For decades, the Canadian garment manufacturing industry has been centered around Montreal, with the fashion industry currently employing over 25,000 people in the province of Quebec, however with the rise of Vancouver based international fashion brands like Lululemon, Arc’teryx, Herschel Supply, Oak + Fort, Aritzia, Native Shoes, Indochino and RYU, the centre of gravity in the Canadian fashion industry has definitely begun to shift westward.
Unfortunately, apart from Arc’Teryx’s outrageously priced Veilance line and Lululemon’s Lab line, none of the brands listed above actually manufacture any of their products in Vancouver, so we wanted to shine the spotlight on some of the amazing brands that actually produce their products here in Vancouver.
1) Wings + Horns / Reigning Champ
Wings + Horns and their sister brand Reigning Champ are the OGs of the Vancouver streetwear scene. Founded in 2004, originally to target the Japanese market, Wings + Horns has grown into a global streetwear staple on the back of their minimalist aesthetic and quality, local manufacturing. Despite their massive growth over the last decade and a bit, they still do 90% of their manufacturing here in Vancouver, which has allowed them to maintain the product quality that has become the hallmark of their brand. To be fair, their clothes are definitely on the pricier end of the spectrum, with prices for basics like t-shirts and henleys often starting at north of $100 CAD and flashier items like bomber jackets and pea-coats sometimes crossing the $1000 mark, but its like the old adage goes, you can either buy a $100 pair of boots once a year, or a $500 pair of boots once in your life. We can personally attest to the quality of their goods, having a picked up a few pieces ourselves over the years, and they’re all still in the closet rotation despite being well loved. Wings + Horns are also on the vanguard of local and international collaborations, having done collabs with local staple Dayton Boots, as well as giant international mega-corporations like Adidas.
2) Love Jules
We really love Love Jules. Purveyors of some of the most stylish and funky footwear around, they’re one of those rare brands with a heartwarming story, that backs up the warm-fuzzies with amazing products. Founded by life partners, turned business partners Julia (Jules) Vagelatos & Joshua Blodans in Whistler in 2008, Love Jules moved to Vancouver in 2013 due to the rapid growth of their business. Vagelatos and Blodans still pretty much run the show themselves, and they still hand-craft every single pair of boots they make. Love Jules is another one of those brands who’s products are at least for us, not so much how you’d say... affordable, with boots running north of $1000, but their quality and workmanship (workwomanship?) are well worth the price of admission. Love Jules has recently branched out into new lines, with more reasonably priced slip ons and some of the cutest kid’s booties we’ve ever seen.
Noctex is an absolutely fascinating brand that’s on the cutting edge of fashion, technology and sustainability. Noctex’s founder Negin Izad is a homegrown Vancouver success story, having done her bachelor’s degree in fashion design and technology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University before founding Noctex in 2011. Noctex’s designs feature a super chic, minamalist aesthetic we don’t quite know how to categorize, but also demonstrate their commitment to sustainability as 90% of their garments are produced using “deadstock” textiles, which most likely would have ended up in landfills if not for Noctex breathing a second life into them. Noctex are also pioneers in fashion technology having launched their own IOS Shopping app, as well as being one of the first local brands to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Instagram’s recent shoppable posts feature. Noctex is definitely positioned well for even more growth in the future, as they have a clear mission and values combined with some amazing designs and a willingness to embrace emerging technology.
4) Strong Body Apparel.
There’s a new(ish) athletic apparel brand in town, and unlike some other “local” athleisure brands who’ve move almost all of their production overseas, Strong Body Apparel produces all their apparel here in Vancouver. Started in 2012, Strong Body is performance focused athletic apparel brand that not only has some great designs, but also some really interesting and unique technology integrated into their apparel. Using their “NanoElite+” technology derived from from crab and shrimp shells and is an antibacterial, bio-friendly technology that keeps sweaty gear smelling as fresh as possible. Strong Body’s designs have a distinctly minimalist aesthetic, though with gray winter skies in the YVR meaning dark days and darker nights, their recent Pulse collection, which integrates reflective materials for extra visibility has definitely caught our attention.
5) Beaton Linen
Beaton Linen is the brainchild of designer Katie Beaton and is one of those brands that despite being young, has really found its footing with a clear aesthetic and strong core principles. Focused entirely on creating simple, functional everyday basics out of linen, an oft-ignored but frankly wonderful material, that we’re thrilled to see starting to get more attention. Beaton’s entire line is the kind of apparel we could see wearing day to day, but we really dig their jumpsuits and overalls as they both have pockets and look to be extraordinarily comfortable. Beaton Linen’s story is also a fascinating one, as designer Katie Beaton lives in Lund on the picturesque Sunshine Coast, and originally produced all of Beaton’s apparel herself from home by hand, but due to the growth of the business had to move production to Vancouver to take advantage of the skills and manufacturing infrastructure in our fair city. We frankly love this story, as it's a wonderful showcase for the capacity of Vancouver to support entrepreneurs across the province and serve as the hub for the creative economy.
There are so many other amazing clothing brands producing their products here in Vancouver, and while we wish we could have mentioned them all, this list was all we had time for. We may do a follow up post with some more great brands down the line though, so keep your eyes peeled for future updates.
In the meantime we’re left pondering what’s fueled the explosion of locally produced fashion over the last decade. While few of the large brands mentioned in our intro actually make their products here, their growing corporate offices have likely resulted in spinoffs as designers and marketers leave their former corporate jobs to start their own brands. There’s also a number of great local fashion design schools here in Vancouver, and Chip Wilson’s $12 Million to Kwantlen to establish a new design school is certainly going to only accelerate the growth of the local fashion industry. We only hope more brands will find a way to keep at least some of their production here in Vancouver as they grow, creating, and more importantly keeping jobs and skills here in the YVR.