QUEBEC FIRMS TAKE A WHIRL AT U.S. SALES

Byline: Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — The Quebec Government House continued its efforts to push the province’s $3 billion apparel industry into the U.S. market with its fifth annual “Fashions On Ice” show at The Rink at Rockefeller Center.
The event presented nine Montreal-based women’s, men’s and children’s wear resources to a large group of buyers and press inside at the Rock Center Cafe, and hundreds of spectators outside along the rink’s street-level railing.
Despite Quebec’s sizable apparel market, which represents more than 60 percent of Canada’s $4.75 billion apparel industry, breaking into the U.S. market has proved to be difficult for some vendors.
“It’s an opportunity for us to show what we do in Canada and to get our brands in the face of consumers and the retailers,” said Stephen Silverstein, vice president and general manager for Algo Industries, which produces the ready-to-wear labels En Francais, Lori Ann and Alfred Sung.
While available in the U.S. for more than a decade, Louben, a 55-year-old sportswear company known in Canada for its cashmere, considered its first foray on ice a “great” marketing tool.
“This is more unique than a regular fashion show and you can’t beat the venue,” said Steve Finiffer, vice president of Louben.
With its store just two blocks away, Tristan & America has participated twice to drum up support. The vertically integrated chain has four stores in the U.S. and plans to open several more in major metropolitan areas on the East Coast in the coming months and years.
“We really enjoy the show and since it’s so close to one of our stores, it’s a great way to get in touch with our customers and let them know about our presence in the U.S.,” said Natalie Pelchat, product director for U.S. stores.
Tristan & America also showcased a dress from its Tristan line. The dresses in that collection retail for $300 to $400 compared to $78 to $148 for the regular collection, Pelchat said.
A bit nervous about demonstrators from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who protested the use of fur at last year’s “Fashions on Ice” event, Jean-Francois Morissette showed his leather coats this season.
Morissette hoped his clothing’s second spin around the ice would allow him to open his outerwear and rtw lines to more Americans.
“Customers come to Montreal for my cashmere, but it’s important for me to sell in the U.S., as well,” he said.

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