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We are kind of a bunch of nerdy patriots in my house.
My daughter, back when she was in the womb, kicked and moved like crazy when the national anthem was played (no joke) and she could sing it in its entirety before her second birthday. Then, there’s my husband the soldier, the fact we always, always cheer for Canadian sports teams (any Canadian sports team if our favourites are eliminated), and how we proudly hang a flag outside our home. My son’s favourite thing to play with? The Canadian flag on Daddy’s uniform.
Taking the patriotism a step farther, my husband feels we should be able to buy everything we need from Canadian-owned shops. Actually, there’s a joke between members of the extended family: if we ever pick something up at *gasp* WalMart, we say it’s from “that store,” and avoid eye contact with my husband.
With that in mind, we recently started buying eggs and meat from local farmers. And when making purchases for our two kids, we always have an eye on buying Canadian-made.
But it’s not easy.
Years ago my sister gave us some great items from Hatley, a Montreal-based kids clothing company. I was so happy the adorable sleepers and rain gear were from a Canadian company … until I saw what was printed inside one of the sleepers: made in India.
I started looking closer at products from Canadian companies and noticed many are “designed in Canada,” but made elsewhere, usually in some factory far away.
A couple of months ago I reached out to Hatley to find out why they don’t manufacture their products in Canada. A rep said in an email “we used to make our clothing in Canada at the beginning of the company’s launch, however it is not cost effective to continue to manufacture out of Canada on a large scale.”
I put that response to Alyssa Kerbel, the woman behind Toronto-based Mini Mioche, a few weeks ago to see what she thought.
“For most companies, manufacturing in Canada is not really an option because a lot of companies wholesale their product; they sell it to other stores,” she explained. Of course, companies have to sell their products at a price much lower than what the customer actually pays.
But Kerbel said she liked the idea of having a locally-made apparel brand for kids and has found a way to make it work. Not only are Mini Mioche clothes sewn in Canada, the organic cotton material is knit in Toronto specifically for their products — and Kerbel said she doesn’t see that changing in the future.
“Because we’re vertical – we make it all and we sell it in the stores and online – we’re able to make a decent margin on our product in order to make it a viable business,” she said.
And she supports other Canadian-made brands stocking both her online and brick & mortar stores with a wide variety of cute things for kids with a focus on items made in Canada. (Let’s just say it’s a good thing for my bank account I don’t live closer to their store in Toronto’s distillery district! It’s a gorgeous shop with way too many cute things.)
Another company which has been able to make it work is Mother Ease. The cloth diaper company started in Erika Froese’s basement back in 1991. Now, the company makes all their products in their St. Catharines, Ont. factory.
“We have done a price comparison and it is far less expensive to manufacture outside of Canada,” Erika’s son Alex Froese said in an interview. “We’ve always maintained manufacturing in Canada simply because we can control the quality of our product a lot easier.”
Froese says one thing makes Mother Ease viable: volume. But he noted the market in Canada is really changing.
“The barriers of entry have changed; anybody can host a web site now, e-commerce sites are readily available and cheap and easy to build.” (Think Shopify – another Canadian success story)
Mylene Boulet is an example of that. The single mother in Montreal started her own store, Shop Pamplemousse, on the e-commerce site Etsy.
Boulet says Etsy gave her guidelines on how to start and grow her business and it’s now her sole source of income, which she says is really empowering.
“I feel I can be there for my son when he needs me most, while still fulfilling my passion for design and need to pay my bills,” Boulet said in an e-mail.
So I’ve started doing something new: whenever I’m about to buy something I first do a search for a Canadian-made option. And even though it’s not always easy, I’ve been pleasantly surprised! From clothing to teething necklaces, sleep sacks, slippers and toys, I have found a made in Canada option.
It’s impossible to buy Canadian goods exclusively, but I feel good about supporting those who are giving it a go here at home.
Canadian-made products we own and love:
What: Cute kids clothes. From the basics like leggings, hoodies and tees to the not so basics like shortalls and tank jumpsuits. They also stock a ton of other made in Canada brands online & in their stores.
Where: Toronto, ON
What: Kids clothes and accessories. They sell an amazing bandana bib with a pacifier holder attached – brilliant! Their sleep sacks are also absolutely adorable (I want to have another baby just to buy one of their knotted gowns).
Where: Montreal, QC
What: Wool slippers (infant to adult)
Where: North Vancouver, BC
What: A wide range of cloth diapers from simple covers to use over prefolds to all-in-ones and –twos, and their popular-for-nighttime Sandy’s fitted cotton or bamboo diapers (we’ve pretty much tried every diaper they make and love them all).
Where: St. Catharines, ON
What: A shop on Etsy selling everything from handmade leggings, cute suspender and bow-tie sets to dresses and blankets. Single mother Mylene Boulet is the women behind says she feels blessed and empowered to be her own boss
Quinn & Lane
What: Silicone teething necklaces, teething toys and fidget necklaces for older kids.
Where: Timmins, ON
What: Cloth diapers.
Where: Winnipeg, MB
What: Cotton prefolds, fitted diapers, covers and more. Bummis sources as much of their materials and components from North America and manufactures everything just outside of Montreal. They also sell hats, bibs, and UV protective clothing.
Where: Montreal, QC
Canadian-made products I’ve discovered but haven’t yet tried:
Cate and Levi
What: Unique stuffed animals, puppets, slippers & hats handmade in their Toronto studio out of reclaimed wool. Their products are sold in 500 stores across the country.
Where: Toronto, ON
What: Kids clothes – from sleepers and onesies to leggings and tees. Their fabrics are designed & sourced from the U.S. then shipped to Vancouver and made locally.
Where: Vancouver, BC
What: Hair bows for little girls.
Where: Saskatoon, SK