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Runway to Retail? Ce n’est pas possible.

We’re down to the finale of Project Runway Canada (Global, 10pm), and this is where things start getting complicated. See, the show sells a promise. It sells the promise that, as the winner, you will be endowed with all you need to create a successful clothing label that all of Canada will buy. In reality – and not the television kind – designers in this country can be extraordinarily talented in design, wickedly precise in construction, enjoy seamless manufacturing and STILL see their label fail.

You can dress PRC’s winner up with a photo shot, magazine cover, mentorship and cash prize, but all of these will not make them a successful designer. If no one is selling the clothes, then no one is buying.
Evan Biddell was Project Runway Canada’s first winner. After winning, the self-taught designer moved to Toronto and spent the next year working out of Wayne Clark’s studio (WAY better than a Winners’ mentorship). Later he moved to his own location, revamped his fashion entourage with a new PR rep and business manager and WA-LA!

Sounds like good progress on paper. But according to his site, there are only five retail locations where you can find Evan Biddell. And one of them just closed as a result of the economy. So make that four. Local boutiques are the retail mainstay of our homegrown designers — when they go, where do our designers turn?

Both Jason and Sunny have produced collections. Jason Meyers showed his spring line at last fall’s L’Oreal Fashion Week. (I discovered Jason Meyers years ago at a local Toronto boutique….that closed last fall.) They’ve been around the design block a few times with minor starts and successes. If one of them wins, will their luck change?
Unfortunately, the answer is “probably not.” The issue isn’t talent, the real issue is the lack of retail options for a young designer. And until that changes, there are no real winners.