Nearly eight months into the COVID crisis, it has become clear that it is imperative that we rethink our shopping habits. The pandemic has ravaged the Canadian fashion industry, leaving behind it a trail of bankruptcies, empty storefronts and profound debt. The need to support local businesses has never been so essential. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) estimates the closure of small businesses in Canada at 14% due to COVID-19 as of late July. While retail clothing and accessories sales are actually on the upswing, year over year sales are still a fraction of what they were in 2019. Enter the City of Toronto’s Fashion Industry Advisory Panel (FIAP). Originally formed in 2018, the group includes fashion industry leaders, working professionals and scholars. The panel launched the #SupportTorontoFashion social media campaign on September 17th as a way to celebrate Toronto’s fashion industry whilst raising awareness on the importance of shopping local. I spoke to campaign publicist Lori Harito as well as Michelle Pinchev from the #SupportTorontoFashion social team to get a closer look at how the campaign works.
The goal of the #SupportTorontoFashion campaign initially began as a way to reinforce and reconnect the city with their incredibly unique and diverse local industry. As a result of the shutdowns, Lori Harito explains “the urgency of recognizing the fashion industry became even more apparent”. The social media campaign, which was launched just over four weeks ago, was intended to run for six weeks, but is now expected to continue as an evergreen project due to continued social support. The campaign Instagram page @supporttorontofashion — which now has over 1200 followers — shares the stories of local designers, boutiques, and businesses whilst spotlighting local events and industry news. The #SupportTorontoFashion hashtag serves as a tool for discovering local brands and businesses which Harito tells me will hopefully “translate into actual support in the form of shopping local, buying local; more awareness of Toronto brands; more sharing [of] Toronto brands; [more] talking about Toronto brands….”
The campaign thus far has been widely praised by the people of Toronto. “We’re tracking all of it (metrics), we will be reporting on it at the end, we are posting almost daily” Michelle Pinchev says, “impressions approaching over a million, thousands of people have engaged in the campaign already”. Currently, the hashtag, #SupportTorontoFashion has been seen by over 1000 users, while the Support Toronto Fashion Instagram handle itself has been tagged by hundreds. The campaign is not just for brands and retailers as Harito explains, “anyone who takes pictures of Toronto fashion items that they’re wearing can use the hashtag #SupportTorontoFashion on their [Instagrams]”. Furthermore, success is being seen in activity from beyond the borders of the city despite the original mandate to focus solely on Toronto. Harito informs me that interest in the campaign from surrounding areas and cities such as Leaside and Mississauga has come about as the word spreads. “I will say this is just Toronto right now as part of the City of Toronto’s initiative” she notes, “but I do think that others are taking notice”.
Retailers, brands, and all lovers of fashion are encouraged to participate in the campaign by interacting with the community online. The Support Toronto Fashion Instagram page is posting daily, highlighting anyone who tags their handle on their stories, and even hosting their own weekly Instagram Live sessions featuring members of the Fashion Industry Advisory Panel. For those who are looking to partake in the campaign, Pinchev informs me that “anybody can participate in the conversation by sharing their own stories and by using the #SupportTorontoFashion hashtag” as well as tagging the @supporttorontofashion handle in their photos. For those that do have a particularly compelling story to share, Pinchev encourages them to reach out to the campaign by direct message or by email, at email@example.com.
The Support Toronto Fashion campaign is a prime example of the city’s resilience, ingenuity, and commitment to keeping the fashion industry afloat. As one of Canada’s premier fashion cities, the City of Toronto government understands the need for the effort. “I think that fashion emboldens us and really makes us [who we are]” Harito suggests, “…we love the city that we’re a part of”. It is through these efforts that the city can unite in the face of adversity to strengthen both community and local identity during a time of crisis and come out stronger on the other side. The Support Toronto Fashion Campaign can be found on Instagram @supporttorontofashion and the hashtag #supporttorontofashion.
Lucie Mink is a digital marketing, branding strategist, and freelance writer. She currently works with a number of fashion brands and has more than six years of professional experience in the industry. She is deeply passionate about sustainable fashion and creating environmental change within the industry. You can find her dancing, cooking, and singing (usually at the same time) or follow her here, on Instagram.