Toronto fashion week

Canadian fashion is trending up. And the recent launch of Showroom Canada, a digital wholesale showroom hosted on the business-to-business platform JOOR, helped push the northern country into the spotlight, ushering the nation’s top talent into focus.

Showroom Canada was realized by a partnership with the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom, Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Canadian Apparel Federation, which launched the platform on Feb. 16, just ahead of London Fashion Week, to introduce Canadian fashion to an audience of 200,000 retailers for a six-week run.

And interested retailers still have the opportunity to register on its website, and peruse the collections of 14 Canadian fashion and accessories brands, which include FREED; Furb Upcycled; Furious Fur; Joeffer Caoc; Kate Austin; Kuwalla Tee; L’MOMO, Maison Marie Saint Pierre; Shelli Oh; Sid Neigum; Sully & Son Co.; Tori.Xo; UNTTLD; and WUXLY.

WWD sat down with several said brands to discuss and distill trends in the Canadian fashion market, which boiled down strategic shifts in sustainability and material innovation – and then segued into a casual colloquy centered on what’s coming up for fall 2021 trends.

A look by FURB Upcycled. 

Green Minds Think Alike

From veganism (or faux fur) and upcycling to eco-friendly mills and the avoidance of excess garment production, sustainability comes in many colors for Canadian fashion, with each brand sharing the objective to help take care of the planet through its work. Designer Marissa Freed, the founder of FREED, told WWD that her brand practices sustainability through endurance and longevity.

“Sustainability for FREED is at the forefront of every decision we make,” she said. “We focus on what we can do to better the environment and the world. Our coats are an accessible luxury that will stand the test of time. We don’t believe in fast fashion – we believe in investing a little more for a coat that will last. We are also a 100 percent vegan brand from our fabric, to our labels, to our hangtag.”

Swanky and sophisticated ready-to-wear brand UNTTLD adopted a similar philosophy. “We believe the greatest challenge the fashion system has to fight is the built-in obsolescence of the product. The idea that a beautiful garment is undesirable after three months creates a chain reaction that ripples through the fashion ecosystem and creates the environmental damages we see today.”

“At UNTTLD, we believe a well-designed piece of clothing is good forever. We believe in choosing responsible materials that age well, cut and sewn by professionals who work in great environments for them to grow, distributed by retailers who value the work and promote the values behind UNTTLD to the customer.”

Furb Upcycled takes a different approach by repurposing its handcrafted garments into downright glamorous “refined fashion.” Sarah Nacos, partner and head of marketing at Furb Upcycled, told WWD, “Our brand prioritizes sustainability by repurposing garments into refined fashion through the upcycling of valuable, responsible and sustainable fabrics in the spirit of shaping a thoughtful, ethical future.”

“We define sustainable fashion as giving new purpose to otherwise discarded materials through creating luxury products of better quality and environmental value. Faced with rampant overconsumption, being responsible has now become a necessity. We must buy less and buy better.”

And many brands espouse sustainability by taking small, meaningful steps. Shelli Oh, founder of her eponymously named brand, told WWD that she embraces sustainability on her own terms. “While our brand is not what I would categorize as a truly sustainable brand, we have been working toward reducing our footprint as much as possible,” she said.

“With a lot of orders being placed and shipped online, we have made the move to make all our packaging plastic-free and fully sustainable, using compostable mailers and recycled paper products, including hang tags printed on paper made from recycled T-shirts. We also began to introduce the idea of what we call ‘transformative fashion,’ which takes one eveningwear look that is transformable into different looks with elements that can be removed or added – thus increasing the functionality of the piece beyond a ‘one-off’ look.”

A red trench coat by L’MOMO. 

Material Matters

And for fashion today, it’s what on the inside that counts. Sustainable fashion brand Kate Austin told WWD that its material and fiber sustainability innovation is a huge part of the brand – and Austin is fairly discriminating in her material choices. “Microplastics in our oceans and bodies is an issue I can’t ignore, and I am committed to only using 100 percent natural organic fibers in my materials. I love the breathability and feel of these natural materials against the skin; the softness, lightness, vibrant color, and luxurious feel of my materials are truly one of the main reasons why I love my brand.”

Austin added, ‘Innovation also lies in ancient handwork processes applied sustainably to a larger scale. The power and energy of handmade materials are palpable, and I’m excited by new ways that are emerging to maintain that human connection in my brand. Plant dyeing is experiencing a global revival, especially in India, as more consumers look for healthier, more natural options to bring color to our lives.”

Montreal-based Marie Saint Pierre, founder of her eponymously named brand, told WWD that her current fabric choices revolve around the creation of sustainably made silhouettes. “It is one thing to apply traditional volumes in various fabrics, it is something completely different to create sculptural works in fabrics developed and adapted to a specific artistic vision.”

“It’s through real love and passion for fabric that I started my design journey. Fabric is not only the medium – it’s the inspiration behind each creation to create clothes that allow movement,” Saint Pierre explained. “The fabric that is at the core of our iconic lines comes from Italian vertical mills that are investing in sustainability as a means to their future. In collaboration with them, we have been developing durable, comfortable, and antimicrobial fabrics that require less care.”

When working with metals, the same concept applies through a different medium. Handmade jewelry brand Tori.XO told WWD that sustainability is inherent within its signature material: vintage French lace pressed into silver and gold. “Our signature material invokes innovation and sustainability. We texturize each piece of precious metal with vintage French lace. Besides making each piece truly unique, this technique preserves the delicate fabric handmade by past generations.”

Trending Up

And as far as apparel trends, upcoming collections for fall 2021 are focused on an array of well-defined shapes. Fashion brand Joeffer Caoc, based in Ontario, told WWD that its fall looks are inspired by all things eclectic. “For fall 2021, the inspiration was the eclectic re-mix of different fabrics and textures combined with classic shapes and styling,” the designer said. “This also allowed us to recycle fabrics that we already own or have worked with in the past, which allows our customer to compliment her existing wardrobe. We wanted to offer a slight twist to the familiar, especially during these uncertain times. If we had to define a trend, it would be ‘Refined Eclecticism.’”

Fashion designer Sid Neigum generally gravitates toward stretch knits, due to their versatility – and for fall, told WWD that cut-outs are shaping up to be a dominant trend.

Saint Pierre added that she believes upcoming fashion trends will revolve around new principles and philosophies, instead of aesthetics. “I personally think 2021 will bring an emphasis on a better, more sustainable, personal, and unique approach to fashion – trends will be replaced by conscience, personal choices, and beliefs.”

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