TORONTO— Coinciding with Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week comes INLAND, a start-up founded in 2014 that provides a platform for Canada’s contemporary and next generation fashion designers to connect directly with consumers, retail buyers and press.
“Despite fashion week being really popular in the city, there’s still exclusivity that happens around the fashion scene in Canada, and I really want to make Canadian fashion and design accessible to the masses,” said Sarah Power, entrepreneur and Founder of INLAND.
INLAND aims to boost the economy of fashion in Canada by helping re-grow the community of independent designers through its two-day fashion retail events held each Spring and Fall at the Glass Factory, located at 99 Sudbury in Toronto.
Mary Young is a young Canadian-based designer of her self-titled lifestyle clothing line, focusing on lingerie and loungewear. This is Young’s second season with INLAND and expresses a great deal of growth and support since her fall showcase. Young is without a doubt, one of INLAND’s success stories.
“A lot of bloggers have picked up on my brand,” she said. “INLAND is great because I sell mostly online and being at a pop-up like this gives me the opportunity to interact with consumers and see what they’re saying about the product, what designs they like or don’t like, and especially just hearing the feedback inspires me to keep going and doing what I do.”
Some of the biggest challenges for today’s Canadian fashion designers are customer awareness, support, and accessibility. Within the last decade, the number of people employed in the Canadian apparel industry has declined over 70 per cent and Power aims to solve these challenges with INLAND.
“The designers are so amazing in this country and there’s a little bit of a lack of focus being put on the quality that’s happening here,” said Power. “It’s about the commerce being built around it; dollars need to be spent in order for the industry to be sustained and INLAND is about getting people down here and shopping!”
The two-day event connects clientele directly with the designers behind the labels, closing the gap between design and commerce in Canada.
“INLAND is extremely important because it gives a platform for Canadian designers and artists to express and showcase what they’re doing,” said Yanal Dhailieh, founder of Peace Collective. “This is our first time with INLAND and it’s been great so far. We’ve also created a great platform that allows Torontonians to get clothing and garments that help them rep and showcase the pride for their city.”
INLAND encourages consumers to not only shop local, but also discover and meet new designers, while learning about their stories and journeys into the Canadian apparel, accessories and jewelry industry.
“INLAND is one of the firsts that really put attention back on Canada,” admitted Young. “We’re a very modest country and we don’t take pride in designers or really anything that we have. It’s just about supporting each other, building a community of designers that work well together, and putting money back into our economy is a really great thing. INLAND is definitely doing that and doing a good job at it too.”
Although approximately 50 independent Canadian designers showcased their collections at INLAND this season, a portion of them selflessly donated a percentage of proceeds to a good cause with each purchase. For instance, 10% of Mary Young’s pink items will be donated to ‘Rethink Breast Cancer’ for the month of October. In addition, Peace Collective has partnered with ‘Breakfast For Learning’ so that every garment sold provides a week of school meals to a child in need.
When asked about the future of INLAND, Power’s face lit up with an ambitious response, “It would be amazing to start a trade show in the Canadian marketplace that really focuses on Canadian labels and brands,” she said.
“The next step for INLAND might have to be taking it overseas. I think the next step is to take INLAND to New York, take it to Berlin, take it to Asia, and get people really excited about it from that perspective, and then things will start breeding internally.”