MONTREAL — Irving Samuel, one of Canada’s best-known fashion houses, has closed its doors, putting 125 union and nonunion people out of work.
The 47-year-old firm sold women’s apparel to such prominent stores as Holt Renfrew and Ogilvy’s in Canada and Neiman Marcus in the U.S. It was also home to Jean-Claude Poitras, a leading Canadian designer.
The company decided to close last week after its 90 ILGWU member employees refused to accept a cost-cutting agreement put forward by the Quebec Federation of Labor, a union organization that owns 70 percent of the company. The ILGWU is a member of the QFL.
The QFL controls Irving Samuel through its Solidarity Fund, which invests union funds in Quebec-based companies. A Solidarity Fund spokesman said the company had to cut $900,000 Canadian ($634,000 U.S.) from its operating costs to survive. The company asked the ILGWU to contribute $250,000 ($180,000) by working an extra half-hour a day and allowing the company to forego pension-plan contributions for a year. When the union voted to reject the plan the firm decided to close its doors.
“I felt the concessions were acceptable, but the membership thought the company was bluffing and voted them down,” company employee and shop steward Rolland Cote told WWD. “I was disappointed, but it was a democratic decision.”
Irving Samuel was founded in 1948 by Sam Workman and flourished for years. It made a wide range of women’s ready-to-wear under the Jean-Claude Poitras, Irving Samuel, Bernardo and Bof labels and private label. When the company ran into financial trouble in 1990, the Solidarity Fund stepped forward and has poured $10.5 million ($7.4 million) into the company, which has recorded significant losses in the last three years, according to the fund spokesman.