It's not too late to save the local fashion industry
It’s no secret the Canadian fashion industry is struggling. We’ve written about the issue over, and over and over again.
We’ve seen label after label (Jeremy Laing, Lida Baday, Adrian Wu, Brandon Dwyer) disappear. A huge part of the challenge is that – unlike the music, book and magazine publishing, visual art, theatre and digital media industries – fashion isn’t considered a cultural industry by the Ontario or Canadian governments.
As it stands, Quebec is the only province that offers grants to fashion designers and events, ponying up more than $85 million since 2005.
Despite the lack of government support, the fashion industry employs over 50,000 people in Ontario. It indirectly creates jobs in other sectors like the arts, media, marketing and public relations. Locally, Toronto reports the city’s fashion boutiques generate $2.6 billion in annual sales. There’s little doubt that fashion has the potential to be a serious economic driver for Ontario.
But we’re falling behind the rest of the world. In Britain, the British Fashion Council (BFC) is in part funded by the government and has turned London into a go-to destination for buyers, media and fashion tourism.
Hong Kong’s government recently announced a HK$500 million (roughly $80 million) three-year pilot program to support its fashion industry. Some key objectives: create an incubation program for design start-ups, provide opportunities for overseas internships and study opportunities and promote homegrown labels through local and international events. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council also funds a Fashion Hong Kong runway show that travels the world to expose foreign buyers and consumers to the region’s talent.
Now, the Ontario government has agreed to review its existing cultural strategy for distributing about $800 million a year to the province’s cultural industries.
“In the history of Ontario, there’s never been a cultural strategy. This is the first time one is going to be delivered, and I think it’s a great opportunity to bring other sectors, like fashion and design, into the fold,” Michael Coteau, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, told us last spring.
A group of influential fashion players, including Jeanne Beker, David Dixon, Suzanne Rogers, CAFA (Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards) and FGI (Fashion Group International) have endorsed a petition created by fashion lawyer Ashlee Froese that asks the government to label fashion a cultural industry, thereby making it eligible for funding.
It’s not too late to save our fashion industry, and a signature can go a long way toward helping the powers that be recognize its true value.