Top 3 tips for indie fashion designers in Canada

Jane' new art

In my role as Product Coordinator at Fresh Collective, I feel privileged to work with up to 50 designers each year.  These designers are all entrepreneurs as well which is key to making it as a designer.  Essentially, they are each running a small manufacturing business. They develop, test and tweak their products, then manage production, sales, marketing and bookkeeping.

It takes a lot to juggle all these jobs successfully and keep putting out fresh products each season.  Here are my top 3 tips for succeeding in launching your own line:

1. Research:  Find out as much as you can by browsing stores, meeting people and looking at other products out there that would be your competition.  Go all over the city, store to store. Learn about the boutiques. Find ones you love. Talk to the people working there and see if you can see your line fitting it. Look at the garments and jewellery; examine how they are constructed, look the price. How is your product going to stand out? How will you produce items that will sell at a marketable price?  Will your line play a nice complement to the other lines and help them sell?   Then research potential customers- your friends and family is a good place to start! Show people your samples and ask their opinions of them. Knowledge is power!

supporting local designers

Jane Haselgrove wearing a dress by Melow from Montreal in the Queen Street location of Fresh Collective.


2. Get started selling: Do craft shows, special sales and events. Get your product in front of real people. Test it out on the market. Find out who your customer is and what they love. Back in the day, I also had my own clothing line and Jennifer Fukushima and I used to share a booth at the Clothing Show once in a while. Meet other designers and come up with ways to collaborate on a space at a craft show if you have to. This way when you show your line to retailers you can tell them what your best sellers are. (Hint: That’s the first question I always ask when I meet a new designer!)

3. Start small. Design 2 to 5 key pieces and perfect them.  Many designers spread themselves too thin thinking that they need to produce a full collection.  What happens too often is they drain their money and time and miss the season. And then they repeat the mistake the next season.   What works is building a repertoire of core pieces that sell well and that you can create variations on.  A fabulously fitting dress can be done in many fabrics, with short sleeves or long, and can make your whole career.  Simple and easy reproduction of a best selling piece will be your money maker.


I’m very proud of the work we do at Fresh Collective to partner with designers to grow our business along with theirs.  I feel a particular sense of pride when a new designer starts with us and we get to watch their progress as they work hard, innovate, take feedback and work some more to start really seeing some success.  It feels awesome to send a  sales report with a little note like, “You better get to work!  We’re almost sold out of your dresses!”

Are you an emerging or established Canadian designer interested in selling with us?  Please get in touch and tell us about your line!

jane's bio


#FCfreshstart – Week 5! Fabric Choices.

Hi Fresh Collective! We are now at week 5 in the Fresh Start program and gearing up for production! The fabrics have now been ordered and we will soon be starting to cut and sew samples for YOU, the customer, to try on and give more feedback. That is an opportunity for you to tell me any last issues you would want corrections on so I can apply them to the final garments which will be going in store!

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The three designs you chose for me to produce are the tunic, dress and top as shown above.  Last week you gave me your votes on the fabrics for each and here they are!

Below the fabric swatch picture I’ve written a little information on the fabrics which will tell you about its convenience, practicality, durability, and care content. I am very excited to share the winning choices with you!


For the top, I’ll be using this structured knit as a contrast with another fabric as well.

This knit stretch jean-like fabric is extremely practical for wash and wear. Simply throw this in the wash in cold water and tumble dry on low. Iron if needed on a medium heat to get rid of any creases. This fabric is a rayon, nylon, polyester, and spandex blend. Rayon gives this fabric a lustrous appearance. Nylon enhances the durability and wear and polyester allows this fabric to be wash and wearable. Spandex gives it the fantastic elasticity and stretch! By default, I have ordered the dark jean wash colour, as opposed to the black, because it was the only colour in stock at this time.


The rayon/spandex blend Dakota knit was a big hit!! This forest green colour was the most popular and will be offered for the tunic and the top. Rayon is a manufactured cellulose fabric which means it has a lot of natural properties including a naturally soft hand and lustrous appearance. This fabric is machine washable in cold water and you can throw this in the dryer on a low heat. This fabric is lightweight and perfect for the spring and summer! The print is simple and not too bold.


Here is the modal knit! This oatmeal colour was the most popular neutral colour desired for the tunic and the top. This modal/spandex blend fabric is SO soft to the touch which means you will want to wear this all day long!  Modal is cool to the touch and also tends to pill less. The best characteristic of this fabric is that it is ECO friendly! What a plus! Wash this in the machine in cold water and dry flat.

WINEThis is also the modal knit in the popular wine colour. This fabric will also be used for the tunic and the top. It has all the same properties as listed above with the oatmeal colour!



This is the double knit fabric that will be used to create the winning dress. This fabric is more structured than the others and is a rayon, nylon, and spandex blend. Again, the rayon gives this fabric a lustrous appearance and soft hand. The nylon gives this fabric the durability and long lasting properties. This coral colour was chosen to mix with the Scuba Reef print below! This will be such a refreshing spring/summer colour this upcoming season! This fabric is easy to take care of as you can wash cold in the machine, and tumble dry on low heat!

CORALprintLastly, we have the Scuba Reef printed fabric. This is a polyester and spandex mix fabric. Polyester is a great fibre for creating a convenient fabric in terms of care. This fabric can either be hand or machine washed and hung to dry. This is a great bold print to make a statement. It will be used for the dress as the accent fabric being applied to the collar, and pockets to add interest to the piece!

Thanks again everyone for following along and your continued support in this development program!

Please let us know how you like the final fabrics that were chosen and colours! Follow along on any missed content by researching #FCfreshstart on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! Catch us next Thursday for Week 6!! We will be moving onto sample making!

Stay fresh,