Veteran designer Alfred Sung offers bespoke tailoring for both men and women (Image courtesy of Alfred Sung)
For whatever reason, Canada has never been a huge mass producer of office wear. Although the country is home to retailers such as Hudson’s Bay, Simon’s and Holt Renfrew, dedicated designers in the area are few. As Michelle Walc, field education co-ordinator at George Brown College’s School of Fashion Studies, puts it, “I find that successful students showing at fashion week tend to focus more on evening wear and items that are more avant-garde.”
That said, Canada is not totally absent from the office wear space. Here are some spots where Canada shines.
TAILORING AND MENSWEAR
In addition to well-known retailers such as Harry Rosen, Canada is home to a number of bespoke and made-to-measure specialists, says Kara Brownlee, an image consultant in Toronto. They include:
Garrison Bespoke: Custom suits for business professionals. The company site sports a photo of Suits star Gabriel Macht (who plays the character of Harvey Specter) wearing a Garrison signature three-piece.
Quattro Menswear: A Toronto-based shop focusing on men’s tailored suits. As its site says, “We consider ourselves craftsmen of a lost art.”
Alfred Sung’s bespoke process takes around two to three weeks, including getting measured and choosing the fabric (Image courtesy of Alfred Sung)
Alfred Sung: After designing a classic office line for Zellers that was extremely popular because it was “cheap and wearable,” this veteran designer is back with several specialties, including bespoke tailoring for both men and women. As his site says, “We’re going back to our roots by offering custom tailored clothing with a modern spin.”
Noble Sole: Creators of what the company calls “sneakers disguised as dress shoes.” The shoes were launched on Kickstarter, where the project garnered 327 backers pledging $84,290. “By merging the comfort and wearability of a sneaker with the sensibility of a dress shoe we have created something that looks dressy but wears like a sneaker,” says the company.
Flyte Sock: This Toronto-based start-up created what it calls “ridiculously bright, bold and comfortable socks.” The company’s avowed mission is to become “the world’s premier bamboo sock company and the solution to your missing sock.” (Socks are packaged in threes: “a spare with every pair.”) Launched on Kickstarter with a goal of $10,000, the project drew 1,453 backers and $85,752.
WOMEN’S OFFICE WEAR
Apart from retailers that focus on general women’s wear (the list covers the gamut, from Joe Fresh to Holt Renfrew), Canada also is home to some notable names and labels, including:
Smythe: Women’s contemporary ready-to-wear designed by Canadians Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe. “They do fantastic blazers,” says Brownlee. “Their fit and their shape are always a little bit different.” Walc is also a fan: “They’re a great company, with a product that’s of excellent quality and Canadian-made,” she adds.
Diana Coatsworth’s Yvette Dress (Image courtesy of Diana Coatsworth/Maria Ricossa)
Diana Coatsworth: This George Brown graduate focuses on fresh, unique office wear, says Walc. “You can buy online or find her at the Toronto One of a Kind show in November.”
The Cashmere Shop: This shop prides itself on the quality of its product. As Brownlee points out, “Cashmere can be expensive and it pills,” she says. “But the cashmere at this store doesn’t do that. It will also customize items for you. Sometimes I just end up wearing head-to-toe cashmere from the shop. It’s just that cold and it’s the only thing that works.”
Mélissa Nepton: This Montreal fashion designer specializes in what she calls “modern, ready-to-wear couture for the urban career woman.”
Barcelona Collective: Toronto designer Roxana Esmailji is the founder of this company, which produces what Walc calls “a great versatile North American-made shoe that you could wear all day from the office to the gala.” She adds that the sole is made of polyurethane, the same material as Olympic tracks, so they are extremely comfortable.