Like smart politicians, Canadian manufacturers showing at WWDMAGIC understand the importance of winning over soccer moms, a demographic whose fashion needs have been, for the most part, overlooked in the day-to-day realm.

Retailers are beginning to reap the rewards of offering 30- to 45-year-old women occupying the vast stylistic middle between, say, Jenna and Laura Bush, budget-friendly options for head-to-toe dressing.

Retailers' attempts to win over this demographic haven't always been fruitful. The Gap Inc.-owned Forth & Towne and Gymboree's Janeville both closed last winter, and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is reportedly still tweaking its Martin + Osa assortment. But INC, the Macy's private label collection for women in their 30s and 40s, ranks as one of the chain's most profitable departments. Bloomingdale's has followed suit with Quotations, featuring 14 brands with contemporary-worthy styles and more forgiving fits.

So where do brands from the United States' neighbor to the north fit into the picture? "We really fill a great big white space out there," said Lani Karls, vice president, creative director and co-founder of Mac & Jac, a thirtysomething-focused Vancouver-based line, as well as its younger-focused sister labels Kensie and KensieGirl. All three lines were acquired by Liz Claiborne Inc. early last year.

"The Mac & Jac customer wants quality, and she wants clothes that can take her from the office to a dinner date," said Karls. "She wants to look good, but not at designer prices."

Women in this demographic tend to be both budget-conscious and seekers of quality, said executives. That can be a tough combination to deliver, but Canadian manufacturers said they are familiar with the challenge, perhaps more so than their American counterparts.

"The Canadian market is so tough. It's driven by quality-price, quality-price, quality-price," said Sandy Dombroski, vice president at Kersh, a knitwear brand based in Vancouver. "Consumers here have always demanded that and have driven us to offer it."

Mac & Jac's Karls agreed. "Canadians have a more European attitude towards clothing — they don't view it as being disposable, even though they are seeking great value. The craftsmanship has to be there too," she said.

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