As we approach Canada Day, we recognize that as a truly Canadian brand this day can no longer be about celebration. It must also include reflection and reconciliation. Founder Liv shares her thoughts on why AFTER9 will continue to be locally manufactured as AFTER9 continues on its journey.
“Why would you ever make your clothes in Canada, don’t you want to be rich?” said the man in a very sharp gray tailored-suit, the kind you picture a higher fashion version of James Bond to be wearing.
He was no other than George Sully, a Canadian Fashion icon, who’s biggest piece of advice to young fashion designers is to produce their garments anywhere but here. And after posing for a lovely picture, I told him we would meet again in five years, and hopefully, I will make the decision to keep making the garments the way I have been at a female-owned factory in the GTA.
My decision to produce clothes in Canada was part experience and part happenstance. When I formerly worked as a maternity activewear distributor, I noticed there were plenty of timing and quality issues our manufacturer was dealing with producing overseas. The white bras were cut completely different than the black bras. The inventory would be out of stock and take six months to resupply. The taxes. The list of negatives went on.
I wrote the business plan for AFTER9 in 2018 with a vision and literally gave next to no thought about WHERE the clothes would get made, it was as though that business plan missed out on operations and only covered the fashion stakes of what I was embarking on. It wasn’t only until 2020 when the pandemic hit, with my corporate career in throes, I really started to dig deep on where I wanted my career to go and what my why was and how AFTER9 would operationally come to be.
From there, the decision to produce my clothes in Canada was a practical one. I knew nothing about the industry and I wanted to learn the stories and understand the realities of the people who worked in it. I didn’t want to do this over zoom and I couldn’t travel. My backyard was the best place to start. As the months of research continued, the more I understood, the more determined I became in keeping as much of my manufacturing decisions in Canada as possible.
I visited over 10 factories in the GTA before choosing the factory we currently partner with. And even in my own backyard, nine out of 10 of these places could not complete the sewing on the Power Peek-a-Boo bra. And 9 out of 10 them could not give me a reasonable production price for doing so either. And 9 out of 10 them could have cared less about what I was trying to do for the maternity industry, all they saw was a bra. Not a lack of choice in a market that deserves more of it. The factory I decided on took a further interest in what I was producing and how I planned to be successful with it.
In May, I had a customer take a leap of faith and purchase a bra from us to solve her 28E sizing issue. She’s a XXS in her under bust and size E in her cup. From a sewing perspective, it’s like fitting a Himalyan mountain tied to teeter totter. When I mentioned this to the owner of the factory, rather than telling me the added cost associated with helping this person, we found a viable solution. I doubt I could have ever achieved this level of service or partnership working with a factory overseas.
And of course there are the stats which speak for themselves:
- When you shop with AFTER9, you can estimate of your $100, $90 stays within the local economy. If you purchase the hoodie or black leggings or shorts, this number is truly $100, as all of the fabric within these products is knitted locally
- Canadian small businesses are the largest employers in our communities. in 2017 they accounted for 89% of net new job creation
As the founder of a business, and one that transforms raw goods into finished goods, I can tell you that I have a choice, and it boils down to margin or morals. Some founders choose margins and for me, I never started AFTER9 to get rich.
I started it to make a difference. Motherhood is a special time in our lives, it’s a time where as women, a shift happens in our sense of self, in our bodies, in our responsibilities, and it deserves clothing to mark that occasion. AFTER9 is not maternity wear you buy, just to get by; you get it because you think it will help you feel and look fabulous. I believe if you are already our customer, you recognize this. And you also recognize we are community, and part of that, is the fabric that ties us together. And why we will continue on our trajectory, manufacturing as much as we possibly can in Canada.
Looking for more made in Canada opportunities, I’ve listed a few of our favourite brands below:
Diva Cup – Made in Canada, the DivaCup is a flexible little cup that gets inserted into the vagina and offers up to 12 hours of leak-free protection, comfort and convenience. Founded by a mother-daughter duo, I am personally a huge fan of this product. I discovered the cup after having my first baby and realized I could no longer use tampons, they kept slipping right out.
South - South products are vaginal wash products that contain only clean ingredients, they look beautiful and don't shout ‘VAGINA’. Made by Women, for Women – their mission is to provide products that will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin. Having personally purchased the line, it’s a game changer if you are sensitive in that area.
Looking for other made in Canada products? Check out madeincanada.ca for recommendations on everything from food to apparel.