July 17, 1924 – May 17, 2016

May she rest in peace, perfect peace…
Condolences to her loved ones.


We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Claire Margaret Haddad (née Bardwell) peacefully in her sleep. The second of five Bardwell sisters and predeceased by the older Vivian Tanber of Toledo (the late George Sr.), she was determined not to outlive her younger sisters. The third sister, Gladys Darah (the late Nick), also of Toledo passed away the same day. Born in Toronto and known throughout the fashion world for designing elegant, high fashion sleep and loungewear in the 1960s-80s (, Claire was the first Canadian designer to be recognized by Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue Magazine and won numerous fashion awards. She created special designs for celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore. She was also a featured subject in publications Women of Canada, Pricetag and Northern Lights – Outstanding Canadian Women. Claire received the Order of Canada in 1979 for her contribution to Canadian fashion. Claire is predeceased by the love of her life, husband and business partner Albert, of almost 70 years. She will be deeply missed by her other two sisters Jo Abraham Scott (Bill) of Toronto and Rose Marie Chamandy-Cook (the late Bill) of Montreal, as well as her immediate family: Lynn (Duncan) McGregor, Andrea (Nicolas) Zabaneh; her adored grandchildren Reid, Lisa, Scott McGregor and Hala, Christopher Zabaneh; very special great-grandson Ian McGregor; and five godchildren. The family will receive friends at the HUMPHREY FUNERAL HOME A.W. MILES – NEWBIGGING CHAPEL, 1403 Bayview Avenue (south of Davisville Avenue) from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20th. A funeral service will take place in the chapel on Saturday, May 21st at 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Claire would be greatly appreciated to the Albert & Claire Haddad Endowment Fund, School of Fashion Studies Seneca College or the Veteran’s Grant a Wish Fund of Sunnybrook Hospital or to a charity of your choice. Condolences and memories may be forwarded through


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Welcome to Rio 2016. The Canadian Athletes uniforms are ready. Dean and Dan Caten / DSquared, in conjunction with The Hudson’s Bay Company, are the CANADIAN DESIGNERS. The cut; “Athleisure”, on trend and very logical, as these really are dressed up athletes. The graphics; nothing shows up cleaner-on-camera than red, white and black. And yes the maple leaf, especially when its a large, graphic and camera friendly one! Cliché, to be sure, that is what it’s about; in a field of hundreds of athletes you want something you can recognise instantly, then click and instagram. No fuss, no muss, its Canadian, its clean and classic. BRAVO Dean and Dan, and ALL THE BEST to our Athletes.

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On Tuesday in Toronto, Hudson’s Bay unveiled the uniforms Canadian athletes will be sporting at the upcoming Rio 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Designed by Dan and Dean Caten, the Canadian duo behind Dsquared2, the Olympic uniform will be worn by 315 athletes during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, and is described as “an innovative mash-up of two diverse worlds: tailoring and sport.”

The 2016 “Team Canada Collection” features stylish and athletic shapes that are crafted around Canada’s most distinct motif, the maple leaf. Recalling the “striking simplicity of early Canadian Olympic uniforms,” the outfit’s main attraction is a tailored blazer designed with a windbreaker material.

On their website, Dsquared2, who also designed the uniforms for the 2010 Winter Olympic in Vancouver, writes that the jacket, “features a sartorial finish with flap pockets, gum covered snap buttons, ribbed cuffs and a bonded zip pocket on the chest.”



Sprinter Khamica Bingham and Field Hockey Player Matthew Sarmento

The full Rio 2016 Olympic kit includes leisurewear, jackets, pants and accessories.

“The collection captures the strength of Canada, unifying performance, patriotism and style to create a look that is iconic, modern, and most of all, passionately Canadian,” Team Canada noted in a press release after the Facebook Live reveal hosted by Jessi Cruickshank and Alexandre Despatie.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - APRIL 12:  Korey Jarvis attends the Hudson's Bay Company Launch of the Team Canada Collection For Rio 2016 at the Art Gallery of Ontario on April 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by GP Images/WireImage)

TORONTO, ONTARIO – APRIL 12: Korey Jarvis attends the Hudson’s Bay Company Launch of the Team Canada Collection For Rio 2016 at the Art Gallery of Ontario on April 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by GP Images/WireImage)

The official Team Canada replica wear, priced from $19.99 to $150 for men’s/women’s clothing and outwear, will be available at all Hudson’s Bay locations across Canada and online beginning May 4th.

The countdown to Rio is officially on!

To see more photos from the #TeamCanada Rio 2016 uniform unveiling, check out the slideshow @

Posted in CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN UNIFORMS, JAMES FOWLER | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment





Justin Trudeau has come a long way from being just a snowboarding John Mayer doppelgänger. Following in the political footsteps of his father, the younger Trudeau and IRL Disney prince was elected as Canada’s prime minister last year and, since taking office, has achieved a level of Internet-boyfriend status usually reserved for the Benedict Cumberbatches of the world (Hey Girl memes included). Maybe you heard about Trudeau’s compassionate appeal on the Syrian refugee crisis? Or you’ve seen his badass-but-not-obnoxious tattoo? The guy can explain quantum computing, for God’s sake.

The reason we’ve hopped on the Trudeau train (that presumably runs on maple syrup) is that the politician dresses better than any other world leader. It’s what earned him a place on our Most Stylish Men Alive Right Now list. Even if we’re grading on an elected-leader curve—and we are—the prime minister makes an effort to look his best whether he’s in black tie at the White House or bringing his impressive sock game to a hometown talk show. And that’s why we thought Trudeau could handle his own GQ cover:

Unfortunately, you won’t find this “lost” cover on newsstands or polybagged in your mailbox—but not because we worried American audiences wouldn’t be able to handle eyes that dreamy. With Toronto hometown hero Drake and Ryan Reynolds, a.k.a. the pride of Vancouver, taking up so much prime printed real estate already, having a third Canuck cover would have ma-a-a-aybe been overkill. Kind of like when Trudeau and Obama joined forces for bro hugs and baby-kissing.




By: Robin Levinson King Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Apr 20 2016

The editorial board of GQ magazine magazine named Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “the most stylish politician alive right now” and stuck him on the cover of their May issue.

He’s sexy, he’s suave and he’s prime minister — but is Justin Trudeau the most stylish politician in the world?

GQ seems to think so. The men’s magazine editorial board named Trudeau “the most stylish politician alive right now.”

“Justin Trudeau’s meteoric rise from political young gun to Internet superhero might have something to do with the Canadian’s Obama-like levels of chill,” the publication wrote.

To be fair, Trudeau doesn’t have much in the way of competition. U.S. President Barack Obama’s dad jeans, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s polo shirts, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s penchant for going shirtless leave much to be desired sartorially.

But there is an undeniable je ne sais quoi about Trudeau’s sense of style, says Jeff Rustia, founder of Toronto Men’s Fashion Week.

“It all goes hand in hand. The watch, the socks, the gear, the cars, it’s all very consistent,” he said.

Rustia says Trudeau has become the ambassador for Canadian men’s fashion, embracing modern trends like slim-fitting suits, bold colours and athletic wear.

“Today, part of this whole movement of men’s fashion and men’s lifestyle is very groovy . . . it’s very fitting of his kind of fashion sense,” Rustia said.


From his striped socks to his tan shoes, Trudeau has shown that he’s not afraid of stepping out of the navy-black-charcoal palette typical of politicos.

But it’s more than just what he wears, says Michael Nguyen, general manager of Garrison Bespoke, a Toronto-based custom tailor. It’s how he wears it.

“He knows how to wear the right colours for his complexion and for the setting,” Nguyen said, noting how Trudeau gravitates towards deep blues, which seem both modern and conservative at the same time.

Having grown up in the spotlight, Trudeau has an easy confidence that makes wearing a three-piece suit seem as comfortable as a jogging suit.

“You can’t buy (that) with money,” Nguyen said.

In that regard, Trudeau seems to be taking a cue from his father, Pierre.


“He actually follows in the footsteps of his father very, very well,” Nguyen said.

Although Trudeau’s style of dress is a bit more understated than his father’s pinstripe suits, fur coats and boutonnières, Rustia says they are both icons of their time.

“Like father, like son, Justin Trudeau is on trend,” Rustia said.

Amongst the trends that Trudeau has been seen sporting, GQ seemed particularly impressed with his choice of watch, his tattoo and his wavy locks.

The IWC Regulateur watch, which retails for more than $12,000, is both sporty and formal, Rustia said.

“It’s great because Trudeau wears it for both very dressy occasions and casual occasions,” he said. And while some might think a tattoo is more appropriate on a biker than a prime minister, Rustia thinks it’s “cool” because the Haida raven design has personal significance to Trudeau. His father became an honorary member of the Haida people in 1976.

“It’s meaningful,” he said.

Although Trudeau’s long waves have since been clipped, Rustia said he misses the good old days.

“I actually liked his hair when it was a little bit longer, but I know that it made him look younger and less formal,” he said.

Rustia has one point of contention with GQ’s assessment of Trudeau’s appeal: he’s much better looking than John Mayer, he said.

“He looks like one of those classic Disney princes. With Justin, it’s the whole package.”


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It’s highly unlikely that the 20,000 workers—predominantly women—of Scarborough’s General Engineering Company (GECo) munitions factory would have observed International Women’s Day each March between 1942 and 1945. The date wasn’t recognized outside communist countries until 1977. However, the employees may have appreciated its objective of recognizing the importance of women’s work in society: during the Second World War, these women filled more than 256 million munitions, making the GECo site Canada’s most industrious wartime parcel of land. As men increasingly enlisted to the armed services and the war industry grew simultaneously, women in Toronto found themselves called upon to fill the gap in production on the home front. Across Canada, the number of women involved in war production increased from 6,000 to 261,000 during the course of the war.

Conceived by the federal government’s Allied War Supplies Corporation, the GECo munitions plant operated 24 hours a day, six days a week. The 346-acre campus, located between Warden Avenue and Sinnott Road south of Eglinton, was constructed between March and October 1941. Each day for the next three and a half years, workers reported to one of 172 buildings to perform tasks that were just as important and as risky as what took place on Europe’s battlefields; they regularly handled high explosives and volatile gunpowder. To fill one type of fuse, up to 76 different operations were required, and the plant was responsible for 41 types of fuses. Remarkably, in the plant’s three years of service, there was not a single recorded fatal accident.


“Idle hands help Hilter, but he isn’t getting any help from the workers of General Engineering,” said the narrator of a 1945 promotional radio program produced by GECo. Dressed in crisp white uniforms, the women were lauded as “life-savers” by the Toronto Daily Star for their production of artillery fuses and shells. The paper reported that half of GECo’s employees had sons fighting on the front and many more had husbands, brothers, and friends serving in Europe. Working as a fuse-filler, Peggy MacKay wrote in an issue of the plant magazine, The Fusilier, that she came to GECo because she had too much time on her hands with her husband and son away.

It wasn’t only the papers and the women themselves that believed that women’s work would win the war. In May 1944, the British Army called on the Canadian suppliers to provide more ammunition following the Battle of Monte Cassino, which depleted their resources; one month later, the Canadian government requested 3,500 more women report to GECo and its sister plant in Ajax to assist with the increase in demand. “Ammunition”, it was said, “is still the vital need to speed victory and save precious lives.”


Indeed, even Canada’s allies abroad were looking to GECo as a model of efficiency in the war industries. During a 1942 visit, a delegation from the Civilian Defence Volunteer Office in Greater New York said that they were “simply amazed at what Canadian women were doing.” Writing following his visit in 1943, Major General L.H. Campbell of the U.S. War Department wrote that he was “impressed with the rapidity with which the girls worked” and that “it was most unique and enjoyable to hear them sing during their work.” Known as “the fourth arm of the service” and “the women behind the man behind the gun,” the munitions workers were praised for their efforts in ending the war. The plant was such a point of pride that movie star Mary Pickford visited in 1943 and Princess Alice, wife of Canada’s governor general Alexander Cambridge, followed a year later.


The necessity of the women’s work was reflected in their high wages and generous benefits: pay was set at a base rate of $19.60 per week (approximately $350 in today’s terms) with an annual cost-of-living bonus of 17 per cent. Employees were transported to their six daytime (or five nighttime) shifts each week by company shuttle buses that came from different locations in the city. The Munitions Workers Association, to which every employee belonged, acted like a union, bargaining for improvements to work conditions and bonuses. Among the benefits provided to GECo employees was a non-profit cafeteria that operated with the objective of providing “nutritious, healthy meals” for employees. GECo also operated a nursery for the children of its workers. This mark of a progressive workplace was all the more remarkable for its low cost: workers paid 35 cents per day for one child and 50 cents per day for two, compared with one dollar per day at other area nurseries. The Fusilier newsletters regale its readers with stories of the children’s activities.


GECo workers were diverse in their experiences and backgrounds. Among them was Dorcas Trotter, a war refugee and surviving passenger on the SS Athenia, which was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1939. Many other workers came to Canada before the war or during its early years and still had family living in war-torn nations: Greeks, Venezuelans, Russians, Chinese, Poles, Syrians, and Nigerians all worked at the plant. The December 1943 edition of The Fusilier described the experience of Christmas in both their homelands and new home, the latter of which was often absent of extended family who were still overseas.

Separated from their families, the employees of GECo found a sense of community among one another. Like many of Toronto’s 20th-century manufacturers, GECo was a place of both work and play: golf driving practice, shuffleboard, badminton, volleyball, softball, and bowling were all offered to employees on and off the campus as a way of inspiring solidarity and maintaining good spirits in the workplace. More than 200 GECo employees entered the company’s 1943 fall fair, exhibiting vintage stamps, crocheted jewellery, and knitted scarves.


The women who worked at GECo were also encouraged to participate in the annual Miss War Worker pageant, a “beauty pin-up contest,” held by several manufacturers. Winners from the company event would go on to a city-wide competition, which included representation from John Inglis and Company, Massey-Harris, and Toronto Shipbuilding Yard, and which was part of the Miss Toronto pageant. The 1943 GECo contest saw 56 women, clad in their work uniforms, compete at the company level; judges deliberated their decision for three hours before crowning Alice Newman of the high explosives division the first-place winner. Neither Alice nor her fellow GECo bombshell beauties took home the $300 first prize at the city competition, which went to Dorothy Dales, an assembly line inspector at Research Enterprises in Leaside.

The Munitions Workers Association oversaw not only company bargaining and social activities, but also invaluable war drives within the company. During the six months following the plant’s opening, the association had involved 2,000 workers in blood donation drives for the Red Cross. In the same period, the employees had also subscribed over $250,000 to the Victory Loan campaign through fundraising events that included vocalist Barry Wood of NBC’s Your Hit Parade. Industrious and generous in both material and spirit, GECo and its workers were representative of Toronto—and Canada’s—contribution to the war.


Following the war, the Canadian government decided not to raze the 172 buildings, but instead turned a number of them over to the City as postwar emergency housing. The GECo housing community had between 2,000 and 6,000 residents between 1946 and 1954. At the same time, the municipality was acquiring the surrounding property for development into what would become Canada’s famous Golden Mile of Industry. Some of the original low-rise buildings remain to the southeast of Warden and Eglinton, a physical reminder of the vital work that Toronto women performed during the Second World War.

Additional material from The Globe and Mail (November 24, 1942; May 6, 1947; October 30, 1948; January 28, 1948; February 25, 1942), Toronto Star (June 7, 1941; May 23, 1942; July 14, 1942; August 25, 1942; June 30, 1943; November 10, 1943), City of Toronto Archives, Series 1243; and Archives of Ontario, Fonds 2082.

Every Saturday, Historicist looks back at the events, places, and characters that have shaped Toronto into the city we know today.



and the winners are…

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CAFA 2016 winners

The Womenswear Designer of the Year Award
Greta Constantine

greta constantine facebook 09 03 2013

The Menswear Designer of the Year Award
Wings & Horns

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Accessories
Lauren Klassen

The Accessory Designer of the Year Award
WANT Les Essentiels

The Joe Fresh Fashion Innovation Award
Frank & Oak

The Fashion Design Student Award
Hamish Thwaites

The Image Maker Award
Gabor Jurina

The International Canadian Designer of the Year Award
Jason Wu

The Stylist of the Year Award
Annie Horth

The Model of the Year Award
Herieth Paul

The Sephora Fresh Face of the Year Award
Adam Butcher

The Fashion Impact Award
Laura Siegel

The Fashion Blogger of the Year Award
The Coveteur

The Vanguard Award Presented by Hudson’s Bay
Elle Macpherson

Outstanding Achievement Award
Wayne Clarke

Posted in CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN FASHION, CANADIAN FASHION ORGANISATIONS, JAMES FOWLER | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Collaboration, not appropriation, a seemingly successful way to go, with Reg Davidson and Dahlia Drive.
go to to see the video and more.

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11 04 2016

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The following is a lot of reading, but it is so worthwhile. This is a major part of our Canadian Heritage and it is amazing to see such insightful and detailed coverage.

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Bethany Yellowtail incorporates Cheyenne mountain and river designs into her beaded collars. Photo: B.Yellowtail

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We are smack dab in the middle of a Native fashion renaissance,” proclaims Karen Kramer, the Peabody Essex Museum’s curator of Native American art and culture. “Native fashion increasingly permeates everyday life — across the internet, in stores, skate parks, runways, pretty much everywhere you go. Native Americans have always used clothing and personal adornment as key means for artistic expression and cultural survival. Today’s Native designers are expanding on this creation, breaking creative boundaries left and right.”

Kramer is delivering remarks at the press preview for “Native Fashion Now,” the country’s first major exhibit to showcase contemporary Native American fashion, on a chilly fall evening in Salem, Massachusetts. “Native Fashion Now” is in Salem until early March, after which it will travel to the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The exhibit features nearly 100 pieces of clothing and accessories made by 75 different Native American designers from the US and Canada.

The designers’ styles vary widely, as do their backgrounds. You’ll find an elegant evening gown by Dorothy Grant made of silk and tulle with red and black Kaigani Haida eagles printed on the skirt, and also a spandex bodycon dress by Whitefish Lake First Nation designer Derek Jagodzinsky that has Cree syllabics emblazoned on an accompanying belt. There’s a woven wool tunic with fringe from Navajo designer D.Y. Begay; a bondage necklace made of Tahitian pearls and stainless steel from Pat Pruitt of the Laguna Pueblo tribe; and Christian Louboutin boots covered in antique beads from Jamie Okuma, a designer of Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock descent.

"Native Fashion Now" presents the work of 75 Native American and Canadian designers. Photo: Kathy Tarantola/Peabody Essex Museum Racked 01 2016

“Native Fashion Now” presents the work of 75 Native American and Canadian designers. Photo: Kathy Tarantola/Peabody Essex Museum
Racked 01 2016

While some pieces look explicitly Native American (“made with handed-down Native techniques used for countless generations,” says Kramer), others are more subtle in their interpretations. There’s a tunic dress with an abstract pattern that vaguely resembles a totem pole made by Alano Edzerza, a member of the Raven clan of the Tahltan Nation; a floral lace dress trimmed with replica elk teeth from Crow and Northern Cheyenne designer Bethany Yellowtail; and a black clutch made of shiny calfskin leather with Seminole patchwork by Chickasaw, Creek, and Choctaw designer Maya Stewart.

“This is about celebrating the diverse, creative expressions of a very dynamic, living set of Native cultures through the lens of fashion,” Kramer tells me at a cocktail reception before the preview. “It will help people shake off preconceived notions of what Native American fashion is and what Native style is.”

The idea for the exhibit came to Kramer a few years ago when she traveled to Santa Fe, as she does every year, for the annual Indian Market, the largest Native American arts and crafts fair in the country.

“I just started noticing that there was more and more emphasis on contemporary Native fashion designers and jewelers, and that they were pushing conventions,” she says. “I’ve been seeing a really young, vibrant community emerging — designers who are creating haute couture and unique, one-of-a-kind ensembles, as well as an upsweep of streetwear. It’s really a burgeoning community.”

Several Native fashion designers who have pieces in the “Native Fashion Now” exhibit are present at the preview and make their way through the exhibit. Many get emotional when reflecting on how much they’ve had to go through to achieve this kind of recognition.

“People are finally interested in our individual voices, and our voices are part of a new language that you didn’t ever hear before,” says Patricia Michaels, the Taos Pueblo designer behind PM Waterlily who arguably became Native fashion’s most well-known face after starring on Project Runway in 2013. “Because previously, we were being stomped on.”

The Native fashion community is not new, though the buzz surrounding it is.

“We’ve always been here, but the internet has helped us get much more of a response,” says designer Jamie Okuma. “Social media has really changed the landscape. You can be your own PR person and get visibility just by posting.”

Okuma is one of countless Native American designers creating clothing and jewelry that draw inspiration and use designs from their tribes. While some have attended fashion school, many aren’t professionally trained. Making clothes is simply a part of Native culture.

“A lot of Native Americans learn crafts from a very young age,” says Jolonzo Goldtooth, the 28-year-old Navajo designer behind JG Indie. Living on his family’s ranch on the Navajo’s Huerfano Chapter in New Mexico, Goldtooth earns his income mainly by making traditional garb for his tribe, but he also takes personal orders for his contemporary line. “My grandmothers are seamstresses, so that’s how I learned to sew, bead, and put garments together. We’ve always made our own clothing.”

A model wears a Lloyd Kiva New dress from the exhibit. Photo: Kelly Capelli/Peabody Essex Museum

A model wears a Lloyd Kiva New dress from the exhibit. Photo: Kelly Capelli/Peabody Essex Museum

“I’ve been making clothes since I was five. Designing is in my blood,” echoes Sho Sho Esquiro, a designer from a small Athabaskan tribe in the Yukon called Kaska Dena. “I grew up very old-school, where I cross-country skied to school and ate whatever we shot. Since my tribe is inland, we were always moving around and didn’t have time to create crafts like baskets and quillwork like other tribes in the Northwest. So instead, we adorned our clothing like artwork. My people have been doing this for thousands of years. Clothing is so important to us that when someone in my tribe is cremated, we wear our finest clothes.”

Many consider the late Lloyd Kiva New the founding father of contemporary Native American fashion. The techniques and skills that designers like Esquiro and Goldtooth were taught by their families used to be kept exclusively inside tribes. New, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, was the first Native designer to sell clothes outside of the Native community.

New opened a boutique to sell his own Cherokee-inspired clothing in Scottsdale, Arizona all the way back in 1945, and his high-end line Kiva was sold at stores like Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor. In 1962, New went on to co-found the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where he taught scores of Native designers.

A cape, dress, and headdress by Orlando Dugi. Photo: Thosh Collins/Peabody Essex Museum

A cape, dress, and headdress by Orlando Dugi. Photo: Thosh Collins/Peabody Essex Museum

“Before New, there were Native women in the 1930s who were combining traditional design with modern fashion, but they weren’t actually calling themselves ‘designers,'” says Jessica Metcalfe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa who is a professor of Native American studies and the founder of the Beyond Buckskin blog. “He put Native fashion on the map and made Santa Fe the mecca for Native fashion. He helped create a huge wave of designers well into the ‘90s.”

New paved the way for Native talents like Marcus Amerman, Jerry Ingram, and Orlando Dugi, as well as Virgil Ortiz, who worked with Donna Karan to design a Pueblo-inspired collection after Karan met Ortiz at the Sante Fe Indian Market in 2002.

Today, most Native designers sell their wares online, either on Etsy or through their own websites, rather than trying to get into the doors of big department stores or retail chains. This isn’t just a matter of bypassing corporate bureaucracy nor is it reflective of their ability to actually get picked up by these stores. Many Native designers see their work as wholly unique, and while they are keen on making a profit, they aren’t looking to scale up.

“We’re not into mass-producing,” explains Michaels. “There are thousands of mass producers out there. We are individuals.”

“The pieces I make are special, handmade, and take like 300 hours to make,” adds Esquiro, who has an evening gown constructed out of beaver tails, seal and carp skin, and rooster feathers in the “Native Fashion Now” exhibit. “Mass production isn’t one of my goals. The world of fashion is becoming so disposable and I don’t ever want my clothes to contribute to that. I don’t want to leave that kind of carbon footprint.”

Beyond Buckskin’s online boutique, which Metcalfe added to her site in 2012, saw unprecedented sales this past holiday season. In fact, she says business has grown exponentially over the last three years as the tenants of Native fashion have gone mainstream.

“Movements like local, ‘made in the USA,’ and ethically-produced are very much of the moment and they bring greater recognition to Native Americans because these are all standards we’ve always produced under,” she says. “The artists I work with think of their clothing completely different than Western manufacturers. Of course, they want to make it big and have a big impact, but they are thinking of social impact, not about fame or economical domination. They want to bring more opportunity to Native people.”

Replica elk teeth trim this B.Yellowtail design on display at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo: Chavie Lieber/Racked

Replica elk teeth trim this B.Yellowtail design on display at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo: Chavie Lieber/Racked

As the New York Times wrote in a 2002 obituary, New’s impact lay in his “broad humanistic approach to the arts, stressing creative links to the traditional arts but urging students not to be bound by them and to reject stereotypical notions of American Indian art and culture.” Despite New’s influence, Native designers today say one of the main obstacles they face is stereotyping.

“Anthropologists were collecting feathers off of bare-breasted woman on a canoe and then their bravery was applauded,” says Michaels. “People insisted on what Natives looked like: a woman sitting on a buffalo rug with the wind blowing in her hair. There was all this stuff that we were expected to reproduce as contemporary Native American designers, and if we tried something new, we were told, ‘Oh, who do you think you are? That’s not Native enough.’ I’ve been hearing that my stuff wasn’t Native enough since I was 18, and meanwhile, in our cultures, everyone is celebrated specifically for individuality.”

Metcalfe largely attributes stereotypes surrounding the Native American aesthetic to the work of Fred Harvey, who opened restaurants and hotels with shops featuring Native artwork and souvenirs along railroads in the early 1900s. Harvey built outposts every 100 miles through California, New Mexico, and Arizona on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.

“Harvey had good intentions to preserve Native culture because there was tons of assimilation at the time and a lot of the pottery and weaving techniques weren’t being practiced anymore,” says Metcalfe. “But he also saw a potential for economic development because there was a clear market of white people wanting Native goods.”

The English-born Harvey is credited with establishing American tourism in the Southwest during the turn of the 20th century, but Metcalfe says that though Harvey “pushed for the preservation of Native culture, the rest of the world became accustomed to the idea that there was one type of Native design.”

These stereotypes have lingered up through today. While Kramer notes Native fashion goes “far beyond expectations of buckskin, feathers, and fringe,” designers are often faced with pushback. “People look at my work and say, ‘Oh, that’s so non-traditional. Where’s all the turquoise and silver?'” says Kristen Dorsey, a 29-year-old jewelry designer based in Los Angeles.

Dorsey is from the Chickasaw tribe of the Southeastern Woodlands. She makes much of her jewelry using repoussé, a type of relief work popular in Native art in which copper is hammered and then hand-carved. Sitting inside the Peabody Essex gallery after the press preview, Dorsey is decked out in pieces from her latest collection; it’s called “Panther Woman” and is inspired by a character from Chickasaw oral tradition that helped the tribe chase conquistador Hernando de Soto away from the Mississippi territories.

“I often have to go into Southeastern history 101. With each interaction with a potential client, I think, ‘How do I educate you on thousands of years of the history of a region in a sound bite?'” she says. “There’s so much understanding that needs to happen about the individuality of Native culture and how innovation and self-expression is a tradition for us. We don’t make the same thing over and over again. Culture does not exist in a box. It is constantly transforming based on what materials you have access to, what people you interact with. It’s constantly changing.”

Kristen Dorsey makes her jewelry using traditional Native techniques. Photo: Chiara Salomoni/Kristen Dorsey

Kristen Dorsey makes her jewelry using traditional Native techniques. Photo: Chiara Salomoni/Kristen Dorsey

While Native designers often take inspiration from their tribes, it’s unfair to assume that everything they make needs to be rooted in Native culture, says Laguna Pueblo jewelry designer Pat Pruitt.

“We can choose whether or not to represent our culture,” he says. “I don’t want to present this false façade that there’s a story behind it. I don’t rely on that as an artist. Because sometimes there’s not, sometimes it’s just fucking cool! If I happen to use my culture, by all means I’ve been blessed, but I don’t want individuals to be fooled in the sense that this is only where Native Americans get their inspiration. Because it’s not. We don’t rely on, ‘What does this mean?’ But if it has nothing to do with my culture, people tell me it’s not Native enough. Can’t the necklace just be cool?”

Pointing to how some publications have covered the “Native Fashion Now” exhibit, Dorsey says that “reporters and many museum patrons focused their questions on my racial background — how much ‘Indian blood’ I have — rather than focusing on me as a designer and jeweler.”

You can’t talk about Native American fashion without discussing cultural appropriation. Native designs have been stolen and repackaged by corporate fashion brands for decades, and the problem is rampant on both the high and low ends.

In 2011, Urban Outfitters sold underwear, earrings, flasks, socks, and tunics it labeled “Navajo.” Forever 21 sold items labeled as Navajo that year as well. These items weren’t decorated with traditional Navajo patterns nor were they in any way related to the Navajo tribe; instead, Urban and Forever 21 merely slapped the Navajo name on generic, Native-looking designs for effect. Urban eventually subbed the word “Navajo” for “patterned.”

The next year, Asos debuted its “Go Native” line, which featured pieces it erroneously described as Navajo and Aztec. Jeremy Scott designed a collection for Adidas in 2013 that featured tracksuits and dresses covered in totem pole designs. This past March, DSquared2 presented a collection it called “an ode to America’s native tribes meets the noble spirit of Old Europe” at Milan Fashion Week. Designer Isabel Marant was accused of copying a design from the Mixe people of Oaxaca, Mexico over the summer; Marant is actually trying to claim rights to the design, a move that would force the Mixe to shell out money to sell their own work.

The misappropriation of Native headdresses is particularly prevalent. In 2014, for Germany’s Next Top Model, Heidi Klum had contestants fly to Utah to model as indigenous people, complete with face paint, teepees, and yes, headdresses. Pharrell wore a feather headdress on the cover of Elle UK, as did Karlie Kloss in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. H&M was caught selling $15 headdresses in Canada. Headdresses were also seen on the runway at Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show in Dallas.

“Native headdresses are not fashion — they are very sacred to us,” says Esquiro. “Really only men wore them, and if a woman did, she was a chief. And a chief would have had to have earned each and every of those feathers, so when you see someone at a Chanel fashion show wearing one of them, I think it’s disrespectful and in bad taste.”

A headdress on the Chanel runway. Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

A headdress on the Chanel runway. Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Cultural appropriation is certainly not unique to the Native American community nor the fashion industry, but the frequency with which fashion appropriates Native culture leaves experts baffled.

“It’s about the intersection of aesthetic and spirituality,” posits Denise Green, a professor in Cornell’s American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, who also oversees the school’s Costume and Textile Collection. “The designs involve beliefs about the world and why we are here. There are very spiritual inclinations that get articulated and you can feel it in your heart. That creates something very compelling visually, and that’s why it keeps getting ripped off. This is very intelligent, highly developed, good design which has been negotiated since time immemorial.”

Some believe the problem is a lack of education. If designers, editors, and other people in the mainstream fashion world knew, for example, that headdresses were sacred items worn only by tribal leaders, would they use them as they do?

“There’s so much that’s misunderstood,” says Dorsey. “I think fashion can be this accessible medium and a way that we can educate the public and help them better understand our communities and be better members of their own communities. The fashion world really needs a dose of that.”

The Peabody Essex Museum’s Kramer agrees. “We need to help people understand that there is 500-plus years of colonization at play,” she says. “These motifs and symbols might look at face value just like motifs and symbols, but it’s become an exercise in dominant culture versus marginalized culture. And this is happening under the radar: you might not even realize this when you’re buying that Forever 21 Navajo-inspired T-shirt.”

“Ultimately, this is about people coming in and saying, ‘This is mine now,'” says Green. “It’s about the ongoing process of colonization, a take-take-take mentality, whether that’s taking people’s lands, their homes, or now their designs. We live in an ongoing colonial world, where that mentality of taking without asking permission or without giving fair compensation still lingers. I’d like to think that mentality is going away, but the fashion industry is evidence that this entitlement is alive and well.”

There’s little Native tribes can do when their designs, symbols, or names are used without permission. In 1990, the US government strengthened the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1935, which prohibits “misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States.” The act makes it “illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.”

There are now constant busts relating to counterfeit Native items being sold in the United States. Last fall, the federal government arrested several New Mexican store owners for passing off Filipino-made crafts as Native; if convicted, they could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, it’s far more difficult to protect tribes whose designs are copied or names misappropriated. As far as design-stealing goes, fashion is not protected under federal law.

“The laws are not set up to protect individuals or collective design,” says Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee who received a doctorate in education from Harvard and is now a postdoctoral fellow of Native American studies at Brown. She runs the popular watchdog blog Native Appropriations. “The big problem is that there are no legal consequences. So if a designer steals something, they might get slammed in a few blog posts, but nothing will happen to them so until there’s someone to actually report instances to, I don’t think the tide will shift.”

In 2012, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for the brand’s use of the tribe’s name. Just three weeks ago, a judge ruled that the group has legal standing and can continue to pursue the suit. The case is unique, though; the Navajo trademarked its name in 1943. Most tribes cannot do this.

The finale at Dsquared2's "Native-meets-Europe" show. Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

The finale at Dsquared2’s “Native-meets-Europe” show. Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

“In the case of my own community, ‘Cherokee’ has been used and misused so many times that I’m nearly certain the trademark office would not grant trademark protection to the community at this point, as they would argue it is a ‘generic’ term, not specific,” says Keene. “There are several nations I can imagine this happening to as well. Then there is the complication of tribal names themselves. Who would get to hold the trademark for ‘Lakota’ and be responsible for its enforcement, for example? There are many bands of Lakota, each with their own tribal enrollments, governments, and resources.”

Native American insignia, emblems, and symbols can be trademarked, but Metcalfe says a designer could face serious backlash if they went this route, since Native symbols belong to the tribe as a whole: “It makes it hard for one entity to claim it without screwing over our relatives from other bands. Symbols belong to the community and they need to be handled delicately.”

At the end of the day, it all boils down to: is it worth it? “Going after someone is a huge drain of resources, money, and time,” says Keene, “and as we’ve seen with plenty of non-Native designers, most people are largely unsuccessful.”

When it comes to appropriation, there are indeed some shades of gray, says Kramer — which is why her exhibit includes three pieces by non-Native designers. One is an Isaac Mizrahi totem pole dress from 1991. Kramer believes it’s a piece that allows us to “discuss such a complex issue because totem poles are very specific to Northwest family history and while Isaac doesn’t replicate them completely, he riffs on them.”

Naomi Campbell in the Isaac Mizrahi totem dress on the cover of Time. Photo: Time

Naomi Campbell in the Isaac Mizrahi totem dress on the cover of Time. Photo: Time

If the dress were to hit stores today, people would be up in arms about Mizrahi’s “riffing,” just as they were about Jeremy Scott’s totem pole designs for Adidas. But, Kramer notes, when Naomi Campbell wore the piece on the cover of Time, Michaels “saw a part of herself in this dress, accepted by mainstream America. She saw Native American culture accepted by mainstream fashion and for her, it opened the doors into the fashion world and it gave her inspiration to become a designer.”

Where is the line drawn? Is there ever an appropriate way for non-Native people to draw inspiration from Native culture? Native American designers and academics agree it’s important to make sure the Native community is benefiting in some real, tangible manner whenever its culture is invoked.

Kim TallBear, an associate professor of Native studies at the University of Alberta, says, at minimum, “something must be returned to the Native community. If you want to use a Native resource or design, you better be giving back to them in some way or another because you are taking what is not yours.”

“Part of the trouble is that some Native American communities are very impoverished,” says Green. “At the same time, you have huge amounts of money being made by people appropriating what’s theirs.”

Green cites Ralph Lauren, which knocked off Cowichan knits — and labeled them as Cowichan without any involvement from the tribe — just a year after it put out a catalog full of sepia-toned images featuring Native Americans as veritable props. “What Ralph Lauren could have done was to ask Cowichan women to knit those sweaters and to compensate them fairly,” she says. “Then they could have called the sweaters Cowichan and they would have been! There are plenty of Cowichan women who knit for a living. They should have worked with them.”

She points to a brand like Pendleton, which has been supplying Native Americans with blankets and garments for over 100 years. The brand has maintained a reciprocal relationship with Native tribes by trading with them and involving them in the design process.

A hand-painted buffalo corset from Dallin Maybee and Laura Shepherd in "Native Fashion Now." Photo: Chavie Lieber/Racked

A hand-painted buffalo corset from Dallin Maybee and Laura Shepherd in “Native Fashion Now.” Photo: Chavie Lieber/Racked

Other brands seem to be moving in the right direction. In June, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli worked with Canadian Métis artist Christi Belcourt to produce nine looks for Valentino’s most recent resort collection. Belcourt’s work reflects the intricate floral beadwork Métis women are known for and she said Valentino went through painstaking efforts to accurately replicate the patterns from her painting “Water Song” that hangs in Canada’s National Gallery.

The collection was met with plenty of praise, from both Belcourt (who said it was “refreshing” to “work with designers who respect the artist’s work so highly”) and sites like Bustle (which wrote that the collection proves “you can create a Native American-inspired collection the right, respectful way”).

Green isn’t entirely convinced though. Only a few months after its work with Belcourt, Valentino debuted a spring 2016 collection with what the show notes called a “wild, tribal African” theme and mostly white models wearing cornrows. While the Valentino designers told Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times that they were thinking about Africa and the need to “understand other cultures, not to colonize them,” the pair did not work with African artisans.

Then there’s the fact that Bethany Yellowtail of B.Yellowtail says her non-Native customers often ask if they’re “allowed” to wear her clothing: “All the conversations about cultural appropriation have almost made people afraid of exploring our brands. It’s generated all this negative discussion about our fashion.”

Designers like Michaels note this is precisely why it’s so important for Native Americans to continue producing Native fashion themselves, or to work directly with brands trying to make Native-inspired clothing. There are over 600 Native American tribes that are federally recognized in the US and Canada, and each one has different standards for what kinds of designs can be to be shared publicly and sold. Those within the communities know what is and isn’t acceptable for mass consumption.

“Everything that is used in our ceremonies belongs to our village at large and can’t be used, but I’m the one that actually knows that,” says Michaels. “I spend a painstaking amount of time to make sure I am not selling what belongs to our village. I know that it doesn’t belong to me, I respect the people.”

“We are constantly thinking about maintaining our cultural identity,” echoes Yellowtail. “I know I can’t just replicate any designs I see, I know who it belongs to, and I know the story behind them.”

For all the harm the copying of designs and misuse of tribal names has caused, it’s also helped push Native fashion into the spotlight. Outrage leads to consumer education, and people are becoming far more sensitive to misappropriation.

“It’s become a real point of conversation and I think that’s a good thing,” says Keene. “It’s given people the vocabulary to talk about why it’s wrong and hurtful, and empowered them to speak against it. In the past five years since I’ve been writing my blog, I’ve seen a significant shift in the way the public engages with Native designs. Now they say, ‘Buy this, don’t buy this,’ and that makes me really optimistic.”

All the attention has helped also inspired many within Native communities to begin ventures of their own. “There’s definitely been an upsurge of young Native Americans venturing into the contemporary fashion world,” says TallBear.

“People want an alternative,” adds Green. “For so long there was no acknowledgement of what was going on because this has been happening in fashion for decades. But now, suddenly, people are demanding that Native designers be acknowledged and they are taking to Facebook and other social media outlets to point this out. People feel ethically and morally concerned.”

Native Max editor-in-chief Kelly Holmes poses for a photo in her magazine wearing a coat and jewelry by Native designers. Photo: Tara Rose Weston/Native Max

Native Max editor-in-chief Kelly Holmes poses for a photo in her magazine wearing a coat and jewelry by Native designers. Photo: Tara Rose Weston/Native Max

Blogs like Keene’s Native Appropriations and Metcalfe’s Beyond Buckskin have become widely read and are brimming with comments. The community has also seen the launch of Native Max, the first Native American fashion magazine. It was started three years ago by Kelly Holmes, a 24-year-old former model from a Lakota reservation in South Dakota. The bimonthly publication profiles Native designers and artists and primarily employs Native models, photographers, and stylists.

“Growing up, I collected a lot of fashion magazines and I always hated that I could never identify with any of the people in them,” says Holmes. “None of them ever looked like me and nothing ever represented my culture. This is an opportunity to tell our stories positively, instead of focusing on the usual poverty porn.” The magazine was only available for purchase through its own site until now, but will be carried at Native-owned businesses around the country this year.

“It’s a form of validation,” Metcalfe says of Native Max. “We can share our culture now on our terms and people are saying, ‘Hey, this is cool, your culture is beautiful.'”

The fact that something like Native Max exists is proof Native designers aren’t waiting around for the mainstream fashion world to accept them. They’re forging their own paths instead. The same goes for what Metcalfe calls a never-ending supply of new, young Native designers to feature on her Beyond Buckskin boutique, and of course the cross-country tour of the “Native Fashion Now” exhibit.

As Holmes puts it, “Our designs have always been in style, and you can go to any mall or retailer to see just how trendy tribal prints are. But now, Native Americans are taking Native fashion back.” ■

Chavie Lieber is Racked’s features writer.

Editor: Julia Rubin

Copy editor: Heather Schwedel


Posted in CANADIAN ABORIGINAL FASHION, CANADIAN CULTURE, CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN FASHION, JAMES FOWLER | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Today’s “Throwback Thursday” looks at Toronto Life Fashion/May 1999 and their salute to the CANADIAN FASHION DESIGNER collections for Fall 1999. Happily, the majority of these designers are still in production. Joeffer Caoc/Misura did discover that commercialism could merge with his artistic flare and has stayed his vision through the ups and downs of fame and fortune since his then third show. David Dixon, cheered then with a standing ovation, can still get them on his feet, as shown by last night’s turn in “CANADIAN MADE/Toronto Fashion Week for Fall 2016. The Comrags ladies, Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish, whether on the runway or not, have stuck with their theory that they will listen to the customers wants, but will also give them a bit of a push forward when they feel they need to. Obviously a smart plan, they’ve celebrated 30 years of customer love. Brian Bailey understood, well ahead of the fashion pack only now starting to catch on, with his vision that designer label clothes could be made for Everywoman, and the finale of his Fall 1999 show-at the Art Gallery of Ontario-drove home the point: A dozen of more differently-shaped and -sized models paraded the runway in the same black matte jersey dress. Brian’s customers thrive on his offerings, purchasing at his boutique or various retailers, or on The Shopping Channel. Mercy’s Jennifer Halchuk and Richard Lyle’s inspiration for their designs came from friends rather than industry trends they said. The pair and their friends must know something, they still sell in Japan and have also since opened their own retail outpost in Toronto.

Lida Baday retired and Angela Bucaro switched to painting. Lino Catalon has added interior design to his portfolio. Crystal Siemens, the then passionate designer and Co-President of Designers Ontario-stated that, “the talent is definitely here in design and also in hair and makeup. What we’re trying to figure out is the best way to put it together and present it-so that it makes a real big bang.” has since moved to New York City. I don’t know what she is up to, any searches draw a blank. The then “new designers” behind Vir-go and Rapunzel seem to have also disappeared from the web.















Posted in CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN FASHION, JAMES FOWLER | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Today is a bit Throw Back Thursday and a bit Future Forecast…

The first article, from the Globe and Mail, some 34 years ago (wow, I remember reading it then, time flies) is nicely summed up by (now retired after some 30+ successful years as a Canadian Designer, but now painter,) Marilyn Brooks: “To survive as a designer you have to be daring, you have to think ahead,” says Miss Brooks, contemplating the past and the future. “You have to be willing to work out new (design) ideas. But you also have to watch the bottom line. You have to know your cash flow. I think Calvin Klein is very lucky to have his partner (business wizard Barry Schwarz). If you can have your counterpart- that’s dynamite. If you can’t, you get good people who freelance.”.

The second article, from the Financial Post, this past weekend, summed up by Patrick Assaraf, president of PYA fashion house in Toronto “Coming up with ideas is one thing; execution is the main thing,” he said. “Once a Canadian designer gets a customer base in the U.S., you have to make sure you have very, very strong financial backup and logistics.”

“There are some strong headwinds now that are favouring the export market, not the least of which is a low Canadian dollar. Plus the fact customers like to buy young designers’ work, Assaraf noted. “But they also have to know they have a serious company behind them and can produce and ship what they sell.”

In the same article Joe Mimran agrees: “The key is knowing both sides”, he said “and if you don’t have both, you need partners that can fill the gap.The business side needs the creative and the creative absolutely needs the business side. Together it’s an organism.”

Although some 34 years apart they are saying the same thing…Design Mind and Business Mind to be successful. I can trace this thought back another 18 years (that’s a total of 51 years) see the previous post; Feb 25, 2016 on CANADIAN DESIGNER: JOHN WARDEN / MAYFAIR 1965. I am seeing some success from CANADIAN DESIGNERS at home and abroad, GRETA CONSTANTINE (Kirk Pickersgill and Steven Wong, Toronto residents) have just shown in Paris and been covered by Paris Vogue and are celebrating their 10th anniversary in business. ERDEM Moralioglu resides and shows in London, and is covered constantly in all major media and is available globally through major retailers with bricks and mortar and online outlets, and he recently celebrated his 10th year by opening his eponymously named boutique in the fashionable and very expensive London neighbourhood of Mayfair. Dean and Dan Caten, residing in Milan have recently celebrated the 20th year of their globally recognized and purchased label, DSQUARED. There are more, there is growth, for which I am thrilled, but, not enough exponentially for having had this knowledge for over 50 years… My question, as we constantly hear we have so many talented designers: where are the talented business people to team up with the these talented designers, to become mutually successful?

click on the following to enlarge:





In a country rife with talented fashion designers, you can practically count the number of iconic international brands on one hand.

There are the pioneers, such as Simon Chang and Peter Nygård, who have become global branding empires; next generation entrants such as Kimberley-Newport Mimran of Pink Tartan fame, a label that is making waves in the Canadian and international fashion scenes. Then there are newcomers, such as Sid Neigum, hot off a series of successful fashion show competition wins and making a move outside Canadian borders with his first international showing at London Fashion Week this February.

But brand success stories are few and far between. One of the first to break the barriers was Alfred Sung. “When we met Alfred in 1979, there were no international brands. So we made it our mission to develop something we could export and license in time,” said Saul Mimran, president of Mimran Group Inc. and co-founder of the Alfred Sung brand.


At the time he says, he and his brother — Joe Mimran of Joe Fresh fame — realized Sung had all the right elements to achieve that. “We asked each other (for) one name in Canada we would like to approach and we both said Alfred Sung. “His drawings, his presence, his marketability, his work ethic — we knew all of that would resonate.”

Still, entrepreneurial success in fashion, whether domestic or international, can be harder to come by than in other sectors. In the fashion world, startups work ridiculous hours, in many cases for little recognition or reward, Neigum said.

The problem is designers aren’t as well versed in the business side of things, he said. “The work ethic is there; but a lot of us starting out don’t know what we’re doing. Designers are trained to be designers at school; not how to run a fashion company. The business side was all very foreign to me. That’s where designers need the most help.”

“Sometimes designers don’t have all the pieces in place. They may be very good creatively but not have a business mind,” noted Carolyn Quinn, Toronto-based director for fashion for IMG events in Canada.

And sometimes designers also could be missing out on some golden opportunities. There’s no reason they can’t go international, as long as they have the right foundations in place, said Andrew Williams, CEO of DHL Express Canada. “The world is simply too big for them to ignore.”


In truth, Canada’s domestic fashion and textiles market has matured and is growing at a mere one- to two-per-cent a year, Williams said. “Canada exports $1 billion in textiles and other related products; and of those we do export, 80 per cent of fashion and textile exports are to the U.S.

“One of the biggest barriers is infrastructure within local markets,” Williams explained. “Each one has specific customs and import rules which can be daunting for someone whose first passion is design to wrap their head around. It’s as complicated as it can get. For example there are 500 tariff codes for apparel and another 101 for footwear in Canada alone.”

Yet another challenge is the speed in which the industry operates, he said. “Going from design to production to fulfillment is critical. There’s nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into a collection and shipping it for a show only to have it hung up at the border.”

In addition, money is hard to come by. Designers don’t have access to government funding to set up their businesses in the way developers and other types of startups have, IMG’s Quinn said. “Once you finish school, assistance ends. You have to do it on your own.”


Industry partners such as Mercedes-Benz, Toronto Fashion Incubator and DHL are stepping up to help designers build an infrastructure for their business that will allow them to sell in Canada and start shipping internationally, Quinn said. “And with social media, designers have many opportunities to build brand recognition internationally.”

Mimran acknowledged that the landscape for young designers is vastly different today, with the potential that technology can bring. “There are fewer Canadian manufacturers, and competition has gone crazy. But in spite of the competition, the opportunities have never been greater because of improvements in manufacturing, logistics and communications.”

Patrick Assaraf, president of PYA fashion house in Toronto, who launched a line of menswear in 2011 under the PATRICK ASSARAF label, is one designer who understands the complexities of the business side. A successful importer of brands, he has had more than 25 years’ exposure to international markets, including relationships with major high-end retailers such as Saks, Harry Rosen, TNT, and luxury retailers across North America. Designers have to know what they’re getting into and be prepared to deliver, he said.

“Coming up with ideas is one thing; execution is the main thing,” he said. “Once a Canadian designer gets a customer base in the U.S., you have to make sure you have very, very strong financial backup and logistics.”

There are some strong headwinds now that are favouring the export market, not the least of which is a low Canadian dollar. Plus the fact customers like to buy young designers’ work, Assaraf noted. “But they also have to know they have a serious company behind them and can produce and ship what they sell.”

Mimran agrees: The key is knowing both sides, he said. And if you don’t have both, you need partners that can fill the gap.

“The business side needs the creative and the creative absolutely needs the business side. Together it’s an organism.”



SOPHIE GLOBE 02 3 2016 1

SOPHIE GLOBE 02 3 2016 2

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, a self-declared advocate for Canadian style, has already demonstrated sartorial influence on under-the-radar labels (the Sentaler coats she’s worn at Rideau Hall and Buckingham Palace have purportedly become bestsellers), so she likely understands that her American debut at the White House state dinner on March 10 is a potential career-making moment for a fledgling designer. In anticipation of the event, Janna Zittrer asked five nominees for this year’s Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards to reflect on the value of dressing the Prime Minister’s wife, and the look they would create for her, given the chance


Special to The Globe and Mail Last updated: Wednesday, Mar. 02, 2016 8:41AM EST


UNTTLD’s Simon Bélanger and José Manuel St-Jacques have been flouting gender lines for years, so it comes as no surprise that they propose putting Grégoire– Trudeau in pants. “Sophie can stand alone,” says the Montreal-based duo. Nominated for The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion, and recent winners of the Mercedes-Benz Start– Up competition at Toronto Fashion Week, Bélanger and St-Jacques hope other prominent Canadians will follow Grégoire-Trudeau’s patriotic example. “There is so much diversity in Canada’s fashion landscape, there is no reason to wear anything else but Canadian fashion,” say the pair. “We need more people like Sophie to promote our identity.”

Matthew Gallagher


Nova Scotia-born, Toronto-based Matthew Gallagher felt inspired by Grégoire-Trudeau’s position on the world stage. “She is in a powerful place, and I wanted the design to reflect the elegance, stoicism and refinement that role requires,” he says. A contender for the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion, Gallagher drafted a gown that’s “modern yet traditional, which reflects the impact the Trudeaus are having on Canadians at the moment – moving forward without forgetting the past.” Gallagher’s vision is meant to sparkle, literally and figuratively. “It is difficult as Canadians to be taken seriously in the fashion industry as a whole, and Sophie has a chance to change that by creating a wardrobe of beautiful clothing that will compel people to take notice of our talent,” he says.

Tanya Taylor


“Sophie is the most visible woman in Canada, and a great role model for the future of Canadian fashion,” says Toronto-born Tanya Taylor. As a CAFA International Canadian Designer of the Year Award nominee, 2014 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Woolmark Prize, the New York–based designer is quite the ambassador for Canadian fashion in her own right. “We have so much talent that the world needs to be aware of,” she says. “Showcasing Canadian design on such a scale definitely makes an important difference for the visibility of designers.” Taylor sketched Grégoire– Trudeau’s look with a flowing fit and brightly coloured floral print in mind. “My design was inspired to evoke a magical sensibility for a sophisticated woman who is optimistic and feminine. I love the idea of flowers elegantly twisting with the movement of pleated silk.”

Hamish Thwaites


With his daring sensibility and studied approach, budding talent Hamish Thwaites just might follow in the footsteps of his current boss, Erdem Moralioglu. As an intern for the London-based Canadian – who has dressed the likes of Kate Middleton and countless A-listers – Thwaites understands the importance of a strong sartorial narrative. For Grégoire-Trudeau’s look, the CAFA Fashion Design Student Award nominee tells the story of an unexpected muse. “I love the thought of suffragettes in their studios, working with their hands to construct a political statement,” he says. “I find myself imagining them rallying in the streets with heraldic-like flags, defying patriarchy with chaos.” His creation is at once audacious and avant-garde, designed to capture a sense of individuality and strength. “Sophie is someone who many women identify with and respect,” says Thwaites, adding that her support “is so important to the survival and growth of our industry.”

Pink Tartan


Tapping the runway’s recent fascination with upholstery fabrics, Womenswear Designer of the Year nominee Kimberley Newport-Mimran conceived a strap-less ball gown made from brocade floral jacquard. “I used it in a more couture style that could stand the test of time,” says Pink Tartan’s president and design director. “This look would complement Sophie’s flawless natural skin tone,” she adds, picturing Grégoire-Trudeau with loosely waved hair and barely there makeup. As a final touch, Newport– Mimran would ground the look with a futuristic, curved-heel pink pump from Dior’s Spring 2013 collection.

What about Justin?


Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau isn’t the only Canadian political player navigating their new status as a style icon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is no slouch when it comes to fashion, and the state dinner will be an opportunity for him to dazzle in something more formal. Montrealbased label Samuelsohn, founded in 1923, offers sumptuous velvet dinner jackets along with traditional black tuxes. Its made-to-measure service ensures Trudeau would be dressed to impress – in made-in-Canada style. To retain his cool factor, an exaggerated peaked lapel on a double-breasted tux would suggest a flair for the debonair without scaring away more conservative tablemates. Of course, this style would require a bow tie. If black proved too basic, a dandy Liberty floral option by Toronto-based Pomp & Ceremony would be the ideal complement and channel a touch of his father’s rebellious attitude.

– Odessa Paloma Parker