Is the Montreal Fashion Industry Dying?
It seems that I ask myself this question everyday these past few months with the closure of such an established and beloved industry name like Andy Thê-Anh. Now comes news that the lesser known, yet extremely talented Station 8 brand is closing as well. If not dying, it is safe to say that there is a serious problem with the fashion industry in Quebec and the future does not seem very bright either. The tragic death of more Montreal-based designers, shops and companies will continue to occur. So, who do we blame? Is there really something or someone specific we can blame for this phenomenon?
The competition in fashion is extremely ferocious. People do not buy our talents, and globalization is killing our local market with industry fast-fashion giants such as Zara, Topshop, Forever21, and, soon enough, Target taking prime spots in Montreal. The lack of government support and funding certainly does not help fix the situation. The US economic meltdown didn’t comfort our markets either.
Sure, all of the above is certainly true but, knowing all of this, I strongly think the true reason that our industry is slowly writing its own obituary is because it lacks innovation, drive and willingness to become more. We are content in being a small market, and have no vision of becoming a larger, more viable, more recognized, prouder, and more business-oriented marketplace. For instance, one is satisfied to make a very small, very local and not very well promoted and advertised fashion week for people from here; hipsters and the ‘did-you-see-me-at-his-show’ types who will be photographed and blogged about the next day. Our companies want and need the big orders to survive, the big exposure to be seen and the right people to create hype. That is why many of our talents decide to leave for Toronto or New York. It’s the reality of our market.
A fashion designer, and the Quebec fashion industry as a whole, also needs financial aid or backing to be able to survive. When an industry that provides thousands of jobs in the province is ailing, it’s important for it to be taken seriously when unwell. If this medium suffers, and it’s suffering at the moment, unemployment rises and placing well-trained and experienced designers, seamstresses, graphic and technical creators, artists, production and administrative workers becomes much harder. That is the true debate.
Instead of trying to find excuses for why it’s not working, it would perhaps be necessary to ask ourselves what we can do to remedy the situation. We need to examine if we, as a market, as a government, as people and customers, are doing our parts. Discussions or debates certainly will help to make changes and maybe progress will happen; a first good step that must be done. What do you think?