Designers across the country reacted to a need – and what it meant to their business.
Early last year, Greta Constantine designers Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong were returning to Toronto from Paris, where they presented their Fall 2020 Ready to Wear collection to eager buyers. “We had a pretty good season,” Pickersgill recalls. After thirteen days, the world reached a halt. According to the chaotic early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, “orders were canceled, left and right and center canceled.” Suddenly, the closure of their 15-year-old brand was a real possibility: “It was a sink or swim moment,” he says.
During a year where there was nothing to go and dress, the non-medical face mask was a must-have accessory; The Canadian Public Health Agency recommends that masks be worn outside your home within two meters of anyone, you cannot walk away without one. For many Canadian fashion designers, dull masks became a way to generate some revenue amid sales; But it also allowed them to connect with their industry peers and give back to the community.
Pickersgill found itself cutting and sewing for the first time in a decade, using the brand’s signature machine-washed bits to elaborately ruffle (and other very on-brand) to create a washable Italian microfiber knit Masks, which were intentionally sold instead of retailers, were direct to the consumer.
“[The face masks allowed] “I know it’s not the time to shop for events, but we’re still here for you,” the retailer said, interacting with the consumer, says Pickersgill. They say that work also affected his mental health.
Similarly, Julia Barnes, the Calgary-based designer behind the inclusive swimsuit line Honubele, who was found to be making masks, gave her a sense of purpose at the start of the epidemic. “It was never meant to be mass-produced,” says Barnes, who masks with centrifuge clothes from second-hand shops. The goal was not to turn a profit, she says: “It was more about giving back.”
As the Canadian designers created the masks, Canadian shoppers were eager to buy them. During the epidemic there was a base of support for local businesses – one Nina Khare, the designer of the female Rekha Noni, says she saw it for the first time. Although his brand is barely worn by Radar (a choice of Noni pieces Meghan Markle), Khare says that new consumers discovered Noni when they were looking for a Canadian-made mask.
“I’ve received so many emails from people saying, ‘I never even knew you’re present and I’m excited to find you because I’m always looking for a Canadian fashion line,” says Khare. Obtained a government contract for his business, selling non-medical masks, to produce medical-grade masks for health workers.
“We were producing 5,000 to 10,000 a week,” she notes. (The Calgary-based designer’s other epidemic project, Folds – a line of recycled and continuously manufactured antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial scrubs for medical professionals – was launched in January of this year and sold out immediately. Khare says That they are now taking pre-orders. Fielding willing to order scrub for their entire staff from hospitals. “
Consumers wishing to purchase a mask from a Canadian brand, however, do not always translate to purchasing from their original collection – and for many designers, they never saw face mask production as a long-term strategy.
Despite demand being so high that Barnes had to increase the price of its facade to cover the cost of shipping to customers across Canada, she does not plan to resume production. “Honubelle is just a small team,” she explains. “If I want to be right for the brand and what we do, there are not enough resources right now [mass] Production of face masks
At Greta Constantine, the facade sought to help with brand visibility and support retailers during a sales downturn. When they launched in May 2020, the face mask accounted for 25 percent of the brand’s total monthly revenue. In June, they were 50 percent. As of August, mask sales were only 20 percent of revenue – a sign that customers were once again ready to buy ready-to-wear and evening dresses.
But for other Canadian brands, masks have become part of their main collection. David Torjman, the founder of 18Waits, calls the mask “a real natural progression” for his menswear line. 18Waits masks borrow best-selling prints from their well-tailored shirts: Charcoal Herringbone and Indigo Vaishali. “The assistant has always played an important, but sartorically fun, part of the offering,” says Torjman, who sees the potential for masks to be a more fashionable outlet for creative expression (for the way the brand created their mask patterns Also made the tutorial) – Although the ability to be selective about your mask style is, of course, a luxury that all cannot afford. While the masks were not a big revenue driver – “we’ve probably given more masks than we sold,” he says, relying on e-commerce to replace the brand with lost sales from its closed brick and mortar location. – Selling them aligns with their brand DNA.
While designers around the world are still having one of the most challenging times in history, Pickersgill says she is optimistic about the future – and Canadian fashion. (And with good reason: earlier this year, inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wore a Greta Constantine gown. Time Magazine.) “It has created a completely different environment in the company and a new way of moving forward,” says Pickersgill of the Pandemic. “Right now, I can say that I’m ready for anything.”