Canadian Fashion Industry

Changes in Global Business

Brief Background and History of the Fashion Industry in Canada

From the early 17th century to the mid-19th century, the clothing industry in Canada was largely dependent on the fur trade. During the fur trade, First Nations people traded furs and fresh meat with Europeans, in exchange for metals and cloth goods.

Before the 19th century, all the clothing in Canada was made by hand - primarily by women.

Clothing in Canada was not produced in large quantities until the mid-19th century, which is around the same time the sewing machine was introduced to Canada.

In 1846, Elias Howe obtained a patent from the U.S. government for his model of the sewing machine. About one or two years later, the U.S. began to export many sewing machines to Canadian companies. During the 19th century, many American sewing machines were sold in Canada.

Around the year 1860 many Canadian industries producing sewing machines came about. The sewing machine evolved over time, as inventions tend to do. The increasing sophistication of the sewing machines, combined with the migration of skilled workers from the U.S., created a new clothing production industry in Canada.

The history of the clothing industry sheds light on the importance of international trade. If it was not for international trade, Canadians would still be weaving textiles. International trade allowed the sewing machine as well as skilled workers who knew how to use it, to enter Canada. This allowed Canadian clothing retailers to come about - making it much easier for Canadians to obtain clothing. This occurrence, made life much easier for the majority of Canadians as well as humanity as a whole.

Below is a picture of the Elias Howe's first model of the sewing machine.

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Advancements in Technology within the Canadian Fashion Industry

Wearable Technology

Canadian apparel companies are currently able to manufacture wearable technology. Products like Nymi, a technological bracelet that saves time by connecting to the wearer's devices and automatically enter passwords. Also, Muse, a brain sensing headband that allows the wearer to reduce stress, control games and improve their memory and concentration.

3D Printing

3D printers are a useful invention that can aid in the production of new apparel trends. It helps many new and existing designers to seek “innovation in both materials and processes for designing and producing clothing.”


Social media is an easy and affordable way to access international markets and build a larger pool of foreign consumers. Apps like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter makes fashion marketing efficient because it provides access to consumers of different ages, genders, ethnicity, preferences and social positions.

New Processes


Many Canadian companies now have manufacturing plants in countries other than Canada. This is due to the fact that labour in Canada is very expensive, so in order to maximize profit, many clothing retailers create garment plants in other countries.

An example of a garment manufacturing factory that made clothing for a Canadian company was the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, the Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013, killing more than 230 people . Occurrences such as this spark a debate on how ethical it really is to have garment manufacturing plants in third world countries .

Another example is of Aldo, a Canadian retail brand which sources about 60 percent of its products in China.


The concept of online shopping has revolutionized the clothing industry in Canada. Online shopping has given Canadians a very wide range of options to chose from. This is because many clothing retailers who are not based in or do not have a location in Canada, are able to ship to Canada. Nowadays, nearly all clothing websites have the ability to ship one’s purchases right to their doorstep.

An example of a clothing retailer that does not have a location in Canada but does ship to Canada is Dash Boutique - which is an American clothing retailer.

An example of a Canadian clothing retailer that ships to the US is La Maison Simons.


E-Commerce is the easiest and most efficient way for apparel retailers to promote their business to the world. Not including television ads and posters, social media, virtual magazines, fashion shows and apps are the most used sources to advertise fashion products. For example, Aritzia has an Instagram page to display its most in demand products. There are also specified fashion apps and/or games like Covet Fashion and Polyvore, through which users are able to purchase or use real clothing brands to create an outfit.

New Attitudes and Trends

Environmental Awareness

The fashion industry is one of the most damaging industries for the environment. However, certain actions are taken to raise environmental awareness because of constant cultural and behavioral changes. For example, Fashion Takes Action, a full day workshop, provides its students with thorough information about labour rights, consumerism and environmental effects of the fashion industry, discussing the problems and solutions to such issues. Also, in Vancouver, Canada, an Eco Fashion Week takes place, in which its purpose is to inform and inspire others that sustainable fashion can still be fashionable while protecting the environment. Other actions within the Canadian fashion industry are taken to protect the environment like organic farming, recycling and ethical labour.

Health Concerns

The most recent health concern within the fashion industry is the "size zero culture", in which models and the general public are exposed to major health risks. This is because the "ideal" body type common display encourages eating disorders and poor eating habits, slowly damaging the body. Not only that, the "size zero culture" has negative psychological effects where it lowers self-esteem and self-worth, in which can lead to serious mental illnesses like anxiety and/or depression. Also, eco-friendly jewelry sold at Aldo and Ardene is made out of cheap materials including a poisonous element, known as Cadmium. Cadmium is a carcinogen that may lead to serious or fatal illnesses if ingested by children.


Certain consumers are currently aware that chic, trending fashion comes with a terrible cost - unethical labour and sweatshops. The employees often work overtime for a very low wage. They work in an unethical, dangerous environment, in which they can often experience verbal or physical abuse. Therefore, War on Want is a worldwide movement with a vision to fight against the root causes of poverty and human right violations. Also, some consumers boycott brands that use sweatshops to produce their products. In any case, social media changed the world of fashion, making it easier for retailers to interact with their consumers throughout the world.