Where do your clothes come from? Have you ever thought about it? According to FashionUnited.ca, Canada has 25,000 retail and wholesale fashion companies in total, of which 24,00 are retailers of fashion and fashion accessories, and the total annual turnover of fashion retailers is 28 billion Canadian dollars. However, many of these companies sell items that were manufactured overseas, and this has negative impacts on the Canadian economy, jobs, pollution, and more.
Purchasing from Canadian-made clothing brands has a wide range of benefits. Besides providing a valuable supply chain for national emergencies like COVID-19, making clothing locally reduces the environmental impact of transporting clothing, as the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of global carbon emissions, said the UN Environment Programme.
“It’s very important to support local fashion because it’s fueling the economy here,” said Kristi Soomer, founder and CEO of Encircled, a Toronto fashion house that prides itself on using almost entirely Canadian-made items. Their garment factories are less than 35 kilometres from their Toronto office, and they work with one of the only dye houses left in Ontario. “Buying local fashion creates jobs, and there are people who want these jobs and have the talent to do these jobs. Plus, we see a lot of designers who want to manufacture locally. It’s an opportunity to create a ‘refresh’ of the shopping industry as well as producing locally, and it’s more environmentally conscious.”
Just like any import, fashion materials and finished goods that are made on home soil don’t have to travel as far, so it reduces the carbon footprint. And then there are human rights aspects, the main reason Soomer has stayed as local as possible.
“We’re 35 kilometres from each of our factories and, prior to the pandemic, we would visit weekly. We have great labour regulations in Ontario, and many don’t exist overseas. That’s really a problem,” she explained. “I don’t think its right to exploit other people to make clothes cheaply in another country, and I don’t know how people can feel okay with wearing that.”
The buy-local movement in fashion may be something newer, but consumers have been examining the sources and ingredients in foods for a few years now. This has certainly raised awareness as to where we source our meat, produce and other goods. Even though food prices have been going up since the end of last year, most of that is due to extreme weather, food recalls, and the tightening of the borders between U.S. and Mexico – all of which are effects of importing.
“People are becoming more educated, and there’s been a huge up-levelling of knowledge as a consumer,” Soomer said. “People have been questioning the sources of their food, then their beauty products, and not we’re entering into a third phase and people are looking at their closet. They’re asking, ‘What goes into my clothing and how were the fabrics made?’ Everyone is asking more questions, and that’s the first step in a big change.”