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Where Was It Made? The Pros & Cons of Canadian-Made Clothing

Posted on 26 January 2017

‘Where was it made?’

It’s a question that comes up often. Up until the early 1990s we rarely heard that question, because virtually all clothing was made in Canada. Montreal was home to the vast majority of clothing manufacturers, with Toronto’s vibrant industry in second place.  A great deal of change has occurred since then.


Import quotas were greatly reduced in the late 80s and early 90s, allowing a huge influx of lower cost clothing imports, especially from Asian countries. Being unable to compete with this lower cost production, domestic clothing manufacturers were faced with a hard choice:  close their facilities in Canada and become importers, or be forced out of business. The end result was obvious, as most clothing today is imported from countries such as China, India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.


However, this situation has two sides to it. The plus side is that there is now an abundance of both high, mid and lower end clothing available at prices that are substantially less than if those products were manufactured domestically. The downside is that in order to produce products at a lower cost, off-shore manufacturers require much larger minimum quantities than were necessary with Canadian production, and a much longer lead-time is required to put new styles into the production schedule.


While the domestic clothing manufacturing industry cannot compete with the lower prices offered by foreign manufacturers, it is thankfully still alive, albeit in a diminished form. It has morphed from being all things to all market segments, into more a well-tailored, higher end industry. By producing higher end clothing, they are able to work with smaller production runs, shorter lead times for new styles, and are able to make changes almost immediately, something their international competitors cannot.  


Building new domestic manufacturing facilities, along with hiring and training staff would be a daunting undertaking. There is a certain amount of hope that as costs rise in off-shore countries, the incentive of producing domestically will become more appealing (and viable). The immediate future of the Canadian apparel manufacturing industry, however, will remain as it is.

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