MILNER “We have all these talented people, but they need economic development. In other countries, retailers will buy from a designer for several seasons and work with them, so it’s not a one-hit wonder. Some designers need time to grow. Simons is a great example of that here at home: It nurtures a lot of Canadian brands.”
CHARTRAND “The opening of the five-storey SSENSE flagship in Montreal last May was a significant moment. It was the first building in Canada to be designed by internationally renowned David Chipperfield Architects. We’re grateful for the massive amount of international attention the opening attracted. The store has become a must visit destination and, by extension, so has Montreal.”
KENNEDY “I’ve seen international platforms taking notice of Canadian brands like Sid Neigum and Beaufille. Around five years ago, I was excited when I started seeing a lot of Canadian brands I work with in international retailers and magazines and on celebrities.”
WHAT’S THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING CANADIAN FASHION RIGHT NOW?
ZEE “When you’re not in one of the four fashion centres [Paris, New York, Milan, London], it’s hard to get noticed.”
CHARTRAND “The industry can feel restrictive and uninviting at times. However, we’ve always considered having our base in Montreal one of our greatest advantages: It liberates us from being a part of the status quo, and we’ve challenged the conventions of our industry.”
MARIE SAINT PIERRE “The west of Canada is very different from the east: Each province has its strengths, but it’s hard to say ‘I’m from Canada and this defines me.’ Consumers in other markets are a little ignorant about who we are.”
MILNER “The biggest stereotype we have to break in the international community is that Canadian fashion is just about outerwear. Roots has done a great job of telling its story, and Canada Goose has our country right in its name so no one will mistake where it’s from, but we have to show that we have a diverse offering of brands. We have amazing outerwear, but we also have stunning eveningwear and everything in between.”
ON CREATING A MORE INCLUSIVE INDUSTRY
PAUL “I didn’t see myself in industry because I didn’t have the money to produce a collection—or even have access to people at the bigger corporations, because to work at those corporations, you have to intern and work for free, which I wasn’t able to do. I really encourage those who are on the fringe to create a space for themselves.”
BARRY “Lesley Hampton’s most recent show at Toronto Fashion Week, in which she cast all Indigenous women of diverse ages and body types, was a breakthrough moment. It centred on the original fashion of Canada, Indigenous fashion, and it spoke to the beauty of celebrating all bodies in artful clothing. I think that is an example of what Canadian fashion is and can continue to be.”
CHARTRAND “Our designers are putting forward designs that reflect our multicultural and progressive environment. Not only that, but I find that Canadian designers embody a level of humility and willingness to collaborate, which I believe are two identifiably Canadian traits.”
MILNER “You can’t just cast a woman of colour for one show because it’s a hot topic. We have to shift the people who are in power in order to be more diverse.”
Text by Kate Somerville; Interviews, Patricia Karounos, Erica Ngao & Carli Whitwell; Illustration by Laura Gulshani | This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.