Outside of Canada Goose, Canada does not have many fashion brands that are household names. Fashion, especially high fashion, is dominated by the U.S. and countries in Europe that have been on top of the fashion world for decades. But Katrina Lainsbury is aiming to bring Canadian brands into focus with the launch of Necessary, an online retailer focusing specifically on Canadian fashion brands.
After working at retailers like Ssense and Aritzia, Lainsbury set out to create a multi-brand online shopping platform that would place an emphasis on Canadian brands like In Objects We Trust, one of Necessary’s launch partners. Necessary launched in late December with both men’s and women’s contemporary brands, many of which sell mostly direct outside of Necessary.
“In order for us to move forward and think globally, we need to generate awareness among our consumers,” said Lainsbury. “The only way this is possible is to build a strong community within our major creative cities, like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Not to say this is not currently happening, however the direction is very linear at the moment. We need to make the fashion industry our forefront, like we have done with the technology industry.”
In countries where the local fashion brands are already globally dominant, it is less of a priority to get consumers interested in buying them. Nike does not need the evangelization of American fashion in order to thrive. However, countries like Canada and China, where native brands are less well known in the global fashion world, can stand to benefit from being highlighted specifically. It is that need that Lainsbury is trying to tap into with Necessary.
The company currently has 25 brand partners, all of which are Canadian natives. Through Necessary, customers can discover new brands and shop for them on the site. Lainsbury believes that discovery is key for bolstering Canadian fashion. Many Canadian brands just do not have the same name recognition as their international counterparts.
In addition to selling fashion, Lainsbury is planning on doing Canadian-brand-centric installations, debuting an online publication and creating a brand guide full of information on each of the brands represented on Necessary. These installations will be part of what Lainsbury calls Necessary’s “guerilla marketing” tactics. In 2019, Necessary plans to have pop-ups in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to generate buzz around the company.
Necessary is not the only company looking to connect with Canadian shoppers by featuring local talent. In August, Nordstrom launched its first Canada-specific ad campaign, filmed in Canada with Canadian models and filmmakers, and featuring Canadian brands.
Canada’s total fashion market is worth around $26 billion, placing it far below the U.K. ($80 billion) and the U.S. (more than $300 billion). For fashion brands based in countries outside of the traditional U.S. and Europe fashion markets, it is easy to be overshadowed by the major players like European fast-fashion companies H&M and Asos. All of the big luxury groups like Kering and LVMH are based in Europe, and America dominates the streetwear world with brands like Supreme and Nike.
China is a massively growing fashion market, yet most of that growth comes from Chinese customers buying from non-Chinese brands. At last year’s New York Fashion Week, Alibaba and Tmall went out of their way to showcase a number of Chinese brands, positioning them alongside the other big fashion brands at NYFW as worthy of the same level of consideration.
The U.K. is certainly not the most overlooked country for fashion, but it too tends to be overshadowed by the powerhouse brands of Italy and France. For that reason, there has been a concerted effort on the part of groups like Walpole to champion British brands in and outside of the country, evangelizing them to new consumers.
“Our consumer today is conscious,” Lainsbury said. “We want to feel like we are contributing to something. This is why Necessary is trying to fill the gap in the market lacking support for Canadian designers and talent. By curating this community, Canadian designers will have their voices heard and will be able to showcase their art form through Necessary.”