Canada may not be the first country that comes to mind when considering denim destinations, but members of the Canadian apparel industry foresee that changing as brands look for ways to bring manufacturing closer to home. Canadian residents Sydney Beder, disruptor and senior design director at Beder and Co. and Roots, and Kathy Cheng, president of apparel manufacturer WS & Co., hope to change that.
During a Kingpins24 Canada webinar last week, panelists discussed Canada’s history as a hot spot for apparel manufacturing, at one time housing a production location for Levi’s, as well as Hash Jeans, Rainbow Jeans and other notable denim brands.
During his time as a distributor, Beder was credited in the denim community for bringing premium denim brands to Canada and breaking the $100 price point—a significant price tag for denim in the late ’80s.
“When I first started in the industry, there was a large number of denim brands actually producing in Canada,” Beder said. “There were choices, and it was a great time. Since then, for some reason that’s fallen away.”
Though the country’s stake in denim eventually wavered, the Covid-19 pandemic resurfaced a need for local production. Generally, Canada lacks the infrastructure needed to produce denim at scale, but WS & Co., and its in-stock clothing line, Redwood Classics Apparel, is a step in the right direction.
According to Cheng, working with Canadian partners provides more benefits than just the obvious value associated with local production.
“One thing people aren’t really thinking about when looking at the country of origin is whether it’s taking advantage of trade agreements,” she said. “With the world being the way it is and all the trade imbalances, to be able to make within a country that has 14 active trade agreements globally, and is the only G7 country that has trade agreements with all other G7 countries, I think that in itself adds a lot of value when you look at dollars and cents from a sourcing perspective.”
Working with partners in Canada ensures the garments meet a high standard, as there are three levels of governance to which products must adhere, she added. For these reasons, Cheng says a higher price tag is necessary—and it’s up to the consumer to then decide whether they want to invest in the future.
And while local production is applauded in some industries, it’s generally overlooked in apparel.
“We celebrate farm-to-table—the food industry is now celebrating chefs that are using local supply chains and local ingredients,” she said. “But when was the last time we celebrated [someone who makes our clothes]?”