City of Toronto

Fashion/ Apparel

Male and female models in dark clothesFuelled by acclaimed designers, trendsetting retailers and skilled manufacturers, Toronto’s fashion cluster has reinvented itself to respond to changes in the global market.

Fashion facts

A recent study for the Apparel Connexion revealed the following:

  • U.S. and Canadian companies look to Toronto manufacturers for quality garments, quick turn-around, flexibility and reliable service.
  • Toronto's experienced workforce ranges from cutters, sewers and pressers to art directors, makeup artists and hairstylists.
  • The city is the learning centre for the industry. Fashion programs are offered by George Brown College, Ryerson University, Seneca College, the Toronto Film School, and others. In 2010, Ryerson launched Canada's first Master of Arts degree (MA) in Fashion.
  • The industry is growing, creating new jobs and opportunities. It is a modern industry, no longer defined merely by the location of a sewing machine, but based on its economic output throughout its value chain.
  • Following the shift of manufacturing offshore due to trade-liberalization, combined revenues of Canadian apparel manufacturers and wholesalers were virtually unchanged – proving that the industry shifted business models to adapt to changing realities.
  • The industry is centred on domestic product development, rather than production.
  • Employers are optimistic about the future, projecting substantial employment growth in both service and production personnel over the next two years.

Innovation

Innovation and success never go out of style in Toronto. The traditional hub of the business is found in the city's fashion district - a 35-block area in the downtown, King-Spadina neighbourhood. However, the industry shows no sign of standing still, with manufacturing, retail and wholesale locations across the city.

  • According to Bob Kirke of the Canadian Apparel Federation, "Our industry is smaller now, but sharper. It's all about innovation, value-added services, developing niche products and finding new markets. Production jobs are more technically advanced and demand higher levels of skill."
  • Toronto has the third largest design workforce in North America, with over 28,000 designers working in the city. Almost 75% of Ontario designers in the category that includes fashion design make their home in Toronto. Susan Langdon, of the Toronto Fashion Incubator has said, "Toronto designers have a unique voice. It's the main reason why our fashion market is doing so well."

Key players

  • The Joe Fresh offers chic and affordable apparel for men and women, kids, intimates, sleepwear, swimwear, sunglasses, jewelry and beauty. It is available at over 300 locations across Canada, including a new store at Queen and Portland designed by award-winning Canadian design firm Burdifilek. Following the success of the Joe Fresh Summer Store in East Hampton, six locations were opened in New York and New Jersey in October 2011. Joe Mimran, Creative Director said "The response to the brand in the United States so far has been extraordinary…"
  • For over 50 years Toronto's Canada Goose has been producing the best expedition parkas, arctic gear and extreme cold weather down jackets in Canada. The company's outerwear is known worldwide for its quality, and a fashion credibility so high retailers sell out season after season.
  • Roots co-founder Michael Budman has said, "This is the busiest we've been in the history of the company."  The company's 50,000 square-foot factory in North York, one of the best in the world, employs 200 people making hand-stitched leather bags and footwear.  Almost half of Roots merchandise is manufactured in Canada. 
  • Fashion Television and magazines such as Elle Canada, Fashion, Flare and LouLou, as well as the fashion sections of the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star promote Toronto's companies to local consumers.
  • Find Toronto stores that carry at least 50% locally designed product.

Industry support

  • The Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), is a global leader that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012. With shared production facilities, studio rentals, office assistance, seminars and promotional opportunities, TFI helps fashion entrepreneurs develop their creative and business skills, with over 500 members from across Canada, 6 million website visitors and 300,000 industry influencers annually.  It has been a model for similar centres created in Dublin, New York and St. Petersburg, among others.  TFI's graduates include David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, Sunny Fong, Pina Ferlisi, creative director of Alexander McQueen's diffusion line McQ, Foxy Originals, Juma, Todd  Lynn, Arthur Mendonca and Mercy.
  • World MasterCard Fashion Week a twice-yearly event hosts over 60 designer runway shows and presentations, drawing thousands of fashion industry professionals and key influencers from across Canada and around the world to Toronto's fashion district. More than 40 collections are presented over 5 days by veteran, emerging and up-and-coming designers.

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