Up-and-coming Canadian fashion designers at INLAND

Canadian fashion design

Images: INLAND

INLAND is bringing 40+ local Canadian designers to Toronto this weekend (September 26-27), for a curated showcase of finely crafted pieces. We checked in with Sarah Power, the founder of INLAND, to chat about the appeal of #MadeInCanada, what we can expect from this season’s INLAND, and what’s hanging in her closet.

Ask most people which brands dominate their closet, and many will reply that it’s some form of fast fashion. With Zara, H&M, and now COS all readily available within the downtown core, their ever-low price point and rapidly rotating stock are hard to resist. However, after a bit of thought, most people will also zero in on a favourite piece—something purchased from a boutique, something well-made and well-tailored, something treated with due respect at the end of a long day rather than thrown into the laundry basket. Enter the #MadeInCanada movement and INLAND.

Sarah Power—the founder of INLAND, a seasonal showcase of Canadian designers—knows her stuff. “I do love my striped tunic dress by Amanda Moss, for special occasions I have a beautiful silk, 2-piece (the top buttons to the bottom) dress by Beaufille and I’m crazy about my new Iris Denim jeans. They are the best fitting jean I’ve ever owned, and they’re made in Canada – all of my clothing is actually – that or it’s vintage.”

She adds that “It’s important for us to support and promote our identity as a creative culture by talking about and buying for more high-end, luxury and everyday products designed and made locally. The stories behind the brands are so powerful because they’re relatable. It’s the Canadian experience. We always say “Made in Canada Matters” because it speaks about the value of what is happening here in design – it matters because it’s incredible.”

Ask most people what their favourite Canadian designer is, and they’ll need a few minutes. It’s not surprising. Canadian manufacturing has suffered in recent years given the lofty expense of making clothes on Canadian soil. In 2003, Canada’s Least-Developed Country Tariff program was put into place, lifting duties on imports from 49 countries. Predictably, it placed a stranglehold on Canadian manufacturers.

This is precisely why a showcase like INLAND is timely and necessary. INLAND’s mission is, succinctly put: “To promote and propel the business of Canadian fashion and design,” according to Power. This weekend’s show will be the fourth, and selecting which designers to include is a serious undertaking. “Designers who are featured at INLAND are selected for their overall business sense and brand presentation including; style, innovative technique and material choices, production quality, market awareness and customer engagement. We look for the story behind the brand and the quality that comes through as a result,” Power says.

This season, you can expect “an incredible selection of contemporary Canadian-made collections, including 7 designers who have presented at World MasterCardFashion Week, 12 labels from Montreal and 2 from Halifax. We have designers who are launching for the first time ever like TMR Collectionand brands who have been in business for 25 years like Ça va de soi. Designers are getting very creative with their booth displays this year; the entire show/sale is a beautiful exhibit of Canadian creative talent – the best show yet in my opinion,” says Power. And as always INLAND offers you the opportunity to meet the designers, to hear their inspiration, and to glean a palpable sense of the human touch behind the fabric or metal.

So, how can the average consumer become more aware of and educated about local, independent designers (aside from visiting INLAND, of course)? Power declares that “A real movement is happening, keep your eyes and ears open.” If you’re keen to stay abreast on what’s happening in local Canadian design, she suggests following INLAND on Instagram. “We do a daily Instagram post on a new Canadian designer, focus on shopping at local Canadian-carrying boutiques like Coal Miner’s Daughter, Victoire, The Future of Frances Watson and engage with media when we see something posted about Canadian – it will encourage them to start talking about Canadian design more – and then hopefully (my ultimate goal), Canadian fashions and design will be as knowable by everyone.”

INLAND is clear about being a curated showcase of Canadian design, and it’s a business model that makes sense: gather some of the country’s best designers in one space, and give the public access. It’s a (much-appreciated) physical counterpart to online shopping sites. Power stands firm behind the idea of curated shopping, which she says “provides a high-quality, tailor-made setting for the consumer. People are busy and want what they want, but also seek the surprise of discovering something new. More importantly, they build a community around the designers, makers and shoppers,” says Power. She adds, “Having that connection to the persona who designed and made your wears is very powerful.”

If you can’t make it out to INLAND, but still want to bring home the Canadian fashion bacon, Power names “Shop Girls, Fresh Collective, Freedom Clothing, North Standard Trading Post, Easy Tiger Goods, Gotstyle, Model Citizen and Gerhard” as Canadian stock-carrying shops. “We’re working on compiling an online data base listing “Where to Shop Canadian” – so keep following. It’s time to see more Canadian in national retailers though; The Bay and at Holts especially.”

Finally, we have to bring it back to fast fashion. Most of us have fallen victim to H&M or Joe Fresh’s sweet, cheap siren song at one point or another, so if you need an extra push to buy Canadian, we ask Power to sum up the appeal of locally crafted pieces over fast fashion. Power’s response resonates with fashion lovers: “People are attracted to quality and personality in products. We want to make meaningful choices about what we buy. Life is too short and moments are too precious to be consumed and surrounded by mediocre experiences and cheap “stuff.” Canadian design is bursting with both personality and quality.”

Here are some of our favourite Canadian fashion designers on display at INLAND.

Valérie Dumaine
If you’re still asking “Why would I purchase from an independent designer?” check out Valérie Dumaine. Even a quick peek over the Montreal designer’s selection of womenswear and accessories answers it. From stunning prints, to elegant silhouettes, to tailored basics, Dumaine’s offerings grant you the sense of a secret find at an excellent price (most dresses top out around $200).

Canadian fashion design

Image: INLAND

ça va de soi
ça va de soi’s elegant, wear-everyday knitwear arose “from the need to create garments that exuded real soul, in a manner both timeless and seasonless,” and it succeeds. Beautiful materials, timeless colour and design, and lasting craftsmanship unite in pieces that are luxurious, but above all functional.

Canadian fashion design

Image: Provided

Amanda Moss
Two year old Montreal label Amanda Moss’ specializes in garments that may seem basic, but boast clean, classic, tailored silhouettes that are utterly wearable and transcend trends. Each piece is cut by hand, and the pieces are constructed in small Montreal factories. The result? Feminine frocks that are thoughtfully designed.

Canadian fashion design

Image: Amanda Moss LookBook ss15

Devlyn Van Loon
Toronto’s own Devlyn Van Loon produces edgy pieces that are completely wearable. The fabric is sourced from sweatshop-free mills, the pieces are handcrafted in a Toronto studio, and the design and minimalistic palette are meant to fit into (and elevate) your existing wardrobe.

Canadian fashion design

Image: Provided

Cadette Jewelry
Cadette’s minimal design is highlighted by unique gemstones, understated hues, and delicate proportions—in short, dainty jewelry that generates second (and third) glances.

Canadian jewelry design

Image: Provided

Eleven Thirty Shop
Eleven Thirty Shop is a Toronto storefront studio run by two self-taught designers who produce instantly eye-catching bags. The brand emphasizes quality materials, an at times whimsical, get-you-noticed aesthetic, and functional design.

INLAND

Image: eleventhirtyshop.com

Krista Norris
Remember that Aritzia blanket scarf that everyone had? (Even you.) If you ever had a twinge of discomfort when you saw someone else wearing it, take a closer look at Krista Norris’ meticulously crafted (and more importantly timeless) wingtip scarves. Designed to marry the appeal of an infinity scarf and the look of a regular scarf, this is functional quality.

Canadian fashion design

Image: INLAND

INLAND is on this Saturday (12PM – 9PM) and Sunday (12PM – 6PM) at the Glass Factory (99 Sudbury St.). Tickets are $5 at the door. 

Related Link: Style takes flight with designer Christopher Bates

What are your favourite Canadian fashion designers? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe

Alexandra Grigorescu

Alexandra is Vv Magazine's Managing Editor. Writer, reader, clothes horse, cinephile, foodie. Toronto.