Thank you for doing the edit. I wanted to correct this line “…a tool to make it work, and everything will fall nicely come together” (take out come).
    “Not Found”
    Apologies, but the page you requested could not be found. Perhaps searching will help
    The above was the error message I got trying to read your suggested article, I’ m not sure why.I’d totally love to know your reasons. However it is totally understandable and legit to have reasons to leave the industry as well as the country to find your passion . Your last sentence ! Now that’s the beginning of the solution. Soo many talents out there you know. Again I’d love to say I respect and appreciate your piece as well as your responses thus far, as I know this issues are controversial.

  • chloe

    HERE HERE

  • Garry K

    Perhaps for You , but the recent VFW was of such interest to British Vogue that they sent a photographer , and had a writer covering it

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg
  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I doubt it. They would not spend thousands of dollars sending a photographer to photograph VFW. Either it was a Vancouver-based photographer working for British Vogue or someone was already here for other reasons.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    If VFW doesn’t have buyers or media, then local designers will not show. It says something about a fashion week if the local brands don’t want to have anything to do with it. Also, it often takes place after buyers have done all their buying. So there is no chance of designers getting orders.

  • Fasionista

    UK Vogue and UK glamour featured Canadian designers, this season #justsaying

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Great. Did any of those designers get orders? And did British Vogue actually attend? Or did they just publish the photos that were sent to them.

  • http://www.pfieldwalker.com Patricia Fieldwalker

    Next time you go to the International Salon de la Lingerie in Paris ( yes, I know you are bored with Paris) you may be interested to see that many of the top lingerie brands actually shut themselves off from the crowd and other brands, to avoid the wanna be design companies who scour the show for ideas. Their booths are for registered buyers only. No amount of careful making and branding will sell unless the design has merit and that comes from genuine passion for the creative process. Whatever happened to your deluxe lingerie company? Would love to see some of your designs and promise not to copy. LOL

  • Tessai

    Garry is right Alexandra, British Vogue & Glamour UK was flown out here by VFW to cover Canadian Designers. Something Toronto did not even do so I would get your facts straight. I happen to be there covering the event for Shopstyle and happen to meet them so I can confirm that to be true. If you really are for the Industry as you say why do I sense bitterness towards Vancouver? I would be interested in your ideas of cross promo with CAFA to promote rather than ridicule. Yes there are pockets of talent in that city among others across Canada but bear in mind, they’re not given the support or opportunities as in other countries so all they can do is build their names to help raise their profiles. It was my first time attending VFW but I will say job well done.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Lovely Patricia, I didn’t expect cheap shots from someone like you. It is exactly this type of attitude that proves to me that you are utterly small minded and quite sad. Like I said before, I am not suggesting that everyone show off their collections during sales season, I am suggesting they work together as an industry. That works better than sitting on their high horse.
    Yes, State of Undress is no longer as we realized that we couldn’t make high enough margins producing in France. That said, we have secured orders from some of the best department stores in the world for Fall with my new company. We are doing quite well. How are you doing? Your website and photography looks like it hasn’t been updated in five years. And when I google you, only ebay turns up. That’s not a good sign, is it? I’m always suspicious of fashion brands who don’t list of any of their stockists on their website.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Tessai – fair enough, I have no idea what’s happened at the last Vancouver Fashion Week, I only know what happened before this year. I don’t have a good impression of VFW – the main organizer (if it is still the same guy) used to have interns do 90% of the work without paying them anything, and they were not focused on ensuring that the designers got press and orders, more that he made money and treated his staff like garbage. If things have changed, then that is great.

    But my concern is still that we can’t have private people organizing these events, fashion weeks need to be organized by associations who are non profit and whose main purpose it to support the industry, not make money.

  • Garry k

    Yes I sense a tone of personal bitterness towards VFW in this article too , Like the event or not – it really doesn’t make sense to blame any of the Canadian Fashion Industry’s woes on a Fashion Week or Event

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Well – the events they planned in the past were so bad that they tainted our local industry. If they can change their reputation, then that is great. But anyone who had known VFW for the past few years remembers poorly planned events whose only goal was to make money (and not support the brands.)

    And it DOES make sense to blame the industry woes on poorly planned events. That is part of the problem. You can’t just ignore the fashion shows.

  • Garry K

    You say in your article that international buyers and media rarely attend our Fashion Week because it is too far and they are sick of seeing shows in the US and Europe – so even though this is clearly only your opinion ( as you don’t cite any sources in making this claim ) if that is true – then does it even matter what the quality of VFW was ? It was well covered by the local media by the way

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Of course it matters!!! Just because Barney’s buyers aren’t coming to the shows, it doesn’t mean it’s ok to have a shitty fashion week. That makes ALL designers in Vancouver (whether they participate or not) look bad.
    Have you ever been to one of the major fashion weeks? Do you know how the industry works in the big fashion capitals?

  • Garry K

    Yes – Begone those “Old People ” – Lagerfeld , Armani,Prada , de la Renta etc
    Heck they should even kick out Gaultier given that he is 61

  • http://haleyyael.tumblr.com/ haleyyael

    Tent: Fashion will have grants, thoughhh! http://www.tentsite.org/2014/fashion

  • Garry K

    I know how it works there and how it is trying to work here ( as i said it has evolved into a showcase for international designers and is probably more an entertainment event rather than a buyers event ) but I am under the impression that you didn’t even attend the last VFW – so I question your ability to comment on it

  • Garry K

    And if they are running the photos in British Vogue – then I would think a certain level of quality has been achieved with the shows

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yes – I didn’t attend the last one and therefore my opinions are based on the past five years before that.

    If VFW is now just a showcase for International designers, and it is entertainment, then it shouldn’t be called Vancouver Fashion Week because that implies it is an industry fashion week that shows local designers. Secondly, the international designers that do show, are not available for purchase in Vancouver (well, some of them are, but most of them aren’t.) So how do they benefit? It costs them to put on the show, and I am pretty sure those brands don’t want to spend money to “entertain” a bunch of Vancouver customers. And if they can’t go into store the next day and buy the clothes, then what is the point? Lastly – which links to the above, if it is a customer event, it should be showing products that are available in store immediately. Firstly, many of these brands aren’t available in store, and secondly, they are showing a season ahead.

    Unless something has changed… does VFW provide a space for the designers to sell? That would be the only logical way for them to recoup some costs.

  • Garry K

    Well if you have been around for the 5 previous years as you claim then you no doubt witnessed BC Fashion Week crash and burn due to lack of local designer support … VFW has had to adapt to survive .Quite simply local designers cannot be counted on by any event trying to survive

  • Garry K

    Regarding the International Designers that attend VFW – while some may not sell their fashions locally yet , I don’t think it takes a lot of saavy to connect with them on site ie after their shows .. This idea of having fashions on display for sale in conjunction with a fashion show sounds more to me like something you would find at a shopping mall or boutique fashion show

  • M R Wilson

    A little disturbed by all of this. The last 3 seasons of VFW have been clean and finished on time or early each day. In talking with others in attendance, the response has been positive. I write for magazines outside of Canada mostly and it is hugely important for me to have access to these international talents without flying to each country. The designers I cover appreciate the press. It’s not like being in NYC or Montreal (unfortunately not been to Europe) but there are differences here in the show format I actually really enjoy and I hope don’t change. One for instance is that we do not have to leave the venue between each show and can spend the time instead networking, making new connections and talking with designers. So while I do understand where this is coming from, especially because of history, not all of us want what you want. I think the whole fashion show industry is due for a big change in the next few years as consumers come to shows and watch more and more by live feed. It’s all going to be revamped.

  • M R Wilson

    Fashion weeks are needing to change to reflect the very digital see it/want it now consumer. They – and brands – need to move beyond just buyers in terms of their business goals and smaller fashion weeks outside of the big fashion capital are probably where this will happen first because of lack of sponsorship.

  • M R Wilson

    Not sure what is going on here, but there must be a back story between you to generate this exchange. I have interviewed and written on Patricia Fieldwalker several times and have nothing but the greatest respect for her both as an inspired designer and as a well-informed business woman. She’s been in the business over 35 years and offers some of the highest quality lingerie available. Everytime I try to get together with her she is swamped getting a shipment ready or heading off for NY.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yes, I did witness that – and I don’t think you quite understand the purpose of a fashion week. It is supposed to be promote local brands, not make money by inviting international brands to show their stuff to a market who can’t even buy them. Don’t blame it on the designers, if VFW had been putting on great events, designers would have showed.

    And I am not the only one who feels this way, look at the comments here.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    No backstory – I have never met the woman. But apparently she knows a lot about me.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sorry, but this doesn’t make sense to me. You are suggesting you need access to international designer’s fashion shows – here in Vancouver? So should all designers put on fashion shows in hundreds of countries across the world?

    Maybe you don’t want what I want, but I do know that a lot of designers would appreciate a more professional and cohesive industry. And as media – yes, there is a benefit of not wanting to travel between venues, but VFW makes no sense. They are showing international designers’ collections to customers in Vancouver one season ahead of time and in a city where they can’t actually buy the clothes. This is a huge expense for the designers and they have to fly to Vancouver and shoulder the expenses of the show – without reaping any real benefit. This is not how the industry is supposed to work. If VFW was touting itself as entertainment, which one commenter has said it is, then they shouldn’t be charging the designers to show. Since when do actors pay to go on stage?

  • http://www.girlsofto.com/ Ally Lesniak

    Fantastic article! Valid points throughout but I think that designers need to take some responsibility also. Many young people entering the Canadian fashion industry have unrealistic business plans, if they even have them at all. Many are designing for a market that simply isn’t buying. If you’re fresh on the scene and throw a $500 dress down the runway, there are probably only a handful of people in the room who would consider buying it. Everyone wants to be on top without actually taking the time to build a solid brand with a devoted client base. It seems that many Canadian designers are targeting a small group of Canadian shoppers with deep pockets and forgetting that the money can be made elsewhere. Instead, they accumulate debt and eventually go out of business. What’s so bad about taking a potentially longer but more stable road? Until fashion week in Canada turns into a real business opportunity where brands can potentially meet buyers and generate profit for both sides, designers will have to either take a step back and re-evaluate their approach, or simply fall back on Plan B.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Great comment – especially about the price points. You are right that it is easier to put fancy dresses down the catwalk but it is so true that those are not going to be the big selling items.

  • LK

    No. Gaultier is the only one who still has fun with fashion! Enfant Terrible! The rest are all sell outs!

  • leah

    Thank you for writing this….I’m a Toronto-based designer and my peers and I find it insanely difficult to reach out to stores, with very little outcome. I find it insulting that my government offers me little to no support, actually making a point to state that fashion isn’t an art. It’s offensive. I attended school in the States, I chose to come home and start a label because I thought that Canadian designers deserve more….we do not receive the respect we deserve, making it super difficult to want to stick around and support this economy.

    There’s a lot of talent here….I wish we got the accolades and business support we deserved.

    Sad truths in this article.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yes, it totally sucks that the government doesn’t provide any support for the fashion industry – especially since there is so much potential for it to be a major industry.

  • http://www.imtheitgirl.com/ anya

    Can we see some of this Brit Vogue coverage? Can someone post?

    When I was covering VFW for FLARE — which is the biggest Canadian fashion magazine — they sat me in 2nd row behind bunch of no name bloggers and socialites. I doubt Vogue would like that.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    Hi Marilyn:
    Thanks for your comment…I have replied to the nonsense of my not listing my stores but it’s been “deleted” …seems Alex prefers not to be contradicted on her blog site …perhaps you can ask her to post it for her readers to get both sides and the “backstory”
    xoxo P

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I didn’t get any further comments from you. I don’t delete comments unless they are abusive – which I’m presuming yours wasn’t.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    OK ….I will reply again and hopefully you will manage to post it…you do need to take ownership of your comments and should really do some research before you post …what happened to my logo? seems you have deleted that? can you kindly keep it so your readers can follow this “backstory”…I am not in the habit of making abusive remarks but sometimes you may find the truth a bit hard to deal with.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    what happened to my reply to Marilyn? Posted just after you denied any “backstory”??? can you post it please

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    silly me…here it is…did not see my logo so missed this..would be grateful if you would continue to use it so I don’t need to plug in my details each time

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Ok Patricia – let me explain something. My comments are powered by Disqus. I don’t control your logo, and, like I said before, I don’t delete comments unless they are abusive (or spam). So if you are having problems – they are on your end. Not mine. The only reason why you might not see a comment right away is if it has a link in it – those need to be approved. And I can’t “keep” your logo on there – Disqus deals with that.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    Hi Marilyn: I did send a “yes, backstory” but Alex has some odd explanation for why she can’t post it…anyway, suffice it to say that my 30 years designing the Bergdorf Goodman silk /French lace lingerie collection pretty much takes care of any “branding” and I caution readers to beware of armchair designers who take shots at those of us who are actually working in the industry.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    If this is a reply from “the” Marilyn Wilson who so strongly supports Canadian fashion designers, I think a little more respect for her years of experience and positive attitude would be in order from someone who has not participated in the Canadian fashion scene… your opinions are based on suppositions that are not shared be everyone.

  • Patricia Fieldwalker

    not true! there is definitely a “backstory” that began with your very cheeky LOL comment to my post. I have now taken the time to read a number of negative responses to your uninformed opinions about Van Fashion Week. You are using this blog as a forum for your own very opinionated “take” on what the fashion industry should be. Given your own failure to price your luxury lingerie collection to allow you to survive, one would think you are not exactly the right person to instruct other designers. I know a lot about you due to the very grandiose web self description of your somewhat “amazing’ stints as DESIGNER at some of the major fashion houses in Europe. New grads normally spend a year or so as gofers and don’t get to design ANYTHING! Anyone who doesn’t speak to their partner for weeks over debates over design issues, need some help with anger management. Now your amazing new company is selling to THE BEST DEPARTMENT STORES IN THE WORLD FOR FALL, is this the 3 Van, I Bowen Island, 1 Kelowna , 1 Concord, 1 Evanston, and a UK store that doesn’t even list you? Maybe it’s time you give up this blog and spend your time trying to make your Sleepshirt company a success…you know: make it, brand it, sell it !!!!! Still waiting for a list of the best department stores in the world who will be carrying it.
    WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE TO DECEIVE… can’t waste any more time on keeping this very egotistical blog going and I do need to get back to the business of design. LOL

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sigh. Patricia, I’m in London and it’s Saturday night and I’m not really in the mood to descend in a mudslinging match with you so I’ll leave you with a few points.

    1. I did an MA at St. Martins – when you do those, you get jobs after. Not internships. I did actually design things.

    2. I have no idea what your comment about anger management is – so I can’t respond.

    3. We aren’t announcing our Fall 2014 stockist list until July when the product is delivered, despite how much I am dying to rub them in your face.
    4. We made a lot of mistakes with my lingerie company – and I am not afraid to admit it. But I also know that you learn from mistakes, and most successful entrepreneurs have made mistakes before becoming successful.
    5. I suggest you do a technology 101 course or read How to Use the Internet for Dummies because I have not done anything to prevent your comments being published. They are all up here – and the ones that aren’t are the ones that you’ve not managed to figure out how to publish. So please stop accusing me of trying to hide your comments.

    Lastly, I had no idea that saying the word “lol” to one of your comments would result in this attack. To be frank, I couldn’t give a shit what you think of me, but I am surprised that a “lol” got this type of reaction. Your immature attitude is a prime example of the small-mindedness of some of the people in the Vancouver fashion industry. It’s quite sad.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I repeat – I DO NOT post your comments. You do. Please try and understand how comments work. They are actually quite simple – even you should be able to understand them.

  • fashiongirl1

    I don’t know who you are but I looked up your company and it looks like the same boring crap all the stores sell. I don’t know why you have gotten so worked up about Alex – her article makes total sense and she is exactly the type of person the Canadian fashion industry needs. We need more people like her – she is one of the few people with a voice in the industry in Vancouver and she was a great teacher to many of us. You sound like a bitter old woman who finds some sort of sick joy in making personal insults to someone on their blog. Get a life.

  • Fashiongirl1

    Haha and you don’t even know how to use a computer.

  • Josie

    Um – Alexandra HAS participated in the Canadian fashion industry, and she has contributed a hell of a lot more than you.

  • Josie

    Patricia, you sound like a bitter old witch. This blog is a fantastic resource and I value Alexandra’s opinions. Also, she is very humble, you are making her out to be a show off. That is the opposite of the truth.

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  • Rob

    As a transplant to Vancouver two years ago, I would have to agree in saying that Vancouver’s Fashion Week didn’t seem quite as polished then. From an outsider’s perspective, I sensed somewhat of an in-crowd vibe around it. Granted, I garnered these assumptions solely based on observation (shame on me!) but I resigned to the fact that it is a relatively young scene here. I thought that it just needed development and am happy to say that this year’s event showed remarkable advancements. If they keep striving to meet true industry standards, eventually they’ll get buyers. I’m sure New York Fashion Week didn’t start off smoothly. In fact, there are documentaries and biographies about it. Those designers just set out to deliver shows, impress a vision upon their audience, and get media attention. And maybe they were better schmoozers, too, because they did get buyers in the end…

    Anyway, I have been around fashion crowds, worked for a renowned fashion photographer and have been in the company of famous designers and stylists because of the latter, so I like to think that such experiences validate what I will say next. One thing that I know for sure about being inside a true fashion industry bubble is that everyone works insanely (INSANELY) hard and does so while being supportive (which includes being critical), generous, and considerate to all others who are worth the effort. People who are truly in the fashion industry don’t have time for the bitterness and self-important flailing of social climbing. Those are indicators of people who are trying to get in and who may be dealing with some frustration. It’s not easy, as we know. Of course, everyone would certainly benefit from a governing body. It will unite talents, focus media attention, facilitate opportunities and champion our designers. I also hope that the CAFA will be our country’s answer to Canada’s untapped fashion industry.

    My best friends are highly skilled and extremely talented fashion designers, once being named as ones-to-watch by major magazines. They are not rich and I’ve seen first-hand how hard it is to sustain a small label. They have since gone on to do product development for fashion retail brands. They’re now very successful and seem to be happy, but I have always felt sad that their voices in the fashion industry had to be put aside due to a lack of support.

  • http://mandalasky.com Sky

    Thank you for writing this article, so many great points and a very honest look. Posting number #3 on my page. Sky

  • aT

    The government doesn’t hire anyone in the oil industry, you twit. You don’t effectively make an argument when you fabricate facts.

  • Jordan Lewis

    If only our Canadian fashion leaders would read this and get the point!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Not only our fashion leaders, but our government, who should be supporting the brands.

  • Eric

    The
    Canadian fashion industry doesn’t thrive because it was never meant to.
    We live in a country with a population smaller than California. To
    succeed in fashion, you need the talent and a market. We have plenty of
    talented designers here, but a super small domestic market. It’s not
    the government grants, a council, or lack of Canadian support that cause
    the downfall. You do not have to leave Canada to make it in fashion,
    but your clothes should definitely be appealing enough to be sold to a
    world market, not just the US. The size of Canada at least gives us an
    advantage in an easier market competition.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sweden has a population less than a third of Canada, and they have a decent industry. France has double the population of Canada, Britain similar. The population should not be a deciding factor. There is talent and wealth – we should be able to have a strong fashion industry.

  • Eric

    Alexandra, Canada already has a thriving fashion scene here. We have tonnes of brands, independent designers, events, fashion weeks, bloggers, international brands. Believe it or not, this is actually the scene thriving. Just don’t expect it to get much bigger than this. Our cultural capacity / population won’t grow it any larger. This is as big as it’s supposed to get.

    Government handouts, a fashion council (a fashion council cannot help you achieve stability as a brand), “working together more” (we actually already do) won’t change that. Canadians also do support Canadian labels, the good ones. Look how well Mackage, Wings and Horns, Naked and Famous, and Canada Goose do every single year, even Nobis is making a killing now.

    Despite Sweden’s geographical advantages (being in Europe, and close to many European buyers, and the French and Italian fashion weeks), Sweden still does not have a decent fashion industry. It’s extremely small and niche. I wouldn’t compare it to Canada in a positive light.

    France and Britain’s fashion industries are not comparable to Canada, regardless of population size. France is double the population of Canada, and Britain is also double the population of Canada, and both countries have existed and established fashion distribution networks for centuries. France historically invented fashion and is considered a primary world leader for fashion.

    Canada is a new country, with no fashion history, with half the population size, geographically separated from every fashion week in the world except for New York’s. Why would any buyers fly all the way to Vancouver for one small fashion week, when they can Eurorail all around Europe and attend the most prestigious ones in the world?

    We have a dope fashion scene here, we can’t force it to be bigger or something it’s not. The fashion industry here will grow and develop, al it really needs is time and for designers not to call it quits when it gets tough.

  • Eric

    We get the point, but it’s not the truth about the current situation.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I don’t think you’ve understood the point of my article because I never suggested anyone fly to Vancouver for fashion week, in fact, I explained that they never would. I also don’t think you have any clue about the success of the Swedish fashion industry, because it does very well. The scene in Canada is not “thriving” – it is the furthest thing from.

  • Caro

    You did not mention Toronto Fashion Incubator in your article. TFI has been around a long time, I’m curious what your thoughts are about the organization’s effectiveness in stimulating the industry through its support of emerging fashion designers and entrepreneurs?

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I don’t know much about them, which is why they aren’t mentioned. On paper, the organization looks great.