Fashion designers in Canada are as diverse as the country is large: designers have been influenced by the sleek business environments in Toronto, the cultural diversity of Vancouver and the eclectic street styles of Montreal. Canadian fashion designers and labels have garnered world acclaim for their unique approaches to fashion including innovative use of fabrics such as leather and wool (no wonder – their garments have to stand up to the test of the long Canadian winters). As a testament to their skill and eye for design, many Canadian designers have shown at Fashion Weeks around the world and garnered a sophisticated roster of international clientele.
Although there are far more than only 10 fashion designers who call Canada home that are worthy of attention, we managed to narrow our “must-know” designers and labels down to this number. Whether you’re planning a shopping trip in one of Canada’s cities or just want to step out of the comfort zone of the big name American and European labels, these names should definitely be on the top of a list of designers to know.
10. Jeremy Laing: Toronto
This Toronto-based designer, who launched his line in 2005, learned to sew as a child by watching his mother. Kaing apprenticed with fashion great Alexander McQueen and is now known for creating work that is characterized by geometric pieces that elaborate on form and garments that demonstrate careful tailoring.
No stranger to New York Fashion Week, Laing’s work is sold at Holt Renfrew in Canada and around the world in upscale boutiques.
9. Smythe by Christie Smythe and Andrea Lenczner: Toronto
Smythe and Lenczner are best known for designing equestrian-style blazers and jackets for women. They started out in 2004 when noticing a niche in the market for designer blazers. Their structured, versatile and edgy pieces have since become extremely recognizable thanks to celebrities who sport their must-have designs, from Blake Lively, Kim Kardashian, Anne Hathaway to Kate Middleton.
Although Smythe is still best known for the jackets, the designers have recently branched out into tops and leather pieces. Smythe can be found around the world.
8. David Dixon: Toronto
Toronto-born David Dixon is one of Canada’s leaders in women’s fashion. He apprenticed with Alfred Sung before establishing the David Dixon label in 1995. He is known for a modern approach and has dressed celebrities and tastemakers around the world. Dixon built his reputation on elegant pieces and highlighting textiles to make them special.
Often creating a look for a “femme fatale,” Dixon designs polished power suits, coats and capes and luxurious party and cocktail dresses with color and embellishments. He is also known for designing garments for one of the world’s most recognizable women: the Barbie doll.
7. Mackage by Elisa Dahan and Eran Elfassy: Montreal
Two friends from Montreal launched this line in 1999. Their work has since filled a need in the market for edgy outerwear with sharp silhouettes. The pair likes to put sexy detailing into their outerwear by using leather, experimenting with volume and embracing wool. Despite the wow factor of their pieces, the stylish leather jackets and winter coats are robust enough to weather a Canadian winter.
The luxury pieces are made in Canada and sold all over the world, including at the trendy Mackage boutique in SoHo. The designers have more recently launched a children’s outerwear collection and a handbag collection.
6. Lida Baday: Toronto
The daughter of a dressmaker, Baday launched her label in 1987 and has built a reputation for using high-quality fabrics from European mills. She embraces sophisticated styling that channels a clean, modern, urban feel. Baday is particularly well known for her work with wool jersey.
Her pieces can be found at upscale department stores such as Holt Renfrew in Canada and Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman in major U.S. cities.
5. Melissa Nepton: Montreal
Nepton’s label was established the first time she showed at Montreal’s Fashion Week in 2009 and has since found a place in the international spotlight, thanks to the prominent Quebec celebrities who have chosen to wear her designs at international venues such as Cannes Film Festival.
She aims to create modern ready-to-wear couture for the urban career woman. Her pieces are known for having lovely movement and complementing women of different shapes. Nepton’s garments, which are made in Canada, can be purchased on her online boutique.
4. Sid Neigum: Toronto
This Alberta-born designer, now based in Toronto, was first recognized for creating pieces with a fluid, androgynous look and geometric shapes. In more recent years, however, this Toronto Fashion Week favorite has stepped out of that zone by creating more feminine styles.
His work can be found in major cities throughout the world.
3. Greta Constantine by Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong: Toronto
This ready-to-wear women’s wear line, based in Toronto, is self-described by its designers as “fashion meets utility.” After starting their label Greta Constantine in 2006 (the name is a pairing of the names of Wong’s mother and Pickersgill’s grandfather), Pickersgill and Wong have accumulated an impressive list of clientele including international socialites and celebrities.
Their clothing has been described as sleek and worldly, sophisticated and appealing. The designing duo has also ventured into menswear with the line Ezra Constantine.
2. Pink Tartan by Kim Newport-Mimran: Toronto
Created in 2002, Newport-Mimran developed the Pink Tartan label, which has become recognizable for understated luxury and sophistication.
The pieces tend to embrace luxurious fabrics and classic feminine silhouettes, resulting in wardrobe staples for urban career women. In addition to two Pink Tartan stores in Toronto, the line can be found at upscale department stores and specialty stores around the world.
1. Denis Gagnon: Montreal
Denis Gagnon launched his solo career in 2000. Often compared to European couture, his work is known for structure, exquisite choices of fabric such as airy silks, and taking a couture approach to leather.
His collections are usually characterized by basic black and chromatic color choices, but he has been known to surprise with metallic details and an occasional pop of color. Gagnon’s flagship store is in Montreal’s picturesque Old Port neighborhood and his garments are available at upscale shops throughout Quebec.