Canada has always been under the shadow of America’s fashion scene and was never recognized as a fashionable country. However, we are seeing a shift in Canada’s fashion industry in recent years as more innovative and visionary companies are emerging, and more attention is given to this relatively neglected industry. Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and his wife are even more fashion-conscious than their predecessors and are big supporters of homegrown labels such as Erdem and Sentaler.
There are more and more fashion-tech Startups across Canada who are innovating the ways we consume and interact with fashion. Companies such as Frank and Oak, Joe Fresh and Indochino are among the drivers of the Canadian fashion industry who are receiving international recognition. This shift is also reflected by the addition of a new category, “Fashion Innovation”, to the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards this year. Mentioned by Vicky Milner, one of the founders at CAFA, “Technology is a huge force in today’s fashion industry, so the time was right to honor companies who are producing great wearable technology, interesting apps or breakthroughs in e-commerce.” Recognized as Canada’s most prominent fashion event, CAFA is casting a spotlight on Canada’s fashion and is generating global interest in Canadian talent.
Focusing on technology can be a great vehicle for Canadian companies in the fashion industry to gain momentum and a competitive advantage over their American rivals with deeper pockets and higher international presence. A big driver of this shift is one of Canada’s largest innovative fashion companies, Joe Fresh, who is presenting the “Fashion Innovation Award” at CAFA this year. Joe Fresh has partnered with Ryerson University and launched the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation, which is an incubator program helping Canadian entrepreneurs and companies in the fashion industry by providing mentorships and networking opportunities. “We’re aiming to identify businesses that have compelling ideas around all areas of fashion innovation, whether it’s building the next e-commerce app or inventing a powerful new manufacturing process or starting a new label,” said Joe Fresh president Mario Grauso.
Among the innovators in Canadian fashion and CAFA’s Fashion Innovation Award nominees, Frank and Oak is integrating fashion and technology to create a personalized shopping experience for men. Recognized as “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Retail” by the Fast Company, Frank and Oak has positioned themselves as a lifestyle advisor than a clothing brand for the “creative millennial man.” Stylekick is another tech startup nominated for a Fashion Innovation Award, which is creating a change in how consumers engage and communicate with other shoppers and brands through mobile technology. With Stylekick mobile app, users can post photos of themselves and tag the products which others can like, comment, and shop. “What we are is a Netflix for fashion,” Karn Saroya, one of the founders at Stylekick said. “We take our user interactions on the app and translate them into specific content that we show our users.” Stylekick is aiming to become a mobile marketplace in the fashion industry where real consumers can drive e-commerce.
As mentioned by Anthony O’Dell, the fashion writer at Huffington Post, “Canada has world-class fashion talent, but so far the industry has been unable to become something greater than the sum of its individual parts.” Through the power of technology and support from organizations such as CAFA and Joe Fresh, it is possible to unite and create a change to help the Canadian fashion industry gain the recognition it deserve.