Canada Fashion Network
Strengthening the Industry to Bring Canadian Fashion into the Global Spotlight.
If there is one thing 2020 has shown us, it is that many Canadian designers have been struggling for years and have fought for recognition in an oversaturated market. The Canadian Fashion industry has a wealth of creative talents with an immense love of homegrown fashion style but has not been able to grow beyond small business status. With COVID-19, some of the homegrown brands– without the opportunity of support– are anything, but inspired. Over the years, many non-profit corporations established to advocate for Canadian Fashion, but one organization is taking it further to bring that inspiration back. Canada Fashion Network/Réseau de la mode du Canada, a new non-profit corporation, on a mission to put Canadian Fashion in the global spotlight by supporting and strengthening the industry creatives at a national level.
Started by Co-Founders Lidia Tesfamicael and Luxi Mathi, it initially began in 2018 under the name, Ottawa Fashion Network. It later changed to Canada Fashion Network/Reseau de la Mode du Canada, as a non-profit organization, to build a community for the Canadian fashion industry and strengthen Canadian Fashion’s impact on the global economy. The network is open to all supporters, designers, fashion enthusiasts, photographers, videographers, makeup artists, stylists, models, and influencers.
“As a black woman, I wanted to create a platform to change the stigma around Canadian fashion and put my efforts to create equal opportunity for a better future in the industry.” — Lidia Tesfamicael.
“Fashion is a form of art, and as Canadians, we have the fundamental right to exercise our freedom of expression through the clothing we wear, create, design, sell and/or purchase. To successfully achieve this, we have to create an environment that allows these individuals to succeed.” — Luxi Mathi.
What was the inspiration to start the organization?The inspiration of CFN/RMC was to find the answers to the questions we all have throughout Canada. Due to the pandemic, stores are being forced to close, Canada has been dependent on other global allies (i.e. China for PPE) because of the lack of manufacturing and resources. There was an increased need for many questions to be answered and solved. People are continuously seeking guidance or support. We saw the ultimate need for a Canadian fashion community to come together, and spark the conversation to raise awareness and implement long-lasting change. We have been working on this initiative for a few years and the Canadian fashion industry has been hiding in the shadows of our own nation, it’s time for it to come to light.
What value does CFN offer to the industry?Canada Fashion Network brings meaningful insights for development, investment and business relations. Our focus is to close the gap between the Canadian fashion industry and global participation. We believe in equal knowledge, participation and opportunity, as we are here and open for anyone across Canada interested in participating in the Canadian fashion industry.
What are you looking to achieve from CFN?Our goal is to understand how we can succeed as a nation and to develop the Canadian fashion sector across Canada, while creating more jobs, resources, and investments. It is important for us to continue to push and educate the community to understand that “Made in Canada” fashion and production is essential and crucial to our country’s development. Furthermore, looking at the successes of dominant global allies in the industry, the opportunities for Canada are exponential, both nationally and internationally, and will further advance the nation’s social and economic infrastructure. As CFN/RMC continues to grow, we plan to address the ongoing unaddressed issues including: cultural awareness and appropriation, carbon emissions, financial aid, inadequate education curriculum, inclusivity, international development, lack of a community unifying efforts across Canada, media coverage, legal representation, promotion abroad, safety, sustainability, technology, trust and available research preventing and limiting the development of industry.
What are you proud of about the Canadian fashion industry, and what, according to you, is unique about Canadian Fashion?
Craftsmanship. The creativity, beautiful art and hard work of Canadian creators have to be shown and celebrated. Whether it may be garments, shoes, jewelry, bags, outerwear, etc., we have so much hidden talent across the nation that we have to provide a platform to showcase, and help nurture. We must make opportunities to express Canada’s rich culture and perspectives.
What is your opinion on the current fashion industry?
The fashion industry is diminishing, and is crucial to our national identity and our diverse population, and continues to be undervalued which is evident through the lack of support, community, manufacturing, funding and media exposure. We must change the narrative. It is important now more than ever to have these conversations and truly pay attention to the community’s needs, so that we can resolve the ongoing issues for the betterment of the community. Change begins with creating “community”, having more diversity in teams, creating safe spaces, and promoting inclusivity.
Many believe that it is up to the next generation of fashion talents to shape the fashion industry’s future. How can that happen when the ‘up and coming talents’ lay hidden and overshadowed by those already established?
We need to start now by nurturing our industry and invest in our structure. Create unity to “even” the playing field by providing more opportunities. Having better education to maintain the industry’s skills in Canada. The failure to nurture our industry will mean that our up-and-coming talents will be walking directly into the present ongoing issues. The current ways of doing things have kept us in a vicious cycle that is hard to break out of. However, our approach is constantly evolving and being consciously community-minded, so we can all develop and grow together.
What is the current problem within the Canadian fashion industry?
The current problems and challenges in starting a fashion business starts with the lack of insight into the industry, lack of market research available and lack of guidance and mentorship when looking to find these answers. Understanding the market, customer basis or the product value is very difficult. Even with e-commerce being a great way to sell, most creatives do not know how to market themselves and participating in local shows does not guarantee the entrepreneur sales. As much as we love our passion, we need to be set up to sustain ourselves and be profitable. This is why it is important for us to advocate for recognition, production, government support, financial aid, job opportunities, fashion related emissions, sustainable fashion and so on.
Amongst the non-profit corporations that advocate for Canadian Fashion, how is CFN different?
We are different because we are focused on advocacy and developing the Canadian fashion industry canadawide. We have currently been building relationships with other organizations, schools, and agencies to help build a stronger community, pool together resources and get our fashion leaders together to guide the community on how we can make the Canadian fashion industry better together and support and positively impact our community.
Your insights on how the fashion industry should approach moving forward? How do you want to see the future of the fashion industry change?
We believe that the fashion industry nationally and internationally is changing for the better. Canadians are excited and are starting to use their voices through our platform to show how much we all truly care about our industry as a collective. People are realizing that we are behind as an industry, and need to change the way Canadian fashion is approached– through meaningful conversations. Moving forward, we want to see solutions for “Made in Canada” production, more support outside of the industry, as well as, media coverage and global participation.
What inspires the organization to move forward?
We love what we do at Canada Fashion Network, and our community inspires us every day.∎