PORT ALBERNI, B.C.: Fashion is bringing a little color and employment to a logging community in Western Canada.
Kloth, a Vancouver-based company, is packing up its clothing manufacturing facility and moving to Port Alberni.
“We decided to move out here for the quality of life, but also because there’s a huge labor pool to choose from,” says plant manager Garry Favell.
The move is a welcome one for the Vancouver Island community, which has seen its share of job losses over the last several years as lumber and paper mills have made cutbacks or closed completely.
Favell says they’ve received about 50 applications and are in the process of hiring. Training is due to start in the new year and they’re looking to fill anywhere from five to 10 more positions.
“Most of the people are women, stay-at-home moms, whose husbands have been laid off or haven’t had much work when the mills slow down,” Favell says.
Kloth launched seven years ago and, according to Favell, sales have doubled each year, totaling nearly a million in 2010.
Most of the pieces that the company makes are designed by local artists. They also try to source materials that are locally-made.
That’s a selling point for some of their clients, such as designer Lara Presber, who bases her designs on those principles.
For her most recent collection, the architect-turned-designer drew inspiration from the Art Gallery of Alberta, an eco-friendly building in Edmonton.
She incorporated the building’s zinc cladding into her design of a matte sequin dress and based the sculpted collar of another piece on the shapes and lines in the building’s façade.
“A huge part of my brand is the sustainability aspect, not just the materials but keeping the production here in Canada,” Presber says.
She currently produces about 400 pieces per season and plans to maintain her relationship with Kloth as things continue to pick up.
“Some designers will get to the point in their growth where they want to source overseas, so it’s good knowing they have the capacity to grow with me,” she says.