INLAND Founder Sarah Power Chats About Supporting Canadian Designers
As a Canadian shopping event which hits Toronto this weekend, INLAND is set to feature over 40 emerging Canuck designers, including Montreal-based Travis Taddeo and Toronto-based Hilary MacMillan.
The event will showcase collections from the rising design talents, who are expected to display their pieces to potential buyers and shoppers at Toronto’s Glass Factory. With a focus on local labels, INLAND aims to bring attention to the Canadian fashion industry. Real Style caught up with the event’s founder and executive director, Sarah Power, about the inspiration behind INLAND and the value of supporting Canadian designers.
Photo: Hilary MacMillan
Real Style: How does INLAND work?
Sarah: INLAND was created to promote and support the business of fashion in Canada by providing opportunities for emerging and established designers and brands to take their collections to the retail market. Designers essentially lease a “booth” (that they then design and create into their own mini boutique) for two days in a shared 5,000 sq. ft gallery warehouse space. They focus on their collection and manage their sales, while as organizers and promoters, INLAND takes care of all the rest. Designers sell direct to customers, so they make full retail profit rather than wholesale or commission, and shoppers get the valuable experience and education of meeting the designers in person. Overall, the Canadian fashion and design industry becomes more accessible to the masses. We also invite media, buyers and shop owners to attend our Industry Evening to source for new collections and to help bridge important B2B connections.
Real Style: What gave you the idea to do these events? Were they very successful in the past?
Sarah: I worked for The Clothing Show for a few years during and after school and realized then that Canadian designers needed more curated opportunities to sell and grow their brand. There was a small “boutique” section with mostly Canadian designers that I adored and always wanted to promote exclusively and in a much more styled setting. Years later I met a designer – Angie Johnson from Norwegian Wood, a Montreal clothing line – who was selling at The City of Craft (the true pioneer of indie markets in Toronto). It was so wrong, she didn’t belong with craft! It struck me that there was this whole segment of designers that weren’t craft, but not quite Fashion Week either. I set out to fill that gap and happened to learn along the way that designers, including those who had presented at #WMCFW, need more opportunities to sell and connect and grow their brand as well. So now my sights are even higher. It’s been a wonderful evolution so far. We’ve only done two shows (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015) and are now heading into our third this September 26 and 27. The show is even more curated to include a total of 50 designers participating, including 6 former WMCFW presenters, in the line-up. Our shopper numbers doubled from our first to second show and we’re anticipating that same growth again this season.
Real Style: How did you locate all these designers and get everyone together?
Sarah: I have been following Canadian fashion for a long time. While studying Fashion at George Brown in 2007, I started researching the Canadian market to learn more about other experiences and success stories as a way to fuel my own confidence as a designer. Then, while working at The Clothing Show, I started getting to know a few local designers, witnessing how hard they worked, and that’s where it all clicked. I started researching, collecting business cards, emails, websites, paying attention very closely all the time and taking note of what was happening.
Canadian-carrying boutiques started popping up, with Canadian focused blogs, magazines, and all types of incubator activities and networks. I created the INLAND concept, branded it and started reaching out through email and a lot of phone calls. The industry responded. Canadian designers need more opportunities and INLAND is fresh, well styled and affordable for them to launch and supplement their business.
Real Style: How important do you think it is for consumers to support Canadian designers?
Sarah: Extremely important. I believe in supporting all Canadian industries. It’s vital that we invest in ourselves (in Canada) in order to ensure a sustainable future both culturally and economically. Speaking specifically about fashion and apparel though, did you know that the number of people working in the Canadian garment manufacturing industry has declined by over 70 per cent in the last decade? That’s a lot of misplaced people and a very sad loss of talent, trade and skill. One of the reasons emerging designers struggle is because production is so difficult to source and balance financially. The entire industry needs a significant boost of support and it should really start form home.
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