Allison Smith designs clothes for women in their everyday lives of working, running around town and getting things done. Designer and dreamer by day, Allison creates clothes that she and her friends would want to wear, often inspired by references from her favourite decade – the 70s. After graduating from the Fashion Design & Technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Allison paid her dues in Montreal before starting her own line in 1998. The line grew in popularity across North America, prompting the addition of an eco-friendly sister line, Pillar, in 2011. Both lines are manufactured in Vancouver. Visit her website at AllisonWonderland.ca
Answer: I make a point of buying from as many small businesses as possible – my buttons, labels, zippers, notions. And all the services I use are local as well. For me, having those personal relationships help – if I’m in a jam and I need something those local suppliers know me and are more likely to want to help!
I have a few different factories making my clothing – one is a cottage industry sewer, and the rest of the clothing is made by Wearabouts or Morwin. I make my own patterns, but Precision Pattern digitizes them and grades them for me. None of my fabric is local, but my fabric reps are. I use Kendor Textiles in Delta, Gordon Fabrics in Richmond and Telio, a Canadian company based in Montreal. That’s the majority of my fabric purchasing. I also use Atex Designer Fabrics on Hastings sometimes. I buy my buttons from Button Button, and my thread, zippers and elastic from N Jefferson.
I use only local owned businesses for my services. I use Fashion Capsule, a local made clothing representative, to sell and represent me to local retailers. I have a service called Fashion Can that run my online store. They make it so easy – I give them the photos and such and they upload them with all the info and keep the inventory updated. They also have an online store on their site that promotes the clothing of all their local made fashion clients. I buy my hangers and racks from Eddie’s Hangups, use Colour Time and PrintPrint for everything and use Compendia, a great local accountant. Even my shipping is local – I don’t use Fedex or anything like that, I always ship using Canada Post.
Question: What does living and manufacturing here mean to you?
Answer: To be honest, my career would have been better if I were based in Toronto. I’ve lived in Montreal and tried to make that my home, but I’m a west coast girl – I like the lifestyle here, and I love the city. I know people talk about it being the most expensive city in Canada to live in, but I feel like it’s an easy city to live in. I know a lot of people think the fashion industry is glamorous, but when I had a baby a few years ago I brought my daughter to work, and I really appreciate that all my clients weren’t at all phased when she tagged along. This city is just very real and down-to-earth.
Question: What social practices are you proud of?
Answer: I’m proud to support other BC businesses and all the jobs they provide by working with local manufacturers and service providers. Not only is my product local but it’s also sold exclusively by local owned stores, who are also creating jobs and participating in the local economy. Every single boutique I sell to is independently owned and run.
Question: What environmental practices are you proud of?
Answer: I use eco-fabrics in my Pillar line, and I’m conscious to donate all the scraps I can to crafty friends. But I think the biggest impact I can make is to make quality, timeless clothing that women will have in their closets for years to come. Locally made clothing is more expensive – there’s no way around it – so I try to make clothing that people will cherish more and feel connected to. My products are unique items – there aren’t thousands out there, there are hundreds or less. I make them to last so they won’t be thrown it out, and if the owner ever doesn’t want it, it’s an item that holds value for resale, and then someone else can enjoy it.