Fashion & Shopping

17 Small Brands Redefining The Way We See Canadian Style

July 25, 2022

Canadian fashion is so much more than a winter-appropriate parka or head-to-toe denim. “Canadian style has evolved not only in terms of fashion norms and limitations. [It has] highlighted and celebrated the uniqueness of each human being,” Nancy Caouette, founder of Quebec brands Truand Truand and Little Yogis, says. “Many of us are questioning outdated ideologies that we no longer relate to, which is why we are still redefining the standards of beauty to include everyone and anyone.”

Thanks to an ever-growing number of designers and brands, the definition of our country’s style has become decidedly richer—and more sustainable. “Canadian style has definitely moved toward being more socially conscious and earth friendly,” says Jennifer Cheung, founder of Vancouver jewelry brand Fair. “Consumers are thinking about where their products and fashion purchases come from.”

The shift in consumer consciousness has, says Molly Spittal, creative director of Vancouver’s Decade Studio, led to a “purchasing evolution” pushed along by “the awareness of the environmental impact of overconsumption” and the power of knowing exactly where our dollars go. “I’m looking forward to the day when fast-fashion houses are forced to make big changes in their practices and pace to keep up with the huge shift in demand.”

This shift toward more sustainable style, insiders say, has much to do with the growing influence of small brands. “I believe that we have a direct impact on consumer education,” Caouette agrees. “With social media, it is possible to build communities … with whom we have certain similarities and where people can relate to each other’s experience. We can talk about real issues: the real costs behind the clothes, the environmental impact of the fashion industry. We review the systems, reduce our environmental impacts, and think of ways in which we can afford to be a little more daring due to small quantities.” —Aleesha Harris

Montreal’s Bouquet creates handbags that are like works of art. By Véronique Orban de Xivry, the bags include petite zip-top purses, totes and a sweet striped mini bucket design.

Decade Studio is disrupting denim, specifically the cotton variety. The brand is for anyone who has had a hard time finding the perfect fit in jeans and wants incredible denim made using a sustainable model. The inclusive styles range from size 25 to 50. Decadestudio.com

Vancouver designer Cheung creates adornments that span demi-fine to fine jewelry and wedding pieces using conflict-free and ethical materials—like recycled glass and gold.

There are hair accessories, and then there are the fantastically fashionable designs of Winnipeg’s Hello Darling. By Miriam Delos Santos, each head wrap, band and scrunchie boasts a whimsical twist—like a pom-pom-filled crown.

Milliner Jay Cheng offers classes in Toronto for those keen to make their own hat. Feeling less hands-on? Cheng’s designs are available in limited ready-made block styles, or by special order for a truly unique topper.

Kate Pierre uses her brand Kate&Frances to support the sustainable, slow-fashion movement and increase inclusivity in fashion by using only BIPOC models to show off her designs. Playing with volume, the Vancouver-manufactured range is size-inclusive, comfortable and timeless.

Mya Beaudry, an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, creates colourful scrunchies, scarves, hair bows and more. In addition to its core collection of accessories, the brand offers limited-edition drops on Sundays that often sell out.

Toronto’s Sarah Millman is behind slow-fashion brand Local Woman. With styles like the dreamy ruffled Cloud Blouse, these creations use deadstock fabric and limited runs to eliminate waste and stay exclusive.

Kristen Haines uses vegetable-tanned leather to create waist satchels, cross-body bags, pouches and more. The Edmontonian crafts the accessories between raising and homeschooling her kids, so supply is limited.

Sisters Myriam and Romy offer quality footwear through Maguire. From winter-ready boots to eye-catching oxfords, designs are dreamed up in Montreal and made in Europe. The Cortina Boot is an MVP.

Mckenna Bisson creates “easy-to-wear pieces” for the line Mas Montreal. Sweaters, T-shirts, jeans and dresses, the pieces are designed to inspire comfort and confidence.

Procuring a piece from Sooke, B.C.-based Olann Handmade may be a lesson in patience—there are waitlists for every design. Emily Mabel Scholes Williaume hand-knits each order with care, creating conscious fashion that’s sure to be retained for years.

Smythe, the Canadian label founded by Christie Smythe and Andrea Lenczner, has collaborated with Kataleen Webb, a James Bay Cree mixed Indigenous textile artist, on seven styles featuring four of Webb’s prints. Fifty dollars from each piece sold supports Indigenous Fashion Arts Toronto.

Métis designer Emma-Love makes dangling earrings featuring intricate bead designs inspired by traditional Métis techniques.

In Quebec, Truand Truand makes small-batch women’s clothing of sustainable materials like recycled polyester. Offering sizes XS to 4XL.

Aileen Lee designs minimalist dresses, tops and pants, made in Vancouver by sewers paid a living wage. The line’s cut-and-sew accessories are created by participants in the non-profit society Common Thread.

Oge Ajibe’s eponymous Vancouver label was born out of the designer’s early love of fashion. Now, she makes highly coveted eco-friendly clothing for everyday wear.

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