There are many reasons to support local businesses – superficial reasons like the absence of customs duties and important reasons like contributing to a vibrant network of economic and social enterprises.. Yet many of us still gravitate toward the big chains that have mastered social media and influencer marketing.
Recently, a small Vancouver-based company Free label posted a raw heartfelt message on instagram explaining how businesses are struggling to survive this year. Since the pandemic panic subsided, people have been less passionate about local businesses than they were during the height of COVID and a possible impending termination has Free Label and many others worried about their future.
Canadian brands can sometimes feel like the underdogs of mainstream fashion, but that doesn’t have to be the case, especially when you’re comparing two brands side by side, often they’re trying to accomplish the exact same thing.
Here are some “if you like this, try this” suggestions for Canadian brands that are dupes for other stores.
If you like Free People, try find july
This brand from British Columbia is one of my favorites because it ticks all the boxes. Affordable but still well done? Check. Trendy but still unique? Check. Made in small batches that change with the seasons? Check.
Most of the styles closely resemble the laid-back, bohemian vibe of Free People, but come from a small, local business near them, which is even better. Once the items sell out they are gone for good so there are lots of great bargains and fun pieces to discover all the time making shopping interesting and quick like Zara but without the impact of fast fashion.
My current choice of Finding July is the denim cow print corset with matching jeans (and it’s for sale) from the Calgary Stampede montage.
If you like Love Shack Fancy, try Little White House
Just an hour’s drive from Vancouver, there’s an oasis of cabins in Fort Langley. La Petite Maison Blanche offers clothing, household items, and an adjoining cafe that serves afternoon tea.
Love Shack Fancy is known for its ruffled dresses that have an overall girly aesthetic and Little White House also achieves this perfectly with a very curated selection of dresses and separates that change with the seasons. You also don’t have to travel all the way to Langley since most of the designs are on their website as well.
Just a note: almost everything runs small, so size up when ordering online. My current favorite dress is the Enchanted to Meet You dress which looks like a Selkie dress.
If you like reform, try dynamite
Dynamite is by no means a small company (they also own Garage, anyone remember that store?), but it is Canadian. The Montreal brand is, in many ways, the Canadian answer to stores like Reformation. There’s a Brick-and-Mortar Dynamite in downtown Pacific Center and the style selection is very similar to the cool, laid-back look of its American counterpart.
Clothing ranges from sensible office essentials to evening looks with a few casual weekend outfits in between. They also have an RSVP collection with great wedding guest options. In addition, the entire site is currently for sale.
I am currently looking for some faux leather pants for fall and these are on my list.
If you like Zara try The last scoop
Zara originated in Spain, but it’s such a global phenomenon now that I don’t think it really matters where it started. It is also one of the biggest fast fashion brands with huge turnover. The Latest Scoop is a Vancouver-based retailer that sources limited quantities of designs from other brands to form a collection that’s just as on-trend as Zara, but less over-produced. The price and quality are also quite comparable, and sometimes even better. Plus, you’re supporting a local business.
The Latest Scoop has locations all over the Lower Mainland and a fully shoppable website with apparel, accessories and homewares. They also have sections dedicated to current trends like festival season and dopaminergic dressing (which is similar to the new Barbiecore trend but refers to wearing bright colors and things that make you happy).
I currently covet this corset top.