People often say that art will find a way. But even the most talented and determined independent designers have spent the past year navigating some pretty intense terrain. Thankfully, increased digitization has revealed promising new directions--creating opportunities for emerging talent to reach audiences and for buyers to discover them.
Among these, the recent work of Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) stands out. Part mentorship platform and part design space, the organization’s fellowships and programs help fashion entrepreneurs navigate the business to become successful. This game-changing mission inspired TFI Executive Director Susan Langdon to create Showroom Canada as an alternative to in-person appointments and to preserve trade in the face of travel bans. Alison Lowe, industry entrepreneur and founder of Start Your Own Fashion Label, helped select the 14 showcase participants and guide them through their preparations. This cohort includes Canadian award-winners across a spectrum of key categories--from luxury to basics, fine jewelry to streetwear--and the digital event runs on JOOR through March 31.
A bridge to the new normal
Once the pandemic temporarily shut down in-person events and showrooms, Langdon worried it could soon force Canadian emerging designers to close their doors for good. To prevent this from happening and to help this group regain access to key international markets--such as the UK--she conceived of Showroom Canada.
Although the digital initiative started as a stop-gap measure, it’s already proven its long-term value. Designers present their individual brands and the look and feel of their products with dynamic video and detailed imagery. The rich media and customizable linesheet capabilities have engaged existing retail partners and brought the brands to new, wider audiences. Although ecommerce remains the focus for now, Showroom Canada has forged relationships with omnichannel retailers who can later feature the high quality products in brick and mortar as well.
Uniquely Canadian with Global Appeal
Langdon and Lowe chose high performing labels to create the show, but they also curated it to provide a truly representative sampling of the moral drive, diverse talent, and innovative and original design Canada’s fashion industry has to offer. The 14 participants have their pulse on international consumers’ top priorities. The designers’ diverse racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds mirror Canada’s inclusive and progressive social fabric. Across categories and the manufacturing cycle, the brands rely on ethical and environmentally-sustainable practices--including local fair wage production with Canada’s unique international talent pool. And each offering has a distinct and desirable vision with appeal to the most discerning international customers.
Award-winning Atelier UNTTLD draws on the historic, exotic and poetic to create a timeless expression of drama and glamour. Creative directors José St-Jacques and Simon Bélangerhas use sensual tailoring, rich materials, and impeccable fit to handcraft high-quality, elegant designs with a distinct point of view.
FREED & FREED
FREED draws on the 100 years of full service manufacturing experience of its parent company, Freed & Freed International Ltd. Specializing in luxurious, fun and functional outerwear--such as the already-iconic Lily coat--the company designs and develops products using ethical and sustainable practices, vegan fabrics and recycled materials.
FURB Upcycled works to shape a thoughtful, ethical future. Its team of experienced craftspeople repurposes garments and discarded materials to handcraft sustainable luxury fashion and accessories.
Furious Fur combines classic vintage styles with a modern edge. Vintage fur lovers and mother-daughter duo Philippa and Samantha Madigan launched the socially conscious brand in 2017 to create faux fur products with the same luxurious and glamorous quality of real fur.
Designer Joeffer Caoc, three-time Canadian Designer of the Year, pairs minimalism with meticulous construction in his eponymous womenswear line JOEFFER CAOC. He balances fluid lines and classic tailoring with unconventional features and engineered draping to create his signature style.
Kate Austin ensures the manufacture and development of its print-focused casual clothing and accessories line reflect its key values of diversity, transparency and environmental responsibility. Fair-trade certified artisans in both Toronto and India hand-block the colorful clothing and accessories on organic cotton, silk, linen and wool.
Premium streetwear brand KUWALLA TEE creates sustainable, ready-to-wear essentials for men and women who refuse to compromise comfort for style. The North American leader’s Beyond Label Essentials line minimizes waste and uses high quality fabrics to create timeless designs.
L’MOMO combines high fashion with high standards to create visionary, bold and modern luxury. Experimental with clean yet seductive lines, the vegan brand’s cutting-edge statement pieces find their home with confident, ambitious and daring clientele.
MAISON MARIE SAINT PIERRE
Award-winning Maison Marie Saint Pierre redefines modern, luxury womenswear. Resting on a 30-year tradition of excellence, the brand relies on innovative fabrics to create an elegant balance between power dressing and sculptural art.
The Shelli oh collections infuse a refreshing vitality and vision into high-end clothing--focusing on distinctive details, unique textures and stylish charm. Ethereal femininity and hand-sewn details combine to create elaborate tactile landscapes in the womenswear collections. Traditional tailoring with a whimsical, art-house air characterizes the menswear offerings.
Multi-award winning designer Sid Neigum challenges convention and questions tradition. Experimenting with pleats, shapes, movement and origami, the designer uses a mathematical approach--infusing geometry and precision into his innovative and modern womenswear looks.
SULLY & SON
Sully & Son Co. is a premium accessory brand that represents modern minimalism and sophistication. With a well-balanced mix of smart design, craftsmanship and quality materials, S&S delivers superior lifestyle products for people that seek innovation in their every day.
TORI•XO jewellery’s distinctive style has gained international momentum since its debut in 2008. The brand’s founder Tori Poynton, presses handmade vintage French lace onto silver; no two pieces are ever exactly the same. The award-winning brand has been worn by musicians such as Jill Barber and Taylor Swift.
The Wuxley Movement began in 2012 in efforts to align Canada’s rich outerwear manufacturing heritage with technological innovation and sustainable fabrics. Peacefully leaving animals out of the equation, masterfully-tailored Wuxly’s enable people all over Canada and the world to live warm in both body and soul.