In last week’s article, I discussed how white I perceived the fashion scene in Toronto to be and how the people with money ran the show. I should note there are a few key players and designers that are other ethnicities but they are outnumbered by white folks. What I want people to ask themselves is how this white fashion industry represents one of the most diverse countries on the planet? To me it does not.
As I mentioned last week, a lot of people think Canadian fashion is Canada Goose, parkas, flannel, the Canadian Tuxedo and other atrocities. For a vast majority of Canadian’s who perceive this to be fashion, they don’t even know what local designers live in their area or are spread across the country. I know a lot of my Moncton friends had no idea about some of the designers I wore or worked with until I started sharing their designs and content. A lack of education on the fashion industry is also completely acceptable. For a lot of people, fashion is frivolous, an extra in life that not a lot of people need and when you look at New Brunswick, the poorest province, I’m not sure many want to take the time to research and wear Canadian designers past Country Liberty. Fashion can also be seen as eccentric, considering a lot of the designs from Toronto artists I’ve seen I was unsure how they should even be worn. I get it. But I think a good place to start making fashion more accessible to everyone, is having representation in all areas of the fashion industry.
If Canada is going to be labelled as a diverse, multiculturally mosaic country, then why aren’t we seeing that in fashion? Last week when we interviewed Kyle Gervacy he mentioned fusing his St. Lucian roots with Asian flare to create his designs. This type of work needs to be celebrated, not just amongst St. Lucians in Canada but nationally. I’m not sure if there is this fear of wearing clothing that belongs to another culture and that being perceived as cultural appropriation, but I think for fashion to be accessible to everyone we need to decide as a country that our fashion industry includes all people from all places. If we were to design clothing that is for Canadians and by Canadians, that would be Indigenous bead work and designs (and I will be discussing that in next week’s blog). Canadian fashion should and could encompass all of the countries in which people have immigrated from to showcase how beautifully complex Canadian fashion is. I want to see Senegalese patterns on the run way next to Nigerian patterns, and Haitian designs, and Chinese work.
Not only would including the fashion works of all immigrants make fashion more relatable, it would also end the idea that fashion is for the elite, for those who can afford to make it, and that it is for white people to express themselves only. I think we know, as a society, that other cultures express themselves beautifully through fashion. Living in Toronto, I stopped on the streets many times to admire cultural clothing, African dresses, Indigenous clothing and wanted to understand the intricacies in how it was made. There is no reason that these designs can’t be showcased. It would bring in a new demographic of guests to these fashion shows, as guests and as clothing showcased. If the government is not going to help with funding the fashion industry because it is not seen as art, yet clothing is fundamental to self expression and is a basic necessity in the way we live today (everyone wears something) why can’t we encourage anyone who makes clothes to partake in fashion shows. Maybe these people don’t have a complete fashion line or website? Maybe they’re vendors. Maybe they worked selling clothes in Ghana and have brought their work here with them once they immigrated. Those pieces could still touch and move people.
This type of inclusion for all Canadians to partake in the fashion industry could eradicate the classicism of the fashion industry, end the portrayal that the fashion industry is for the white rich people of Toronto and show a unity throughout the country that Canadian fashion is Everyone’s fashion. The fashion industry is a large business and having only white people profit on it continues systemic racism. No matter what country you are from, your clothes should be modelled, your work should be shared and you should be able to make money off of your art if you want to.