Can Canadian Fashion Withstand COVID-19? 11 Designers Weigh In

Photo: Courtesy of Hayley Elsaesser.
When Toronto Fashion Week was unceremoniously cancelled (again) in January, it was already clear that Canadian fashion was in a state of flux. Designers scrambled to find somewhere to show their upcoming collections and industry insiders whispered about the unstable future of fashion in this country.
Then the global pandemic hit.
 
Like most small business owners, Canadian designers are now facing terrifying financial uncertainty as people shop less and the country’s biggest gala events have been postponed or cancelled. With bricks-and-mortar retail only now slowly opening up again, others have had to move their entire businesses online. Some labels are at risk of not surviving the pandemic and others are at a standstill.
On the other hand, the rally cry to buy local has never been louder. Designers and manufacturers with access to fabrics have pivoted to making cloth masks and protective gear for frontline workers proving that the ability to make clothing and face accessories right here at home is essential. Creativity has always been part of the job, but designers are finding unique ways to keep their brands going. Hamilton-based Hayley Elsaesser has had to organize photo shoots from home, while Jordan Stewart of RVNG is doing dress fittings over Zoom from her studio in small-town Ontario. 
 
Here, complete with their own self-portraits from home, 11 Canadian designers share their biggest worries about the future of their brands, how they are staying creative, and what they’re wearing in quarantine.

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