Apparel manufacturing in Canada

I got a letter from David Rushton who works in sales for a contract garment manufacturer in Toronto Canada. He offers a tremendous amount of information to designers and this post details some of the benefits of sourcing in Canada. David says in part:

I have been working as a sales development manager for almost 12 years. I have had a great deal of experience dealing with DE’s here in Canada and assisting them with production of their lines. I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from working with these burgeoning companies, and feel that the more they know about the process of manufacture, they will be much better equipped going forward. I try to make time for every new startup. I make a point of treating all with a certain amount of reverence. These small upstarts grow into larger companies. Most will need a manufacturing partner(s) to help them achieve their goals. I believe that the Canadian garment manufacturing industry is well suited to meet the needs of this important group.

It would seem that sourcing both fabrics and labor are a large concern with many of your readers. Many in the US think that Mexico and Central America are the closest sources for production but this isn’t quite true. I just returned from a sourcing show in NYC (Material World) in which we exhibited. We were encouraged by the new business we will develop, but at the same time, amazed at the lack of exposure we receive as a garment producing nation.

While I am well acquainted with the cachet of Canadian manufacturing, I doubt that many of my readers are. Let’s put it this way. As you know, suit making AKA single-needle is the litmus test of world class manufacturing capability and Canada predominates in that area. I’m continually surprised that DEs don’t know that that Canada is the place to have suits manufactured. Companies manufacturing there are comprised of designers such as Georgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Ungaro, Louis Feraud, Robert Stalk, Samuel Sohn and Pierre Cardin. In other words, Canadians are internationally respected as equals -some say better- to Italian makers. Still, while suits are not the only thing made in Canada, the product lines are definitely from the mid to higher end lines. As David puts it, “the same quality that goes into a $1500.00 suit, easily finds its way into a $300.00 parka”.

Although quality is the first thing one sources, David says the benefits of sourcing with Canadian firms transcend that. Specifically, the benefits are these:
2. Terms of trade
3. Shared language and cultural history
4. Established relationships with US mills and suppliers
5. Proximity and accessibility
6. Response time
7. Lower transaction costs
8. Lower shipping costs

I haven’t been able to pull this post together today but I’ll be discussing each of these factors more completely tomorrow. In the meantime -and in preparation for tomorrow’s post, please visit the Canadian Apparel Federation and register! While access to the CAF database is free, it will take 24 to 48 hours to have your membership approved. Once approved, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the resources I’ll be describing tomorrow. I’ll also be recommending their magazine which I’ve subscribed to for years. While their magazine still focuses on the big players in the industry, the topics of discussion are much more appropriate for entrepreneurs than what we typically find in the US press.

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  1. Mike C says:

    I talked to David last week about doing some contract work for us and during the course of our lengthy conversation learned they are very interested in working with DEs.

    We’re going to see if we can do some business with them on some of our pieces and I’ll keep you informed on how it goes.

  2. Tom says:

    I have used Canada as a sourcing destination for several years, even before NAFTA kicked in. I enjoy travelling to Toronto to visit the factories
    we use, and it is a convenient stop for me with several flights a day, out of Boston. They produce some fine fabrics up there , and I have never had any quality problems at all. Best of all, they bring a common sense approach to the table. If I was starting out in this business, this would be a good starting point.

  3. Lee McLaevn says:

    Another reason to source in Canada –
    we supply woven labels in days!! Etc etc. We like to deal with small designers as we once had just 1 machine and we appreciate everyone has to start somewhere and grow! We would rather grown with you and develope a working relationshiop. We are family owned and operated and we are the actual manufacturers so we can give you the best price and quickest delivery!!
    Just let me know what you need!!
    PS We are a big supporter of the Fashion Inc in Canada as we believe and want to work with the smaller designers!!!

  4. Alerting All Amateurs!

    Before I go any further, you should know I am pissed. All I can say is it’s a good thing that I’ve had time to calm down having been stuck at the doctor’s office with my kid for the past…

  5. David says:

    I received a phone call this morning from a designer based out of NYC who had a question about making garments here, using spun polyester(a.k.a. polar fleece ). She wanted to know if we could access Malden Mills fabrics in Canada, and wanted further details on producing here. I let her know that we do have access to MM’s fabrics, and maintain a strong relationship with this particular supplier. I went over specifics, and let her know that all garments made here, from US or Canadian fleece, are not subject to any duty or tariffs. She was under the impression a 32% duty would apply, as goods from China in this category are subjected to. She was pleasantly surprised. I learned from her that she is presently making some styles in NYC, and the cost of producing is spiralling up. I happen to know that it costs at least $20-26 sq.ft to operate a sewing facility in the garment district in Manhattan. These high prices are passed on to the people manufacturing there. She is in the process of sending me some styles for quotation. I am confident we can save substantial money on her CMT costs. As a small company doing production runs of 150-200 pieces style/range , these savings are very important to her. Thought you might like to know.

  6. Apparel manufacturing in Canada pt 3

    This is the third segment in the sourcing in Canada series. Refer to the first and second entries as needed. I had difficulty writing this portion because a discussion of the remaining advantages tends to force a comparison between Mexico…

  7. Lee McLaven says:

    Hi Jinger
    You can reach me at
    or Toll free from the USA – 1866-868-2850
    Let me know what you need and I’ll get it done.
    FYI – We also deal with the Canadian version – Fashion Incubator up here in Canada
    Speak with you soon
    Laven Labels
    570 Hood Rd @ #10
    Markham, On. Canada
    L3R 4G7

  8. Lee @ Laven Labels says:

    HI All,
    Label guy here – some had questions about Double shuttle – Not really needed when I use the high end Damask weave – most Fash Inc subscribers are usually within 5,000 quantity and I run it the same price as the more basic tafetta – so Damask is the right ticket!! I can do double hit, but usually not worth the extra $50 – all depends on logo, but I’d say 1 in 1000 are double hit these days as again, not usually needed. Keep in mind we do samples on all woven labels within a week and then once approved, production in less than a week! Italy manufacturers not needed as we make the exact same product! – plus that is triple the time and double the cost – but up to you!! Any questions, as always, please e-mail me direct – and I will get back to you same day!!
    Lee Laven

  9. Milena says:

    I’m sorry, I was just reading these comments, and came across Lianna’s, which I can only assume is referring to Lee McLaven. I can’t leave that to be the last word. I dealt with Lee’s company in 2010 during my first attempt at making sewn products. He made the most beautiful woven labels for me, and printed hand tags in literally–DAYS. He sent proofs to me for no cost at all, very quickly, and the actual products themselves were completed within a couple days after that. I went to pick up the labels myself at their offices in the Toronto area (where they also do their manufacturing out of, I believe), and everyone was so kind and professional. I am absolutely nobody, and Lee was full of expert suggestions about placement of labels, the look etc, and I was really happy to take his advice and grateful for it. It was a wonderful experience. Two years later, I’m starting up something else.. and there is no question where I will go for my labels.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Milena, so kind of you to speak up. I did ask Liana at the time. She was referring to Dave Rushton, that he has a bad reputation in Canada (and not such a great one here either).

  11. Adnan Khan says:

    Kathleen, you wrote this article back in 2005, what are your current thoughts on overseas sourcing vs sourcing apparel from Canada?

    The points you mentioned:
    1. Trade deals – Canada and Bangladesh’s LDC trade agreement makes it possible for canadians to import apparel for 0% tax and no quota.
    2. Transaction and shipping costs have significantly gone down.
    3. The internet revolution has made the communication barrier almost non existent now nowadays.

    I wrote more about it here, check it out –

    I loved how you wrote this article back in the day, I want to know what your current thoughts are. Thanks Kath!

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