PARKSHOW SS16: The Argument For and Against Shopping Local

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - CF Chinook Centre

This past weekend I attended PARKSHOW at CF Chinook Centre. The event, while still young, is getting to be a Calgary fashion scene staple. Hundreds gather to see what local designers are producing and showing on the runway (or maybe we gather because it’s something to do.) It would be easy for me to put on my critical hat and share all my thoughts on the show. I will resist the urge for two reasons: I’ve already done that and there’s more to talk about.

Since the show I have been pondering what the PARK team has successfully tapped into. Aside from the lifestyle photo opportunities, why do people attend? I think I’ve wrapped my head around a theory worth sharing. Regardless of the quality of the show (although it is getting better season after season) it brings people together to share what’s happening right here in our city. It’s community focused and as “big” as Calgary is. Like our young city, the collective is growing and developing. There’s a spirit here unlike any other city I’ve visited. The show promotes our own. It’s local. But do we care if it’s local?

The pros for supporting local businesses are plentiful. Earning and then spending your money right here keeps it here. The more money we exchange among each other means the more Calgarians can stay here and grow their lives here. Supporting local business means there’s more money to go around. The negative of supporting a business outside of Alberta and Canada means that international business gets to keep your hard earned money. 

From an environmental standpoint saving costs in shipping is a bonus. There’s no need to spend funds on fuel and wages for vehicles – planes, trains, boats, and trucks - to ship the product when the brand is available in the city you live. Also our labour laws and manufacturing standards are higher here than a developing country. 

Employing Canadians to produce Canadian goods is not a new concept. The rise of globalization and manufacturing at a low cost has been attractive to businesses for decades. The thinking was that the lower the cost, the more attractive that low cost would be to the consumer. Everybody wins, right? We now know that not all costs, like unsafe working conditions, are worth it. Consumers today are wiser than they have ever been before.

Buying local is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are cons too. Price is the obvious one. If you are not competitive with other similar brands pricing and have not explained to your customer why your product is A) different and maybe more importantly, B) superior, why would a customer pick you? And pay a premium? Get bent. Promoting your process and explaining the features is key for savvy customers.

Another hurdle I see is lack of variety or selection. I hear it is costly to produce high quality garments to show to attract retail buyers. From conversations with local designers I've heard that often a designer is out of pocket until their products sell (if they sell). It’s understandable that new designers choose more affordable fabrics in neutral colours as the cost is lower. While it’s understandable, it’s boring. Do we really need another brand to make every item in solid black, crème, grey, or white? No thanks. I would argue if they do decide to go that route, the garment better be fucking remarkable. If it’s just like an existing brand, there’s no reason to make it, right? If you are trying to sell being different, then you better show that to me, the shopper, in your work.

A third obstacle is quality. While I support art – such as fashion – it must be attractive. It’s harsh but just because you made it yourself does not make it necessarily good enough for me to buy. Quality on a runway and the rack is usually apparent. Enough said.

Pros and cons aside, please remember that fashion shows are a buffet. Oooh and ahhhh over what you like and leave the rest. If you decide to buy, that’s fantastic. If not, no worries, it’s still fun to get dressed up and go out for a night of fashion.

For more on the show and the designers, check out PARK