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Creative design, technological innovation, entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability are hallmarks of the small but thriving performance apparel industry. More than three dozen performance apparel businesses operate in greater Vancouver, ranging from small “hand-made” manufacturers to globally-recognized brands with annual sales of more than $100 million. Performance apparel businesses specialize in functional and fashionable gear for an array of activities, including biking, diving, gymnastics, hiking, kayaking, running, skiing, swimming and yoga.
Vancouver’s nearby mountains, forests and oceans supply the design inspiration and testing laboratory for performance apparel businesses. The industry is poised to benefit dramatically from the international exposure provided by the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
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Vancouver is one of the most physically active cities in Canada. People in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest value functional gear that keeps them dry, warm and comfortable during outdoor activity. Public and private sector organizations that work year round in the mountains and on the oceans provide a natural market for apparel that performs well under harsh conditions.
Performance apparel businesses benefit from Vancouver’s proximity to important U.S. and Asian consumer markets. Arc’Teryx was the industry leader in climbing gear and harnesses before branching out into high-end apparel and backpacks. Sugoi performance apparel is recognized across Europe and North America for cycling, triathlon, cross-country skiing and running. Lululemon Athletica, which specializes in yoga apparel, has grown from one store in Vancouver in 2001 to more than 75 in Canada, Australia and the United States. Lija Style, a lifestyle apparel firm, exports about 80 per cent of its products to the United States, a major contributor to the company’s almost 600 per cent growth in revenues between 2001 and 2006.
Performance apparel businesses are leveraging long-established apparel expertise and manufacturing capacity in Vancouver, while adding high-tech innovations in materials and construction, unique local designs, and cutting-edge branding and marketing. Ski apparel companies from around the world come to Vancouver and nearby Whistler to check out the latest local fashions.
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The Canadian government offers relief on tariffs and import duties to Canadian apparel businesses as a result of international free trade agreements.
The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program is a federal tax incentive designed to encourage research and development in Canada. Qualifying non-Canadian companies are eligible to receive tax credits of 20 per cent of qualified expenditures. Canadian companies receive enhanced credits. The B.C. government adds a ten per cent tax credit for qualifying Canadian and non-Canadian corporations that conduct R&D in British Columbia.
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B.C. Fashion Week
This annual gathering exposes apparel firms in Vancouver and B.C. to global opinion leaders in the fashion industry.
Blanche MacDonald Centre
Centre providing diploma and certificate programs in Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Design.
Canadian Apparel Federation
National advocacy association for the Canadian apparel industry.
Emily Carr Institute of Art+Design
Bachelor’s program in design focuses on sustainable design and innovative product design.
Non-profit organization that encourages consumers to buy from B.C. fashion companies and promotes sustainable design practices.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Fashion Design and Technology Program
Bachelor’s level program that prepares graduates for careers in fashion design, production, marketing and computer technology; the only program of its kind in Western Canada.
Online newsletter that serves as the voice of the B.C. apparel and fashion industries.
Vancouver Community College
Fashion Arts Program
Degree and certificate programs in fashion, including design, pattern making, garment construction, and fashion business technology.
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Photo Credit: Sugoi Apparel/John Kelly