Success for local fashion designers without leaving Halifax

Halifax has established itself as a thriving niche for designers who once felt they did not have a market to sell in.

By Jessamyn Griffin

Pamela McInnis poses in front of her logo Cranky hidden amongst the trinkets in her boutique Put Me On (Jessamyn Griffin).

Halifax has established itself as a thriving niche for designers who once felt they did not have a market to sell in.

“When I first graduated from (the Costume Studies program at Dalhousie), I wanted to start my own label (but) it wasn’t feasible locally,” said Director of City Models, Angela Campagnoni.  Campagnoni started Atlantic Fashion Week in 2008 in response to the lack of opportunities available for local designers.

“There wasn’t a lot of support for unknown labels…so I wanted to beef up the local fashion industry.”

Designers wanting to partake in Atlantic Fashion Week don’t have to pay to be in the show. City Models relies on the community for sponsorship and ticket sales to keep down the cost for designers.

“In Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver it’s $5000 for a designer to be in a show and that doesn’t include models and (other production components such as hair and makeup),” said Campagnoni.

Pamela McInnis, owner of vintage and consignment store, Put Me On, doesn’t think that designers have to leave Halifax to be recognized. She designs her own clothing line, Cranky, which she produces in the store. She believes the pieces produced in the Halifax region are unique enough to sell alongside established international brands.

“In my shop all of our jewelry is locally made and when people come in they lose their mind when they see the local stuff! So I think keeping it local and contained is good,” said McInnis.

McInnis keeps her pieces original by only using one fabric pattern per garment.

She recycles material from old clothes to form her own creations.

“I make all off my clothing by hand in the store during open hours. I think the fact that it’s made and sold in the same store makes it different,” said McInnis.

Designer Adrien Labrecque thinks that consumers prefer big brand labels because people trust places that are more established. Labreque also runs the Brunswick Street vintage emporium, Spree. He is aware of the type of things that Haligonian customers are looking for.

“You see it everywhere, different mentality drives different consumers at different stores. We have our clientele and they have theirs,” he said.

Sweet Pea boutique owner, Johanna Galipeau says she doesn’t always have to seek out of province designers for well made clothing. Galipeau looks for well made, affordable and local designs to stock in her shop. However, she thinks that some of the price points for Canadian would be to high for her customers to afford.

“I originally wanted just Canadian designers. A lot of it is expensive so it kind of broke my affordable fashion rule so I had to make some compromises,” said Ms. Galipeau.

Though she does carry non-Canadian brands, Galipeau stresses the importance of nurturing Canadian designers.

“I support local because it is just good for our economy and so we can develop as a more fashionable country.”

Check out this video of Adrien Labrecque discussing his design plans for his June 2011 collection.