by William Buckley

It’s funny. As a magazine, we often work with Canadian retailers: Harry Rosen, Hudson’s Bay Company, and Gotstyle to name a few. We ask for their opinions when we write our stories, and we catch up with them at trade shows both here and abroad, and with two new Saks stores opening in Toronto in spring next year, the border between us continues to blur. But the same is not so true for Canadian menswear brands. Sure, some weather-centric staples like Canada Goose and Sorel have achieved United States household name status, and there are a few other exceptions like Naked & Famous or WANT Les Essentials, but a glance at the World Mastercard Fashion Week calendar is enough to illustrate how foreign most Canadian brands are to the average American. With the exception of perhaps Mackage, the other menswear brands on the schedule are seemingly obscure. And a walk around Harry Rosen and Holt Renfrew Men is perhaps one of the reasons why. The shelves in both those stores are stocked largely with foreign brands: the same brands you’d find in those stores’ U.S. counterparts. And while a happy scheduling coincidence put me in Toronto for the shows, I didn’t see any other U.S. press there. But the Canadian industry was out in full force. Local bloggers and social media folk lined the front rows, and Instagram buzzed with World Mastercard Fashion Week hashtags. The tents were full of major sponsors including Mercedes Benz, Microsoft and HSBC, and the energy was more similar to the excitement at the height of NYFW’s Bryant Park-era than the more somber ‘strictly business’ vibes of recent fashion weeks here in New York.

What was notable, was the heavy influence of streetwear in the Toronto collections. Perhaps understandably, the Americana influences we see in collections like Michael Bastian and Billy Reid were absent, as were luxury tailored aspects a la Hickey Freeman or Thom Browne. Instead, an international streetwear aesthetic reminicent of elements from more contemporary brands like Public School, Rick Owens, or Craig Green were most notable, from brands including Kollar and 3.Paradis.

Hopefully as the Canadian fashion industry continues to develop, with the help of big sponsorships, and a growing retail landscape, these contemporary Canadian brands will achieve more global recognition.