The great Canadian closet: How to dress locally from toe to top

globe and mail fanshawe

Odessa Paloma Parker
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Mar. 20 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Mar. 20 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

“I’m pretty discerning about what I buy,” says Leesa Butler, president of marketing agency Divine Lab and founder of the popular fashion blog the f-list, of her shopping habits. Butler moved to Toronto from New York in 2002 and discovered the homegrown fashion industry shortly after. “By 2004, I was really getting to know designers, thanks to my involvement with fashion week,” she says, referring to her once-held role in sponsorship sales for the event, whose fall/winter 2015 shows kick off on Monday. “It was strange to me that these names weren’t on the tip of every fashion lover’s tongue. I thought their quality and design was on par with, if not more interesting than, American designers like Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg, yet the average Canadian fashion customer hadn’t heard of them.”

Butler, it turns out, is one of a growing number of consumers who make it a priority to buy from Canadian-based brands. The shift can be traced, in part, to the increasing visibility of local talent. Hudson’s Bay, for instance, recently chose to spotlight the work of up-and-coming Alberta native Sid Neigum at The Room in its Toronto flagship on Queen Street – a considerable achievement for a fairly new designer. Meanwhile, the recent creation of the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards is intended to celebrate both new and established homegrown designers. (At CAFA’s second annual gala, held in January, Neigum also took home the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent.) And then there’s the boost the country’s principal fashion week got when it was purchased in 2012 by global management powerhouse IMG, whose stated aim is to draw international awareness to Canada’s fashion scene.

As for what this means to shoppers, a growing market spells diversity – and for Butler, that’s a necessity. She buys fashion-forward pieces from labels such as Pink Tartan and Greta Constantine but also likes to shop for basics that are made in Canada: “My winter coats are by Mackage and Rudsak,” she says, referring to two brands that have mass appeal and a retail presence nationwide. Here, Globe Style takes a page from ‘locavores’ such as Butler and presents a peek inside the ultimate Canadian closet, a shopping guide to the strongest pieces of the season by designers in our own backyard.

closet 2

THE BOMBER: This bright jacket from Toronto-based Outclass is composed of Woolrich plaid and flannel shirting sourced from Japan. Bomber, $327 through

THE SHIRT: Monthly collections created by Montreal-based Frank & Oak, which has retail locations and a membership-driven website, have helped the brand garner a cult following. Collared shirt, $55 at Frank & Oak.

THE SUIT: For those who think outside the boxy, Toronto’s Philip Sparks offers bespoke suiting services. Suit jacket, $650, and pants, $295 through

THE SWEATER: An international collaboration of sorts, these made-in-Canada sweaters are composed of wool-blend yarns from Italy. Cooper cardigan, $89 through

THE TRENCH: Montrealers know a thing or two about designing stylish outerwear for all seasons. Mackage trench coat, $550 at Holt Renfrew.

THE KICKS: These lightweight mesh running shoes are perfect for exploring the Canadian terrain. Sneakers, $110 through

THE TEE: Vancouver’s Kit and Ace produces luxe basics made from cashmere that comes from Mongolian goats. T-shirt, $88 through

THE PANTS: These are designed and produced in Vancouver by wings + horns, which recently marked its 10-year anniversary with a second nomination from the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards for men’s wear designer of the year. Twill pants, $235 through

THE BAG: This handsome, durable shopper features a unique bicolour zipper and detachable body strap. Leather bag, $945 through

THE BELT: M0851 has designed and manufactured its pieces in Montreal workshops since the brand launched in 1987. Leather belt, $100 at M0851 (

THE BOOTS: The offbeat designs of Vancouver-based John Fluevog have proved popular for more than 30 years. Leather boots, $439 at John Fluevog (

THE WALLET: This slim handstitched bifold by fledgling Toronto brand blanc de noir holds up to 8 credit cards and comes in grey or black. Leather wallet, $75 through

THE TIES: Select styles by Toronto men’s-wear accessory label Pomp & Ceremony feature fabrics by Liberty of London. Ties, $80 each through

closet 3

THE TUX: Smythe designers Christie Smythe and Andrea Lenczner count Kate Middleton among the fans of their classic-with-a-twist designs. Tuxedo jacket, $595 through

THE DRESS: This Toronto label carried by wedding-dress destination Kleinfeld specializes in subtle styles that still possess a sense of occasion. Dress, $595 through

THE SHIRT: A work-friendly pinstripe button-down shirt is one of Montreal-based Judith & Charles’s best staples. Blouse, $275 at Judith & Charles.

THE COAT: Loyal clients laud the longevity of pieces they’ve purchased from Comrags over the years, some of which are more than 20 years old. Coat, $595 at Comrags.

THE SKIRT: The former winner of the Mercedes-Benz Start Up competition, Edmonton-based designer Malorie Urbanovitch is still in the spotlight this season for her take on luxurious knits and silks. Skirt, $595 through

THE LEATHER JACKET: Montreal-based Rudsak showcases its slick leather looks in 26 stores across Canada. Leather jacket, $595 at Rudsak (

THE BLING: The handmade costume and semi-precious baubles from Toronto’s Moonrox are made from a mix of new and vintage materials. Necklace, $110 through

THE BRA: The retrostyled separates and slips from Fortnight Lingerie are designed and manufactured in Toronto. Bra, $98 through

THE JEANS: Denim with major flexibility is the key to Quebec label Second Clothing’s success. Yoga jeans, $125 at Shopgirls (

THE HEELS: Art director-turned-designer Abel Munoz fuses high style with wearability. Suede shoes, $695 through

THE BAG: This Toronto-based brand sources leather from Italy, Germany and Spain. Leather bag, $338 through

THE SCARF: Vibrant hand-painted prints give life to a wardrobe workhorse: the trusty scarf. Merino wool shawl, $195 through

Photography by Joseph Saraceno. Styling by Tricia Hall/Judy Inc.

Please follow and like us:
This entry was posted in CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN FASHION, JAMES FOWLER, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.