There are a lot of reasons to support local businesses—superficial ones like no duty fees and significant ones like contributing to a vibrant network of economic and social enterprise. Yet many of us still gravitate toward the large chains that have mastered social media and influencer marketing.
Recently, small Vancouver-based business Free Label posted a raw heartfelt message on Instagram explaining how businesses are struggling to survive this year. Since the pandemic panic has waned, people are less passionate about local businesses than they were at the height of COVID, and a possible incoming recession has Free Label and many others concerned for their future.
Canadian brands can sometimes feel like the underdog of mainstream fashion but that doesn't need to be the case especially when you compare two brands side by side, often they're trying to accomplish the exact same thing.
Here are some 'if you like that, try this' suggestions for Canadian brands that are dupes for other stores.
If you like Free People try Finding July
This B.C. brand is a favourite of mine because it ticks all of the boxes. Affordable but still well-made? Check. Trendy but still unique? Check. Made in small batches that change with the seasons? Check.
Most of the styles closely resemble the boho effortlessly cool vibe of Free People but come from a small local business close to home, which is even better. Once the items sell out they are gone for good so there is a lot of really great turnover and fun pieces to check out all the time which makes shopping there interesting and fast-paced like Zara but without the impact of fast fashion.
My current pick from Finding July is the denim cow print corset with matching jeans (and it's on sale) from the Calgary Stampede edit.
If you like Love Shack Fancy try Little White House
Just an hour's drive from Vancouver, there is a cottagecore oasis in Fort Langley. The Little White House has clothing, homewares, and an attached cafe that serves afternoon tea.
Love Shack Fancy is known for its flouncy dresses that have an overall girly aesthetic, and the Little White House also achieves this perfectly with a highly curated selection of both dresses and separates that transition through the seasons. You also don't have to make the trek out to Langley since most of the designs are also on their website.
Just a note: almost everything runs small so size up when ordering online. My current favourite dress is the Enchanted to Meet You dress, which looks like a Selkie gown.
If you like Reformation try Dynamite
Dynamite is by no means a small business (they also own Garage, does anyone remember that store?), but it is Canadian. The Montreal-based brand is, in many ways, Canada's answer to stores like Reformation. There is a brick-and-mortar Dynamite in Pacific Centre downtown, and the selection of styles is very similar to the elevated casual cool girl look of its American counterpart.
The clothing ranges from sensible office staples to night-out looks with some casual weekend outfits in between. They also have an RSVP collection with stunning wedding guest options. Plus, the whole site is currently on sale.
I'm currently on the lookout for some faux leather pants for fall and these are on my list.
If you like Zara try The Latest Scoop
Zara is originally from Spain, but it's such a worldwide phenomenon now I don't think it really matters where it started. It is also one of the biggest fast fashion brands around with a huge amount of product turnover. The Latest Scoop is a Vancouver retailer that sources limited amounts of designs from other brands to form a collection that is just as on-trend as Zara but less overly produced. The price point and quality are also pretty on par, if not sometimes better. Plus, you're supporting a local business.
The Latest Scoop has locations all over the Lower Mainland and a fully shoppable website with clothing, accessories, and homeware. They also have sections dedicated to current trends like festival season and dopamine dressing (which is similar to the new Barbiecore trend but refers to wearing bright colours and things that make you happy).
I'm currently coveting this corset top.