When I was a kid, almost all of my clothes were made in Canada. Now it is rare to find anything made here. In trying to avoid fast fashion and sweatshop goods, I’ve been looking for domestic lines, without much success.
I have to admit, I struggle with buying used clothes. If I need a pair of perfect-fit black pants (trousers) for work, usually they’ll be replacing a pair that has met with misfortune: faded, stained, etc. I can look at 50 pairs of black dress pants at Value Village, Frenchy’s and the Salvation Army Thrift Store, and never find a pair that is just right. Or, I can just go to Reitman’s and find a pair marked down from $45 to $25 that are exactly what I needed.
I am not much of a fashion shopper and I keep my clothes a long time, so I tend to buy new. This month I bought two items at a consignment shop, but they were impulse purchases and not on my “need” list!
When I bought spring clothes for a vacation recently, I was disappointed (but not surprised) that the more expensive brand-name clothes were made in Bangladesh and Malaysia, just like the generic clothes.
I did some online research to see what was still made here. The iconic Canadian brands are NOT.
The Bay was sold to the USA firm that owns Lord & Taylor a few years ago. Its distinctive Bay blankets, coats and other “Bay stripe” merchandise is not Canadian-made.
I adore my Canada Olympic shirt, similar to the hoodie above. It, and the whole Canada Olympic line, was made in China.
What could be more Canadian than Roots? Everything, apparently. Only its genuine leather goods are made in Canada. Not your classic Roots Cooper T-shirt! Danier Leather works with Canadian designers and it labels the items from its line-up that are made in Canada. They are much pricier than the globally-sourced ones.
Speaking of animal products…Canada Goose parkas are made 100% in Canada, if you are OK with buying real coyote fur and duck down.
Canadian snow boots like Sorel and Kodiak were once highly esteemed, but are now made elsewhere. Baffin makes some of its boots in Canada, in particular, the Terra line of work boots. Bata shoes has moved its operations to Switzerland, and Aldo/Globo shoes are made internationally.
In the intimates sector, La Senza doesn’t make anything in Canada, but the more traditional Stanfield men’s underwear are made right here in Nova Scotia!
One renowned specialty product is the Tilley hat, made entirely in Canada. Every well-to-do person I know over age 50 has one for gardening, hiking and boating! They will only set you back $82.
Parkhurst had always made their conservative women’s sweaters in Canada, but has recently started producing some of them elsewhere. Recent estimates say 75% are still made here? I have two which I snagged on sale for $45 each.
Reitman’s and Mark’s Work Wearhouse, two Canadian-owned stores I truly like, don’t carry Canadian-made apparel, except for the afore-mentioned work boots at Mark’s! I read that about 20% of the stock at Jacob’s is Canadian. Interestingly, Le Château was known for its sparkly night club wear for a long time, but is now trying to appeal to more quality-conscious mature shoppers (that is, people my age) and they have boosted their Canadian content to as much as 40%.
One of the best-known Canadian brands, lululemon athletic wear, is designed but not made in Canada. A plus for them is that their workout wear is designed to last for 5 years of use.
Finally I will mention Joe Fresh. Everyone I know wears Joe Fresh. It’s sold at the supermarket (and now at JC Penney in the US). It’s priced the same as Wal-Mart clothing and it’s genuinely fashionable. I got my first pair of skinny cords there last December. Joe Fresh was one of the many brands manufactured at the Bangladesh garment factory that collapsed in April, killing 1129 people. The brand owner, Loblaws, has said it will continue to produce goods in Bangladesh, using suppliers that conform to “local building codes and labour laws.”
I‘ve been out shopping a few times since April and I haven’t noticed any slow-down whatsoever in sales at Superstore, Wal-Mart, Giant Tiger and other fast fashion retailers. Now that super-cheap prices for clothes have become the norm, it’s harder to give up other products and pay more for clothes when you know you can buy them at rock-bottom prices. And as I’ve shown above, even when you want to, it’s usually not possible.
I certainly don’t think that making one’s own clothes is the best option. Virtually all textiles and thread are made in the same conditions in which global apparel is made. Supporting local designers would be great – paying them for their design sense and expertise.
I believe in mending and modifying clothes, avoiding trends and making things last. For me right now, the only viable option is buying less. That could be through buying used, or doing without.
Somehow I always surprise myself when I realize how much I do, in fact, care about what I wear and how I look.
Have you found any solutions to your fashion dilemmas?