Fashion Matters – Canadian Designers Offering Style and Purpose

Many consumers reconsider their purchasing choices and the brands they support based on the sustainable, social, or charitable causes they endorse. Consumer demands grow as customers realize their spending can make a difference. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses. Many re-evaluate charitable ties and incorporate philanthropy into their brand DNA. Whether the cause is climate change, socio-economic inclusivity, or other sponsorship alignments, it can motivate both brand and consumer. When thinking of your next purchase, consider these brands, and discover their charitable initiatives, as they strive to make a difference one item at a time.

HILLARY MCMILLAN

Hilary MacMillan is a cruelty-free, size-inclusive womenswear brand based in Toronto, Canada. The eponymous brand was founded in 2013 and is renowned for offering versatile contemporary pieces in timeless silhouettes. The brand focuses on using high-quality, cruelty-free fabrics to design ready-to-wear pieces in bold colors and contemporary textures with the modern-day consumer in mind. The brand recently launched​​ extended sizing from sizes 2- 28 and XS – 4X. McMillan is deeply passionate about animal welfare, and women’s issues, both of these values are integral to the essence of her brand. 

Her philanthropic efforts are through her in-demand Varsity jackets. 15% of all proceeds from these particular garments’ sales go directly to ‘Up With Women’, a women’s empowerment organization. Furthermore, 100% of proceeds from each Equal Pay jacket sold are donated to ‘Black Women in Motion’ charity in Toronto.

Web: Hilarymacmillan.com

LESLEY HAMPTON

Founded on the principles of inclusivity, identity, awareness, and heritage, the LESLEY HAMPTON womenswear brand’s inspiration is defined by the characteristics developed from being a “Third Culture Kid” and critiques their representation in present-day society, including fashion, media, and pop culture. The brand draws inspiration from materials that embody inclusivity and broader perceptions of beauty, which leads to mental health awareness and body-positive advocacy.

The brand works with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH is Canadian so you should use the Canadian spelling for ‘Centre’) and recently launched the Lesley Hampton Award in partnership with the Ontario Mining Association at the School of Fashion at Ryerson University. A $10K Award will be granted to an Indigenous student with ties to Ontario land and a strong interest in preserving Indigenous arts and culture. Hampton is dedicated to inspiring the next decade of indigenous fashion talent to decolonize euro-centric fashion stereotypes and create thought-provoking, inclusive, and barrier-breaking work.

Web: Lesleyhampton.com

JUDITH & CHARLES

In 1984 Judith Richardson and Charles Le Pierrès embarked on a mission to bring the well-respected French-based clothier, Teenflo, to Canada. They soon built a steady following of loyal customers – women who wanted smart modern clothing to look and feel good. After nearly two decades, in 2009, the narrative moved towards a new and inevitable chapter, the launch of their line, Judith & Charles. Their goal was to create a consistent brand in its style and did not change direction with every fashion whim – a brand that would stand the test of time. It was also essential to create a strong relationship with clients. Consumers felt confident investing in pieces that delivered value and style while providing a sense of strength and self-possession.

The brand continues this theme by supporting causes close to their hearts and are proud sponsors of ‘Dress for Success Montreal’, an organization dedicated to advancing women in business.

In addition, Judith & Charles launched Charlie’s Foundation in 2015, dedicated to expanding opportunities for the Dominican Republic children. By supplementing an underfunded and overcrowded education system, they teach Dominican youth English, connecting them with the broader world and improving their future career prospects. Their method combines English lessons with tennis instruction because they believe in the power of sport to motivate, challenge, and inspire. Through this experience, children gain the skills they need to succeed in life and transform their communities.

Web: judithandcharles.com

OUTLAND DENIM

James Bartle is the founder and CEO of Outland Denim, a brand breaking the mold in denim construction and setting a new standard in fashion manufacturing. Driven by the desire to quell the trafficking of young females into the $150 billion human trafficking industry, Bartle created Outland to generate training and employment opportunities for women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Over six years, Bartle developed a unique business model that would enable each of his seamstresses to gain a covetable skill-set in tailoring while earning a living wage, receiving ongoing support, and life-enhancing education crafting artisan quality jeans to compete in the global premium marketplace. The fashionable denim brand is also sustainable, from farmers to textile manufacturing, right up to product assembly. It is no surprise that in 2019 Bartle was named one of Internet retailing’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce, as well as Rivet’s 50 Most Influential People in Denim. In 2020 Bartle and Outland Denim were awarded the Thomson Reuters Stop Slavery Award, and in 2019 the Anti-Slavery Australia Freedom Award. 

Web: Outlanddenim.ca

BIKO

BIKO is a ‘modern nostalgic’ jewelry brand. Each piece is conceptualized and hand-crafted by a small team led by founder Corrine Anestopoulos. BIKO draws inspiration from global treasures and found curiosities that translate into wearable, contemporary pieces. BIKO marries vintage inspiration with sleek mixed metals, hand-cast pendants, and natural stones to create high-quality, versatile jewelry that tells a story. 

After the recent loss of her dear friend, and former team member to breast cancer, Anestopolous launched the limited edition Rose Gold Capsule Collection, as well as, J’Adore Pearl Drops earrings. With 20% of sales going to Rethink Breast Cancer, the goal is to honor her late friend’s journey. Through the BIKO x RETHINK partnership, they aim to benefit the lives of women living with breast cancer. In supporting this limited-edition collection, their customers will know that they are helping a truly worthy cause together. 

Web: illovebiko.com

ZVELLE

Elle AyoubZadeh founded luxury footwear brand Zvelle in 2015 to combine meaningful design with impeccable quality. She sourced the finest accessories craftspeople globally and partnered with an Italian factory, whose multigenerational team shared her exacting standards and unwavering values. Her aesthetic vision borrowed from many cultures and traditions to reveal something elegant and timeless. 

Their charitable initiatives began during the early stages of the pandemic. The first was honoring the frontline ‘Healthcare Heroes‘ by gifting them a pair of Stowe sandals. This initiative began as an open invitation to nominate a Hero anywhere in the world, and soon the company was overwhelmed with incoming nominations and happily donated 400 pairs within Canada and the US this year. The 2nd initiative is the Walk How You Want t-shirt. Launching in May 2020 as part of their efforts to amplify the voices of diverse women globally, 100% of the T-shirts’ proceeds go towards philanthropic efforts to promote and empower women and their unique stories. The campaign allows Zvelle to donate shoes to causes that support women on a global scale. 

Zvelle.com