So far the blogs I’ve written this month have tried to shed light on the experiences I, as a woman of colour, have had in the fashion scenes of Atlantic Canada and Toronto. In next weeks blog I will more concretely explain where I think Canada’s fashion needs to steer for more widespread growth. This week I wanted to touch on how in some of the darkest times of 2020, success has been in abundance for others in the fashion scene and why I think this is relevant to the conversation.
I do firmly believe that in dark times, communities come together and help one another. The most prevalent suffering we have all experienced, and still are experiencing as a whole is the COVID-19 pandemic. While a lot of us may not agree on vaccinating, masks, and how to end this thing, we have all seemed to agree that the suffering of small businesses is unfair and unjust and many people like myself have tried to make a difference by shopping locally. About a year ago, when the pandemic started, I used the extra money I was making thanks to the pandemic bonus to support fashion designers in Toronto I liked and admired. I bought my masks and post-pandemic outfits from designers I had worked with or seen while living there because I knew that the fashion industry was always difficult in terms of being financially stable and that the pandemic was really hurting some of these businesses. As the pandemic has continued to rage on, I have seen many designers coming together for collaboration, finding new ways to market themselves during the pandemic, and some different businesses are even thriving despite having no foot traffic because of various degrees of lockdown.
In a similar vein, the influx of Black Lives Matter protests last summer as a response to the murder of George Floyd has helped Black owned businesses globally. Our guest last week, Daisy Badu from Paba Cosmetics even shed light on how there has been an increase in resources listing Black owned businesses, better allyship from white people to help Black people find more Black businesses and how social media has increased knowledge of what Black businesses exist as a whole. Despite the crushing reason why these protests happened, yet again Black communities have come together to support one another, to give the Black dollar back to Black communities and we have seen that despite this pandemic Black businesses are thriving as well.
I believe that now is a crucial time for Black businesses to angle themselves for success post pandemic. Now I am no business major, but what I do know is that for once in a very long time there seems to be a huge spotlight on what Black businesses offer. Because of the pandemic, our use of social media is on the rise and using these platforms to see what Black businesses are out there has increased drastically. For myself, I went from supporting Toronto designers at the beginning of the pandemic, to researching Black owned hair products, Black owned skincare lines and Black Canadian fashion designers to see who else I could help because I think all small businesses are deserving. All of this research is what has lead me to writing these few blogs about how white the fashion scene is in Canada when I know there are a multitude of Black designers that are extremely talented and could represent another view of Canadian fashion. I should have highlighted in my previous blogs that there is African Fashion Week Toronto, and I have had the fortune of attending a few events, but why sidle all 54 African countries into one week when they should be infiltrating every aspect of Toronto fashion and of Canadian fashion.
2020 was a crucial year in being “woke” as the kids say. I think most communities realized that we must love thy neighbour because the government only has the prosperity of the 1% in mind (or at least, that was my take). I believe the growth of the Canadian fashion scene on a global scale will come from how we choose to showcase all of the multiculturalism we have in this country. Most Canadians seem to be tired of the racism we are sweeping under the rug, be it the mistreatment of Indigenous people, Black people, Anti-Asian hate, or any other ethnicity that isn’t white. While some see social media and the increasing technology as worrisome I am glad it is keeping everyone accountable. Knowing how many POC and allies are searching who makes different products and how products are being made makes me hopeful for a more inclusive fashion industry, with increased sustainability. Overall, it seems to be what the people want. It’s unfortunate that we had to suffer together to come out stronger in the end, but I am hopeful both the pandemic and the death of George Floyd which was a catalyst for more Black Lives Matter protests will result in the support of more Black owned businesses and by proxy Black fashion designers will be sought out by Canada’s fashion experts.