Toronto Startup Helps Fashion Designers to Revive Economy
Last month, I wrote about the strategic importance of investing in our local Fashion industry.
Not only does it bring new jobs to the city, but it revives the local design hub, which stimulates other local industries. New York is thinking this way. And it's time that Toronto started too.
Which is why I am thrilled to have spent time with Toronto's own FabriKite this week.
Golam Ahmad Khan is the Founder of FabriKite, a Toronto-based garment and clothing manufacturer. Alongside growing the business, FabriKite is keen to rebuild local craftsmanship for the benefit of tomorrow's young labour force.
Tell me about the vision and ambition behind FabriKite as a fashion startup:
We're celebrating our one-year anniversary as a local business but our vision is steeped in personal history and tradition.
I've always been devoted to social enterprising and spent time working with Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Mohammed Yunus consulting large, multinational companies on their approach to it. My family built the first women's college in the district of Shariatpur in Bangladesh.
The company name FabriKite actually came from spending time at this women's college. While helping a young boy with his kite on the school grounds, I recognized that the beauty of flying the kite came from the effort and the sense of achievement in getting it off the ground and into the air. I've built my business with the same sense of purpose and ambition: to help young people in Toronto get their fashion design businesses off the ground.
What is the greatest challenge to Toronto's industry and what can we do about it?
Toronto's fashion scene is growing and moving at an incredible pace. Toronto is also having a moment of fame, which appears to have the potential to endure. There is a massive pool of highly-skilled local talent, groomed by world-class institutions like OCADU. But there aren't enough companies employing the design skills of the local talent to build the local fashion industry into what it can be.
Global economic pressure is also forcing local young designers to move overseas to source lower cost materials. With that comes limitations and the challenges of dealing with foreign suppliers and potentially dubious ethical standards. It's tough to figure out who to trust and partner with.
FabriKite offers fashion designers a local, trustworthy relationship as a supplier and advisor. With the local economy in recession, many young people are building collectives, moving towards entrepreneurship, leveraging technology and local networks. I've personally invested time and resources to helping young designers to test the market.
This also gives me the opportunity to learn more about FabriKite's place in it. I would like to see more sharing of resources and talent across the industry, to fill gaps while we build out our future.
What tools or insights do you offer to fashion clients and startups?
Many young designers are still learning about technical design and the business of fashion. As part of its first meeting with clients, FabriKite offers an orientation into production processes and standards to fill this fundamental knowledge gap and empower clients to make sound decisions.
A focus on ethical standards, offering flexible options to customers and delivering excellent quality are key to FabriKite's business model.
I'm confident that building relationships keeps customers growing, learning and coming back for repeat business.
You are presenting at StartUp Fashion Week 2015 in Toronto on October 6th. What can your audience look forward to?
My session is entitled "Identifying and Connecting with Cost Effective and Ethical Production Sources'.
It isn't easy striking the right balance between customer service, quality product and ethical standards. I look forward to sharing my experience and insights to help young designers to navigate an overwhelming amount of options, with the aim that they will make business-savvy choices to grow their business.
The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse built awareness about ethical standards, but it also brought stigmas around doing business with good-quality producers in the country. FabriKite is using high quality local producers in Bangladesh that employ leading-edge technology while creating jobs for local women and men.
I don't see FabriKite taking on all of the problems in the industry. But I'm keen to be a part of the solution, and a positive resource for local design talent and the economy.
With a wealth of smart citizens, it's clear that Toronto's fashion scene is moving towards an emphasis on sustainable practices and conscious retail.
Golam's energy is infectious, and his views of the future are exciting and refreshing. Sign up for Startup Fashion Week's Business of Fashion Conference to hear Golam and other notable speakers share industry insights and tips.
Feature Photo by Ayman Khan Photography
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada License.