Serging ahead… no, seriously…

Today I had the good luck to attend the Apparel Industry Development Council’s Apparel and Sewn Products Business Breakfast! Actually, I skipped convocation to do it… don’t tell…

At 8:30 am I sat down to coffee and croissants with a wide variety of people – manufacturers, designers, civil servants, businesspeople, suppliers and others all connected by our industry (Apparel) and our location (Southern Ontario).

Intro was short and sweet. We’re already past crisis management – the industry is shrinking and extinction is all too possible. The AIDC has no idea what their mandate is so the purpose of the meeting was to let them know. Each table (of 6-8) was given 30 minutes to brainstorm three suggestions and present them to the group.

A lot of good stuff came to the floor, and I’m told I’ll get a thorough writeup in my inbox at some point. Here’s what stood out to me today:

1. The trouble finding fresh blood. The industry feels at odds with, and disconnected, from the schools. What is so ironic about this is my own experience at the other end, as one of a huge cohort of fashion graduates who are made to feel as if we are competing for far too few opportunities.

The problem is not that there isn’t enough graduates. Schools and industry are isolated from eachother, and so the graduates are not properly prepared to enter the industry. This deserves a whole post in and of itself, later. It’s enough to suggest that the government do what it can to make economic incentives to bring together students and industry through internships and subsidies.

Subsidies like this: did you know that employers can get a $12,750 salary subsidy when they hire a graduate? OMG!! Did you know only 9 applications for this went through last year? Not because this isn’t a great program. It’s because NO-ONE knows about it. Nobody at the meeting knew, and as a new graduate coming out of university I certainly had no idea. Why is that?

2. The promotion problem. We are using the lamest, 19th century style advertising techniques to sell ourselves to the world at large. The Wear Canada! promo – I’m sorry – it’s just meh – so blandly sincere it might as well be invisible. We need to be using humour, honesty, and a much more active internet prescence to be noticed at all.

3. Greater communication. More meetings. Active online forums. Updated directories. Blogs. (By the way I was not the lone blogger! I had the great honour to meet Beverly Johnson of Bra-Makers.)

I had a great time meeting people. Everyone was very nice and not at all intimidating. I already feel like I’m part of the community and it was interesting to hear what everyone had to say. I’d certainly attend again. I’ve got a lot to think about so expect some heavy posts to come…

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5 thoughts on “Serging ahead… no, seriously…”

  1. Wow! That sounds really interesting and somewhat terrifying. Maybe next round I will attend. Although, I might be slightly out of place as a doll designer. 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’m in Ottawa, trudging along in the fashion industry that doesn’t exist. You are describing how I felt when I graduated 10 years ago. Thanks for voicing so clearly.
    I plan to read your blog regularly.

  3. We did discuss how CDN brands were promoted, inpart through Wear Canada. Some think it is a rather lame approach and I’m sure it can be improved in many ways. It is however, a very positive sign that the CAF, using Industry Canada funding makes the effort in the first place. Recognition in this guide costs the participants nothing. This is a great headstart.
    You specifically mentioned that we are not Paris, London or New York here in Toronto. Nor should we try to emulate them.

    But we do have something “going on” here, and many will attest that the recent Toronto Fashion Week was attended by a very global audience, eager to witness the “buzz” taking place.
    We should definitely use our strengths to which we are internationally known for to redirect our marketing efforts of CDN companies.
    Your phrase of “ruggedly functional” was well received by the group Friday morning. This is good example of industry people needing to meet and discuss new ideas, especially from the next generation to guide the industry.
    Some people question how effective promotion of our industry can be carried out by the CAF while headquartered in Ottawa too. Not exactly the hub of fashion and apparel manufacturing.
    I particularly was intrigued by the one suggestion of offering tax incentives to brands producing here and to consumers purchasing CDN made goods. That has possiblities.

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