Montréal Fashion Week is in full swing in the metropolis, and it’s the time of year when the industry and local designers really shine. In line with our mission to promote local businesses, we took this opportunity to discuss local fashion.
The past few years have seen a paradigm shift in our consumer habits. In particular, the pandemic made us realize the importance of sourcing locally, and changes were seen in 2021, when 82% of Quebecers [were] making an effort to buy local.
Consumers are now more aware of the social, economic and environmental impact of their purchases. If there’s a growing awareness of locavorism and the importance of putting local food on your plate, the same applies to your wardrobe.
But the Quebec fashion industry has its own challenges. Local companies have to compete with the fast-fashion giants in these economically difficult times, while customers tend to turn to more affordable solutions, to the detriment of quality, ethics or the environmental aspect of the garment.
So how do you promote your products when you’re used to seeing mass-produced sweaters selling for $15? A sweater made locally, ethically and eco-responsibly can be sold for nearly five times that price. Such a difference can be surprising, especially if you don’t fully understand the challenges of local fashion.
“There’s still a lot of education to be done among people,” believes Marilyne Baril, founder of clothing brand Marigold, which has been on Wellington Street since 2019. The Quebec designer has made a point of applying a policy of price transparency since the very beginning. On the label of each garment, you can see the different costs involved in each step of the garment’s manufacture.
From the purchase of fabric, to the cost of research and development, right down to the seamstress’s first name, her labels give the right price and add a human dimension to the product. “It allows the person to see the true value of the piece,” she adds.
For Mckenna Bisson, founder of MAS Montréal, a womenswear company that occupied the VerdunLuv pop-up shop last August, her tactic is to be present as herself on social networks and interact directly with customers.
“That’s why I did the pop-up. People can come and see me, come and touch and try on the clothes,” she explains. “I put myself forward, explain my creative process and why I launched my brand. People mostly buy the story and the person behind the piece.”
Because local fashion isn’t just about locally sourced fabrics, chosen for their quality and minimal environmental impact; it’s also, and above all, about people who are paid with dignity in good working conditions, and local designers who are passionate about their work.
It’s no secret: clothing designed and produced in Quebec is going to be more expensive than if it were produced abroad. And if people are prepared to pay a little more for their groceries, they’re not all prepared to adopt the same mentality when it comes to clothing.
But is dressing locally really that much more expensive? At first glance, it may seem so. But on the long run, not really. Think of it as an investment: a sweater bought from a local designer and produced locally is essentially of better quality and will last longer. Nor should we neglect the psychological effect: when you buy a piece whose history you know, you tend to take better care of it, to pamper it, don’t you think? As a result, it wears out much more slowly and remains as good as new for many years to come!
That said, there are a range of fashion companies in Quebec that, whatever their choices and reflections, converge on a common point: the passion of the people who make up this industry.
On Promenade Wellington, we’re fortunate to welcome such fine local companies as Harricana, Solios, La Vie en Rose, Grover and Marigold, as well as discovering a new one every month in our VerdunLuv ephemeral boutique, not to mention numerous retailers like Brock-Art, Dillingers and La Mistinguette.
For a list of fashion retailers on Promenade Wellington, click here!
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