Historically Winnipeg was Canada’s garment manufacturing centre.
They were called the ‘glory days’, when local models and photographers were celebrated, people dressed up to go out and fashion was an industry with gorgeous seasonal shows and mail order catalogues from the Hudson’s Bay Company and Eaton’s and advertising photo shoots, giving rise to downstream work for agencies, photographers, advertising agencies, designers and more.
Many parts of downtown Winnipeg were alive with apparel manufacturing. In fact, you could have created an entire collection walking to each factory – from sportswear, outerwear to leather and lingerie.
When Eaton’s and the Bay began to centralize their marketing efforts, and manufacturing went off-shore, Winnipeg fell off the radar, leaving the local fashion industry faltering. If there are any fashion events or any media attention, it is showcased in other Canadian cities, skipping right over Winnipeg.
Some of the remnants of those times remain; isn’t it time to resurrect them? The recent cancellation of Toronto Fashion Week, due to what IMG describes as “lack of finding” initially sent shock through the industry, but then new ideas began to surface. Ideas such as needing to reinvent not just the Toronto Fashion Week, but the Canadian fashion industry as a whole. The internet and social media have already reshaped how we consume information and products – especially fashion. As soon as consumers see something they like, they want to be able to buy it with the click of a button or visit to the store. They don’t want to wait six months.
Maybe it is time to jump out of our comfort zone and try something new.
That’s what we need to accomplish with the Shopology Project — a focus on the local fashion. To be the online resource for specifically for Winnipeggers to shop for fashion locally, to find the latest fashion right here at home, to feature our local designers, photographers, boutiques, share industry news and fashion events in Winnipeg, and help those aspiring fashionpreneurs to build their brand right here in Winnipeg.
Really, Winnipeg as a fashion hub?
Firstly, we are the centre of this continent.
The structure is all there. The Exchange District, Academy Road, Corydon Avenue, Osborne Village, Sherbrook Street, are all ideal places to begin, where Winnipeg’s fashion-forward residents can eschew the big box store and support the smaller, independent boutiques and designers.
We have four schools offering fashion courses and a solid list of brands that call Winnipeg home, the ingredients are there to bring Winnipeg’s fashion industry back to the forefront, creating a buzz locally, across the country and around the world.
Speaking of brands, Winnipeg can brag about many including MPG, (created by the same guys who created Mondetta and who have recently collaborated with Julianne Hough on a collection), Silver Jeans, Nygard, Manitobah Mukluks (who has been featured in a multitude of fashion magazines and worn by celebrities), and Canada Goose (founded in 1957 and recently becoming a household name for fashionable and functional Canadian parkas).
On the independent scale, designers such as Lennard Taylor, Rachel Jones of William Rhys, Alex Espinosa, along with celebrity stylist Kim Appelt and thrift shop stylist Bella McFadden are making waves in the fashion world but are not forgetting their roots. Rachel Jones, the young sensation behind William Rhys, sells her creations online and with the help of social media, but never leaving Winnipeg behind, residents can get first crack at her latest collection locally. This is the kind of endeavour that can bring Winnipeg back as a fashion powerhouse.
Shows, schools and boutiques abound.
While The Costume Museum of Canada was closed to the public in 2010, it continues to offer programs, which make the collection available to the public, including pop up and educational exhibitions. From the ground up, local students can learn and create, developing their fashion along with their entrepreneurial skills, with design programs available at the University of Manitoba, Red River College, Daniel McIntyre Collegiate (Winnipeg School Division) and Murdoch MacKay’s Fashion Technology College. There is a wealth of opportunity available for talented designers and entrepreneurs.
Local brands are committed to supporting local manufacturers. As consumers become more socially conscious of where their clothing is made, and the understanding of benefit to our own economy – locally made is becoming more influential on their purchasing habits. American brands are looking to their northern friends also, especially now with the development of CentrePort, and the value of their dollar. There are a handful of factories here in Winnipeg that see this resurgence and will assist with the design, development and manufacturing of a single unit or entire clothing line.
New boutiques are opening up all over the city, some you may have visited, and some you may not have heard of yet. These boutiques have an incredible selection, either custom created or lines brought to you, to their stores, because of the buyers’ impeccable taste. There really is no reason to go to other cities to shop. These designers and buyers are bringing you all the fashion you need.