CANADIAN DESIGNERS: PHILLIPPE DUBUC, RAD HOURANI, TRAVIS TADDEO

The Fashion Insider’s Guide To Canadian Menswear: Three Quebec Designers You Need To Know

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By Christian Dare

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There are tons of Canadian menswear brands that have taken off south of the border and across the globe; you can pick them up at Nordstroms, Macy’s and even Barneys. To name a few: Dsquared2, Roots, Canada Goose, Herschel bags, WANT les Essentiels de la Vie, Naked & Famous. But, what do the insiders of Canadian fashion wear when they want to sport a Canadian cool brand?

Canadian fashion insiders tend to turn to one province in particular for cutting edge menswear: Quebec. This francophone province does so much to support their local talent but in true Quebecois form, they don’t scream about it. The designers simply keep working away at honing their craft and building their brands. Many of them have built cult followings across the globe… but, do you even know their names? We have rounded up the top 3 Quebec designers currently working in menswear (sadly, Denis Gagnon stopped producing a menswear line in 2013); each of them have a distinct style and cover the gamut from luxe streetwear (Travis Taddeo) to sleek modern suiting (Philippe Dubuc). And oh yeah, then there is Rad Hourani who is the first designer to ever present a unisex collection during Haute Couture Week in Paris. In the end all three designers have more in common than at first glance, they all have distinctive French je ne sais quoi to their brands: modern, sleek and edgy but with immaculate tailoring.

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Although born in Calgary, Travis Taddeo considers his adopted city of Montreal home. Taddeo launched his eponymous line almost immediately after graduating in fashion design from LaSalle College in 2008. He quickly built a cult following around his luxe street wear; this was long before it became the dominant trend we see everywhere these days. He was one of the first and is still one of the best. His collections always feature a mix of high-end jersey and sleek leathers. Don’t worry ladies, he makes a womenswear collection as well.

www.travistaddeo.com

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In 1993, Dubuc launched his line of modern minimalist menswear. His brand rests on the concept that every man needs sleek tailored suits and sportswear with a decidedly French edge. Over his almost 22 year career, Philippe has had his ups and downs in the business, including a brief time where he almost had to shutter his namesake label but thanks to collaborations with Quebec mass retailer Simons he is still going strong. Over the years he has shown in New York and In Paris but he still calls Montreal home. In 2015, Dubuc won Best Canadian Menswear designer at the CAFA awards.

www.dubucstyle.com

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Rad Hourani became notable within the mainstream fashion world when he was invited to the first designer to ever present a unisex collection during Haute Couture week in Paris (2013). But this Jordanian born and Canadian raised designer has been a fashion insiders darling since his first collection in 2007. Rad was inspired to create his unisex brand when he found that he couldn’t find anything he wanted to wear in stores. He recalled that the women’s clothes were too tight, the men’s clothes were too loose, and the fabrics were always wrong. So he took on the challenge of learning the entire design process and making his own line. That’s right, he is self-taught. He currently resides in Paris but maintains a boutique in Montreal.

www.radhourani.com

http://ca.complex.com/style/2015/06/fashion-insider-guide-canadian-menswear-three-quebec-designers-you-need-to-know/rad-hourani

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JUST SAYING: GLOBAL CHAOS

In a previous “JUST SAYING” Posted on February 21, 2015 I spoke about “CANADIAN FASHION AND SHOWING IT IN CANADA AND THE CONSTANT WHINE OF WHY SHOULD WE HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE, WHY CAN’T WE BE WORLD FAMOUS RIGHT HERE”. I bring it up as some of the same is being said in the New York Times (article following) and I like to know that I am not alone in my thoughts.

I am adding that the “recognized” twice-annual-fashion-week which now includes; Haute Couture in Paris, Les Métiers de Chanel, shown in different cities globally, the Ready-To-Wear, shown in Paris, London, Milan and New York and the Pre-Season-collections, shown-where-they-chose-seemingly-when-they-chose…OMG…is a nightmare, for those on the inside, let alone the-customer-yes-the bottom-line-the-buck-stops-here-final-purchaser-of-the-goods.

So, why-not-Paris as the one-stop-for-all, and every other country does it’s own thing, and the editors, et al, can select from them at random, seasonly, with their now-spare-time and keep them all (and us) in the loop. They did it in the eighties, Spain being one of those chosen, we met the culture and the designers, I can still clearly recall the designer Sybilla’s clothes in Vogue, and in Bloomingdales, and even in Toronto. An introduction can go a long way.

So whether a designer choses to go-global-and-go-to-Paris, or stay-here-in-their-home-and-possibly-native-possibly-chosen-land, they could still be noticed and respected, and better yet, purchased.

Are New Fashion Capitals on the Rise?

FASHION CAPITOLS

Vanessa Friedman
JUNE 4, 2015

FASHION CAPITOLS 1 NY TIMES JUNE 4 2015

One of the thorniest questions in fashion today is brand nationality.

Tom Ford just won the Menswear Designer of the Year award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America — but his brand is based in London, and he shows on the British fashion calendar. So is his brand British, or American?

When Marques’Almeida, also based in London, won the LVMH Young Designer’s Prize last month, I called the label a British brand — even though both its designers are Portuguese — and some readers felt that was misleading. Yet again, the brand is based in and sells in Britain.

The problem is that, historically, the big four economic centers of the industry (New York, London, Paris and Milan) have been the place to be for a designer, no matter his or her nationality. If you’re not based there, or showing there, you’re, well, risking being overlooked.

Which is why a new exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is interesting. Global Fashion Capitals opened this week (through Nov. 14) and posits the idea that other cities are now on the rise as fashion centers, so designers have more options when it comes to work sites that match their identities. And that the process by which the New York, London, Paris and Milan axis was born is repeating itself elsewhere — like, for example, Sydney, Australia; Tokyo; Lagos, Nigeria; and Mexico City, among 19 others in the exhibition. Most of which, by the way, have their own fashion weeks. (These days every country on the map seems to have a fashion week. Some, like Brazil, have two.)

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Could the dominance of New York, London, Paris and Milan be threatened? Will they fall? All empires do, in the end. But I’m not convinced we are there yet.

There’s a stamp of approval that comes from being part of the inner clique — in some ways, fashion is not that different from high school — and that clique is the big four.

We constantly speculate, for example, about what the first big global brand to come out of China will be. Yet every time I speak to a Chinese brand, I am told that Chinese consumers want the patina of Paris on their products, so the first thing a Chinese brand needs to do is make it in Europe.

It’s why, for example, back in the day, the Antwerp Six came to Paris to show; ditto Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. It’s why Manish Arora, who has garments in the exhibit and who is from India, still shows in Paris.

Though we often write about the proliferation of fashion weeks, aside from the axis, they remain, in terms of influence and coverage, quite local.

To really threaten the big four, an emergent fashion capital would need not just the designer and infrastructure buy-in, but the consumer buy-in, too. I keep harping on this, but fashion, despite the fact that it likes to think it is edgy, is actually a very conservative, stuck-in-its-ways industry.

Besides, the axis has a vested interest in maintaining a lock on the industry: The economic benefits of being a fashion capital are not lost on the respective municipal and national governments. Which is, in turn, partly why other countries have woken up to the fact that being a fashion capital might be a financially and culturally beneficial idea. Follow the money.

Personally, I think it will take a drastic upheaval in the form of the show system itself — maybe its entire dissolution and reconfiguration — to redefine the meaning of a fashion capital, or subvert it entirely. In the meantime, however, the exhibition is not a bad place to start.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/fashion/are-new-fashion-capitals-on-the-rise.html?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=d9259cffad-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-d9259cffad-417196677&_r=0

Global Fashion Capitals

Fashion & Textile History Gallery
June 2 – November 14, 2015
(EXCERPT FROM WEBPAGE)

FIT

The globalization of fashion has given rise to new fashion cities that now annually host hundreds of fashion weeks around the world. Each city’s cultural identity and particular economic, political, and social circumstances combine to elevate its designers to international attention. Global Fashion Capitals explores the history of the established fashion capitals—Paris, New York, Milan, and London—and the emergence of 16 new fashion cities.

The exhibition will also examine fashions from:
Tokyo
Antwerp
Stockholm
Berlin
St. Petersburg/Moscow
Madrid
Sydney/Melbourne
Mexico City
Sao Paolo
Istanbul
Mumbai

https://www.fitnyc.edu/24126.asp

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CANADIAN FASHION: QUEBEC / MONTREAL

Montreal ‘cluster’ aims to put city back on fashion track

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Eva Friede, Montreal Gazette
More from Eva Friede, Montreal Gazette
Published on: May 29, 2015
Last Updated: May 29, 2015 6:27 PM EDT

In 2008, a group of Quebec fashion industry leaders got together to brainstorm on how to compete in the global market, polish the image of Montreal as a fashion capital and get the industry out of the doldrums.

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They concluded with a wide-ranging report in 2013 and one clear message: all parties — retail, wholesale, distributors, manufacturing and design — had to work together.

It took seven years, but the message seems to have taken hold: an unprecedented group of 300 fashion insiders — everybody who is anybody in the biz, plus students, school administrators, young designers and established labels — converged on Aldo headquarters in St-Laurent Thursday to learn about the long-awaited cluster, or grappe in French

A private-public partnership, the cluster is kicking off with a planned operating annual budget of at $600,000 for the first three years and four objectives on a 10-year plan. The goals are to build a brand image for Montreal, train a workforce, offer technology support for businesses and develop export markets

In place is a brand name: mmode. Next steps: topping up the financing and hiring a director. The first $500,000 is in place: three levels of government are providing two-thirds of operating costs for the first three years, contingent on the private sector pitching in.

The public funding so far is $200,000 from the Montreal Metropolitan Community, $100,000 from the Secretariat for the metropolitan region and, from Quebec, $81,000 from the Economy, Innovation and Exports Department. In 2018, the funding ratio goes to roughly half-half.

Mmode is the ninth industry cluster to be formed in Quebec (eight are in metropolitan Montreal). Others include health care, technology and aerospace. Industry members plan strategies, then apply for government grants, which can be many millions of dollars.

In the great sunlit atrium of Aldo headquarters, presidents of corporations mingled with politicians, functionaries, students and designers before and after bilingual presentations and panel discussions. There was an acknowledgement that Montreal had lost its fashion way.

Our industry must learn from its mistakes if it wants to be here tomorrow, said François Roberge, president and CEO of La Vie en Rose and president of the cluster.

“Montreal is losing its place as a leader in Canada,” he told the crowd.

“But Montreal has what it takes to succeed: an extraordinary cultural and linguistic mix, a qualified workforce, dynamic education system, remarkable geographic situation, and an effervescent design and creative milieu.”

The fashion industry, though fragile, still accounts for 30,000 jobs in Quebec, and 45 per cent of all employment in the Canadian fashion sector. And Montreal is still the No. 3 centre in North America for clothing manufacture.

The mood in the hall was upbeat, but questions linger. Primary among them is how to move the slow boat of bureaucracy and how to put the design and manufacturing sectors together.

The issue of the big companies working with young creatives has been under discussion for years. There have been baby steps — Simons department store doing collaborations with Philippe Dubuc, for instance.

Designer Mélissa Nepton, who runs a small business in contemporary clothing and won an award that allowed her to design a collection for Target, said she hopes that designers will be integrated into the industry.

“I’m not talking about finances — I’m talking about integrating designers into projects,” she said.

Off the top of her head, she suggested that Aldo could integrate Quebec designs into its website, with looks to match shoes.

Aldo has collaborated with young designers around the world with its Aldo Rise program, but local designers have not been part of the global program.

“Of course, they look further afield, because they go for an international image,” Nepton said.

“But at the same time, they could help us on the international field.”

Said Norman Jaskolka, president of Aldo Group International: “There’s more we could do.”

“We’re proud of our roots. Design is an important aspect of our business. It’s very important for us that there is a strong local design culture,” he said.

Aldo, of course, is one of Montreal’s great success stories, with 2,400 points of sale in 95 countries and an estimated $1.8 billion in sales in 2013. It is one of four major Quebec fashion industries named by organizers — along with Gildan, Logistik Unicorp and Peerless Clothing — and one of eight companies so far that have pitched in $15,000 each to get the cluster going.

Elliot Lifson, vice-president of Peerless Clothing and president of the Canadian Apparel Federation, has been a passionate crusader and key player in the cluster from the start.

Lifson said the start of the discussions in 2008 was a great thing because the government nurtured the group, then sent it on its way. And initiatives were launched, he said: 10 companies got grants of $25,000 for technology projects.

“This is our last opportunity,” he told the crowd. “Look around the room.”

Asked to expand on what would happen if the effort fails, Lifson said, “We go back to where we were. We all paddle our own canoe.

“Peerless doesn’t need the grappe. Aldo doesn’t need the grappe. Louis Bibeau doesn’t need the grappe,” he said. (Bibeau is president of Logistik Unicorp, which makes uniforms.)

“But we have one thing. We all love this sector. And money can’t measure it. You want to leave a legacy.”

Bibeau also noted the slow process. “Considering it’s 2015, we won’t last that long in fashion. We need to do something faster,” he quipped to the crowd during a panel discussion.

Asked later how to speed up the process, he quipped again: “I don’t know. But this time it will go faster. We need the support of everybody to fix it.”

Armando Guadagno, general manager of Mondor, was optimistic.

“Now they have all the necessary levels of government, plus all the industry players left in Montreal,” Guadagno said.

“If everybody supports it as they did today, I think it’s going to work.”

He sees benefits for his company, which manufactures, markets and sells legwear from Japan to Europe. It needs help with logistics and customs regulations, for instance.

Removing duties on certain imported fabrics and yarns would be one step, he said. “We’re not protecting any industry in Canada. Why should we pay duty?”

Designer Mariouche Gagné, who has worked with the group from the start, said all four goals of the cluster would help or could have helped her in the past with her recycled fur business, Harricana.

“The image of Montreal, when you go to places like Japan, is still unclear,” Gagné said.

It is difficult to find top quality producers here, and while manufacturing is starting to come back, she said, there is huge work to do in training.

Roberge, among others, also pointed to the need to train a workforce, and said putting measures in place would be the first step.

He pointed out that LaSalle College, UQAM and Marie-Victorin fashion school representatives were there. “They know very well that they have to work in tandem with the industry,” he said.

Simon Bélanger and his partner, José-Manuel St-Jacques of UNTTLD, have won many awards and critical acclaim. They have collaborated with Éditions de Robes, a small dress shop, creating dresses that will fit and suit women’s lifestyles. But they are still waiting success in business.

“We are ambitious and want to create a brand,” Bélanger said.

The issue they face is production. Sales will follow, Bélanger believes.

“What I hope the group is going to offer us is a structure and a consciousness of what design actually is and what fashion actually is,” he said.

“We would really like to offer our services as designers. And there is always this separation between the manufacturing business and the design aspect.

“This will be bridged slowly — it might be bridged. It’s difficult for designers to be heard and felt by manufacturers because they see us as these creative creatures.”

What they said


Really, it’s about getting the people together who have a common goal, which is to make Montreal a fashion city.” – Anna Martini, president of Groupe Dynamite


We have been living a tsunami in this industry for many years. We have to value and celebrate what we do here.” – Designer Marie Saint Pierre


The cluster is going to be our voice to the world. It will help us replace ourselves as leaders here in Canada at every single level in our industry.” – Eric Wazana, president Second Clothing


Everyone talks about our sector as a setting sun. It doesn’t seem like that with this crowd here.” – Elliot Lifson, vice-president, Peerless Clothing


We are more than a rag trade.” – François Roberge, president and CEO, La Vie en Rose, and president of the mmode fashion cluster

http://montrealgazette.com/life/fashion-beauty/saving-montreal-fashion-cluster-is-launched?__lsa=5544-1842

 

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O CANADA: NURSING SISTERS / A HERITAGE MINUTE

FROM HISTORICA CANADA:
NURSES ca WWI

Historica Canada (horourke@historicacanada.ca)

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CANADIAN DESIGNERS: MARIE SAINT PIERRE

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CANADIAN CONTENT: FASHION NOVEMBER 2014

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 001

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 002

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 004

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 005

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 006

FASHION NOVEMBER 2014 007

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CANADIANS ABROAD: IN LONDON 2010 / 1988

INTERESTING JUXTAPOSITON: READ BOTH!

ELLE

ELLE DECEMBER 2010 IMRAM AMED

ELLE
DECEMBER 2010
IMRAM AMED

ELLE DECEMBER 2010 IMRAM AMED

ELLE
DECEMBER 2010
IMRAM AMED

GLOBE AND MAIL

MARINA STURDZA GLOBE AND MAIL SEPTEMBER 1988

MARINA STURDZA
GLOBE AND MAIL
SEPTEMBER 1988

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CANADIAN COSTUME DESIGNERS: ALEXANDER REDA

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The wardrobe department of Murdoch Mysteries with costume designer Alex Reda

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Murdoch Mysteries (TV Series) (73 episodes) FROM 2008 ONGOING
NAMED AS COSTUME DESIGNER FROM 2000 ON A VARIETY OF TV MOVIES AND TV SHOWS
AND AS ASSISTANT COSTUME DESIGNER SINCE 1996

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CANADIAN CONTENT: HARPER’S BAZAAR MARCH 2015

HARPER'S BAZAAR MARCH 2015

HARPER’S BAZAAR
MARCH 2015

FAR RIGHT, MARKOO BY TANIA MARTINS AND MONA KOOCHEK

MARKOO HARPER'S BAZAAR MARCH 2015

MARKOO
HARPER’S BAZAAR
MARCH 2015

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GLOBALIZATION AMAZING

GLOBALIZATION 1

Made in Canada: How globalization has hit the Canadian apparel industry

Globalization was touted as the path to affluency, but for Canada’s garment industry it has been calamitous.

GLOBALIZATION 2

By: Sandro Contenta News, Published on Mon May 27 2013

CAMBRIDGE, ONT.—The unusual mission statement for the fledging Canadian-Made Apparel company is written on a board overlooking sewing machines and computerized fabric cutters. It’s nothing more than a date and time — Feb. 21, 2013, 1 p.m.

It’s the reminder of an event not to be repeated.

At precisely that moment, in this very same factory, the owners of John Forsyth Shirt Co. Ltd. told 110 employees that a century of shirt-making would come to an end. The company, established in 1903, was closing its factory — the latest victim of a Canadian-made garment industry decimated by globalization and, in Forsyth’s case, government decisions.

The catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which killed 1,127 garment workers in April, renewed public attention on an economic theory that has transformed societies for three decades.

At its most idealistic, globalization is a business model for a world where market forces put everyone on the same development path to affluence and democracy. At its worst, it’s a model for exploitation and corporate conquistadors. In between is a large area where public policy, corporate decisions and consumer attitudes shape a theory often marketed as a force of nature.

“Globalization is about making choices,” says Suzanne Berger, a leading researcher of the business model at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The former employees of John Forsyth know that only too well.

The Cambridge factory had been struggling for years. Competition was fierce. The retail price of a Forsyth dress shirt runs from $70 to $125. Shirts made in places like Bangladesh sell for as little as $10 at huge retailers like Walmart. And demand wasn’t going Forsyth’s way.

“People want cheap shirts,” says Forsyth’s co-owner, Oliver Morante.

A decade ago the factory had 500 employees making 1.3 million shirts. That dwindled to 110 people working reduced hours to make 500,000.

“From a strict financial view, we probably should have closed that facility many years ago,” Morante says. “But we said, ‘It’s part of our heritage. We like the idea of being a domestic manufacturer.’”

The death blow came when the federal government cancelled “duty remission programs.” In place since 1988, they allowed apparel companies that manufacture in Canada to import some clothing from abroad duty free.

For Forsyth, a Mississauga-based company that imports 75 per cent of its shirts from China and Bangladesh — those sell for $25 — it meant the loss of almost $2 million annually. It was money used to partly offset the higher labour costs, compared to offshore rivals, of its Cambridge factory.

“Those are the types of programs the government needs to keep in place if it wants to have any semblance of domestic manufacturing,” Morante says.

Seventy Canadian companies benefitted from the $15-million remission programs. The finance ministry says some of them no longer manufactured in Canada while others were selling their remission allocation to companies that don’t produce here.

Morante says he warned the government that ending the program would force the closure of his Cambridge factory. He urged it to audit companies and kick out abusers. Last December, the government made its choice.

“They threw out the baby with the bathwater,” Morante says.

The finance ministry points to other initiatives to help the apparel industry, including removing tariffs on imported equipment. They didn’t benefit Forsyth.

The demise of the duty programs shocked Forsyth’s employees. In April 2005, with an election looming, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper visited the Cambridge factory and stitched “Made in Canada” labels on shirts. Employees who witnessed the event say Harper was calling on then-Prime Minister Paul Martin to renew the remission schemes.

In February, Forsyth applied for court protection from creditors under the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, a legal way to restructure a company and avoid bankruptcy. The Cambridge plant closed March 8.

“It was a very sad day,” says Sandra Lima, 39, who spent 18 years at Forsyth. “You’re left with, ‘What am I going to do now?’ To start all over again was scary.”

Rick Droppo, the factory’s manager, also lost his job, adding to a bloody 40 years in the business. The nine Levis factories he worked at out west are part of a long list he’s watched disappear.

“I thought, ‘Hey man, I really failed,’” says Droppo, 61, noting Forsyth had given him a free hand at running things. “It’s up to me to make sure these people have jobs.”

He embarked on what his friends considered a quixotic adventure — to buy and reopen the factory. It was nerve-wracking.

“I had to go and get sleeping pills,” he says.

He asked the federal government for financial help but they turned him down. Banks set unacceptable conditions for loans. So he turned to private investors, people he knew in the trade. They struck a deal.

Old customers stayed on, including Tim Hortons and Sobeys, who have uniforms made for their employees. Forsyth sold Droppo the factory, with its modern equipment, dirt cheap. And Forsyth committed to ordering about 300,000 dress shirts a year.

Droppo rented less floor space and hired back 40 former employees at $11 an hour, $2 less than they had been making, on average, with Forsyth. In early May, the factory reopened under a new name — Canadian-Made Apparel.

“It’s not like a factory, it’s like a family,” says Ina Stagl, 52, who spent 29 years with Forsyth. “Rick Droppo is, in my eyes, a hero. He was not thinking of himself, he was thinking about us.”

“I’m really angry with the government,” she adds. “They gave millions to the car companies and nothing to us.”

Only three shirt-making factories remain in Canada, Droppo’s and two in Quebec. Droppo is convinced he can make a go of it. And the workers are fully behind him.

On the mission board, the fateful date looms like a warning of a monster outside.

In theory, globalization is the process toward a single world economy — a time when the price of labour, capital and goods and services will be the same everywhere. We, of course, are far from that.

The world’s economy was more globalized between 1870 and 1914, notes Berger, an MIT political science professor. The price of commodities and labour converged as people moved freely across borders and new technology — from steamships to trans-Atlantic communication cables — fuelled trade.

The First World War brought it to an end. Immigration controls and tariffs went up.

“Globalization is somewhat reversible because governments still have the power to block things at their borders,” says Berger, author of How We Compete: What Companies Around the World Are Doing to Make It in Today’s Global Economy.

In Canada’s apparel industry, quotas limited the amount of goods imported from individual countries. When the quota of Chinese imports was filled, Canadian importers shifted to goods from Korea, then Mauritius and so on.

“The structure of the industry was built on the backs of these quota arrangements, which forced you into very mobile sourcing scenarios,” says Bob Kirke, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, which represents 300 manufacturers, importers and retailers.

“Canadian companies became experts at moving goods all over the world.”

It was training for the next round of globalization, which kicked off in the early 1980s. The corporate model until then was vertical integration — research and development, design, manufacturing and after-sales service were all done under the same corporate roof.

The 1980s saw what Berger describes as a “tectonic shift.” Wall Street pushed a leaner, “asset-light” model. Labour-intensive manufacturing arms were often the first to be severed. The reward was higher stock prices.

“The factory is always the low-hanging fruit,” says Droppo, recalling his two decades at Forsyth’s Cambridge plant. “Every financial consultant we ever had in here said the factory’s got to go.”

As Wall Street preached outsourcing, new technology made it more possible. Digitization allowed product design to be separated from manufacturing, Berger notes. A silicone microchip could be designed in the U.S., for example, and digitized instructions to make it sent directly to a cutting machine in Taiwan. The U.S. company no longer needed an expensive semiconductor foundry as part of its operations.

Unionized jobs largely responsible for expanding a postwar middle class began to disappear. In Canada since the late 1990s, the result is rising income inequality, challenging governments with a series of social policy choices, including how to redistribute wealth.

In the garment industry, clout shifted from manufacturers to big retailers like Walmart. They developed their own brands. Consumers got hooked on “fast fashion,” discarding clothes with every new style. Accessing cheaply manufactured garments became a priority.

Government policies obliged. The NAFTA free trade deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico happened in 1984. In 2003, Canada removed all tariffs and quotas from 49 “least developed countries,” including Bangladesh. Two years later, as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization, Canada removed all quotas on textiles and apparel imports — a move that had been signalled for a decade.

To no one’s surprise, manufacturing jobs moved to low-wage countries, first Korea and China, and when wages began climbing there, increasingly to places like Bangladesh. Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc., with $1.95 billion in 2012 sales, has most of its manufacturing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The number of Canadians making clothes declined from 94,260 in 2001 to 19,340 in 2010, according to Statistics Canada. (When administrative jobs are included, the total number declined from 106,226 to 25,670.) About half of the industry is based in Quebec; less than 30 per cent is in Ontario.

GDP in the clothing manufacturing sector declined from $3.6 billion in 2002 to $1.4 billion in 2011. The domestic market share of clothes made in Canada dropped from 40 per cent in 2004 to 23 per cent in 2008.

“It’s fashionable to say, ‘Buy Canadian,’ as long as someone else buys it and not me,” Droppo says, giving his take on the attitude of consumers who make low price a priority.

The Apparel Human Resources Council, an industry-led group, complained of “price deflation” in a 2011 report.

The Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh focused attention, however briefly, on the working conditions behind the low-cost market. It pushed companies like Loblaw Cos. Ltd., which had some of its Joe Fresh line made at the plaza, to adopt a plan for safe factories.

Prof. Marsha Dickson, co-director of the Sustainable Apparel Initiative at the University of Delaware, is skeptical. Western companies have been auditing their overseas contractors for the past 15 years and it hasn’t made a difference, she says. Better safety and working conditions mean higher production costs. Which buyer will be the first to accept that?

“The pressure on prices has not made it feasible for the manufacturers to truly change what they’re doing,” says Dickson, also a director of the Fair Labor Association, an NGO formed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton to improve working conditions for apparel workers.

Purchase orders found in the Rana Plaza rubble indicate the Spanish chain Mango was paying $4.45 (U.S.) for the making of a shirt that it sold at its branded stores in Britain for $40 to $46. (The minimum wage for the lowest skilled in Bangladesh’s clothing industry is $38 a month. The average salary, according to business owners interviewed by Reuters, is $64 a month.)

Western retailers and importers are also reluctant to commit to more than one purchase order at a time. Why would a manufacturer in Bangladesh upgrade his factory and improve working conditions, Dickson asks, if the buyer might go elsewhere for the next order?

Besides, Forsyth’s Morante claims some western importers use so many manufacturers, “I’m not sure they even know where their product is being produced. It’s just so big. The volumes are huge.” Two years ago, he visited a factory in Bangladesh making 500,000 shorts for Swedish retail giant H&M.

In Canada, it has become fashionable to bid good riddance to low-skilled, low-paying jobs, even as they grow in the non-unionized service sector. The future, some economists insist, is in highly skilled work and, in the Canadian-made garment industry, niche products at a higher price point — Canada Goose jackets is the often cited example.

But Berger warns of a tipping point. She co-chaired an MIT project that examined the difficulties 246 mostly American companies faced in bringing a product they invented to market.

Her team published a preliminary report in February that warned years of outsourcing and corporate downsizing had created “holes in the (U.S.) industrial ecosystem.”

“We saw reasons to fear that the loss of companies that can make things will end up in the loss of research that can invent them,” the report says.

Lost is the learning that happens when engineers who design a product interact with factory technicians trying to mass produce it. The problem solving at that point is the source for future innovations and higher profits.

With fewer big manufacturers, cutting-edge research is more likely to happen in small startups and university labs. But they lack the resources to scale up and bring their innovations to market. It also means fewer workers being trained and a smaller skilled labour pool for startups to tap.

Governments should fill the gaps, but as local manufacturing decreases there are fewer players with the clout to pressure them. Berger’s team visited local manufacturers with “little beyond their own internal resources to draw on when they seek to develop new projects. They’re ‘home alone,’” her report says.

In Canada’s apparel factories, the tipping point is most obvious in the large number of workers nearing retirement.

“The industry will require 6,200 to 7,600 production workers over the next several years, for which there is virtually no supply,” the Apparel Human Resources Council says in its 2011 report.

“Furthermore, most companies currently do not have the resources or processes in place to properly train personnel . . . This could make it difficult for companies to simply maintain their current levels of domestic production.”

Even Canada’s successful garment-making companies, in other words, face a tough future.

Montreal-basedSecond Denim Co., which does all of its manufacturing in Canada, is a fast-growing company.

“Fashion changes faster and faster and our biggest edge is being able to react very quickly compared to clothes being made anywhere else in the world,” says Second Denim’s 40-year-old co-owner, Eric Wazana.

The company designs and manufactures stylish denim slacks, jackets and dresses, including the popular yoga jean — cotton, polyester and spandex blends that “feel like a Second skin,” according to the company website. The clothes retail from $120 to $189.

In 2011, brightly coloured jeans “became a phenomenon overnight.” Wazana quickly shifted production and stocked the 1,000 retailers who buy his clothes with colours like icy blue, peppermint, tangerine and watermelon.

“I had coloured jeans in all of my retailer stores almost nine months before the big boys could start getting some stuff,” Wazana says, referring to big-name retailers that import from Southeast Asia or China. “A lot of people missed out on that big wave. We caught it, and the retailers who work with us got the full benefit.”

The same happened when ankle-length jeans took off. If retailers detect a trend and want to change an order to ride it — flare jeans to skinny ones, for example — Second Denim obliges. If one wants to test the waters with a small order, that’s fine, too.

Retailers that exclusively rely on huge orders made overseas can’t be that flexible. When they miss a trend, big stocks get discounted and expected profit margins drop.

Growing up, Wazana watched his mother, a seamstress, repeatedly lose her job as factories closed down. He graduated as an accountant and worked in clothing stores, where he saw customers frustrated by the limited choice in denim wear. In 2000, he co-founded Second Denim.

For years, it had 20 employees and subcontracted manufacturing to a company in Quebec. One day, the factory shut down, after giving Wazana six months’ notice.

He travelled to China to check out what outsourcing had to offer. “There was so much more profit to be made, so much more,” Wazana says, noting the lower labour costs. But there was a catch.

“What you see is supposed to be the best and even the best there wasn’t good enough for me,” he says. “The conditions, the way people are treated — there’s no respect for workers in some of these places.”

He went back to Quebec and, two years ago, bought a recently shut garment factory in Saint-Côme-Linière, a town of 3,000 people east of Montreal.

“People in the town thought we were completely crazy,” Wazana says in a phone interview. “They were like, ‘The other guys had 30 years’ experience in the business and they failed. What makes you, little punk from Montreal, think you’re going to succeed?’”

Second Denim now has 120 full-time employees, 80 of them hired last year. Finding enough skilled people to do the work was difficult and most had to be trained. The lowest salary is $11 an hour, with benefits.

“If I wanted to start importing, we could make a lot of money very quickly,” Wazana says. “But that’s not what we’re about. We’re about keeping the jobs here and making things happen. In 10 years the rewards are going to be huge.”

Wazana won’t divulge sales volume but says his company has grown by “double digits” annually for the last seven years. He’s now focused on making Second an international brand — the kind of success he acknowledges might force him to outsource some production. Canada doesn’t have the trained workers or facilities to make that happen.

“Unfortunately, the governments have left the (garment) infrastructure of Canada completely dismantled,” he says.

Wazana made his choice, just like governments, consumers and other companies must make theirs.

http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/05/27/made_in_canada_how_globalization_has_hit_the_canadian_apparel_industry.html

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