These Winnipeg fashion businesses were born out of the city’s vibrant and supportive creative scene. While loyal locals make up the majority of their customer base, each brand is also becoming a big player on the global fashion scene.
The jovial designer who wears a holster as a man bag is a fixture in the hip Exchange District. Before opening his eponymous clothing store in one of the District’s historic buildings in 2015, Taylor worked in fashion production management and made jeans on the side as a hobby. Entirely self taught, Taylor’s architecturally cut coats and feminine, drapey shirts and tops are expertly crafted. “If it’s not comfortable, it’s not worth wearing,” is one of Taylor’s favourite expressions. Taylor offers Winnipeg a double creative whammy, working as a painter and exhibiting his art in gallery and pop-up shows.
Manitobah Mukluk is a Winnipeg-based company doing an urban take on mukluks, the traditional Aboriginal leather, fur, and beaded footwear. The company was started 15 years ago by Indigenous brother and sister Sean and Heather McCormick, and while authentic craftsmanship and the cultural relevance of mukluks remain the ethos of the brand, the company has moved into the very centre of the international fashion realm. Manitobah Mukluks have been spotted on the likes of supermodels Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford, and music superstar Beyoncé. They have even been featured in French Vogue. Despite their international credentials the boots are very much designed with Manitoba winters in mind, and in keeping with the traditional craftsmanship of the boot.
Crown Cap is an apparel company woven into the history of Winnipeg’s manufacturing past. It was started in 1934 as a manufacturer of functional, wool, cloth, and corduroy hats for the prairie agricultural industry. In 1987, the company was sold and the new owners brought it to the next level, reimagining their signature aviator flap hats and duckbill caps with fur, leather, and bright primary colours. Fast forward to today and the hats are sold to fashion savvy crowds at high-end retailers across North America, such as Barney’s, Saks, Begrdorf’s, Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay, and Holt Renfrew, as well as indie fashion shops. Manitoba fashionistas also know to circle the last week of November on their calendars; that’s when Crown Cap holds its highly anticipated weekend-long sample sale.
Kali Siemen’s Modern Supply Co, a lifestyle and fashion boutique, occupies a back room in the beloved Thom Bargen downtown coffee house. The retail store sells an Instagram-able curated collection of ethically sourced, small batch, vintage, and handmade fashion, textiles, jewelry, house wares, cult beauty products, and stylish accessories. You can find anything from quality Turkish pestemals, hand-woven pillows from Fable, and quality cotton underwear from Belgium. It’s where Winnipeggers get first pick of cool local designer Rachel Jones printed summer dresses and to-die-for kimonos. Modern Supply Co is a world-class lifestyle store, poised to revitalize shopping in the city’s business district.
Commonwealth specializes in small batch, ethically-created collared men’s shirts. The company was started by Andrew Doerksen in 2015, a major career shift for the tailor who previously worked at youth drop in centres and indoor skate parks. Struggling to find good fitting menswear, he decided to make some shirts from scratch. As his hobby grew, he did more research, and took on the task of learning everything from the high-end machinery of the apparel industry to sourcing organic cotton growers in India. His artisanal brand is all about not cutting corners, the way fast fashion can. Doerksen sells his Commonwealth shirts from a new retail space that he co-habits in the Exchange District with other hip local brands, Wilder Goods and Old Hat. The shirts are also sold online and at Forth Cafe’s retail corner.