8 Toronto-born fashion and beauty brands now known around the globe

Jul 6 2021, 9:54 am

Toronto is a pop culture epicentre (thank you, MuchMusic), so it’s no surprise the city has birthed some pretty massive fashion companies.

Brands like Club Monaco, Canada Goose and Roots all got their starts in Toronto and have grown into major players around the globe. Here’s a list of eight major fashion beauty brands you may not know hail from Toronto.

Club Monaco

One of the city’s most iconic brands. Joe Mimran and Alfred Sung launched Club Monaco with a single store on Queen Street West back in 1985 (a location that’s still open today).

JoeMimran/Twitter

The preppy retailer became known for offering basics with an elevated twist, including the quintessential crest logo sweatshirt.

Club Monaco_crew neck

Club Monaco’s crew neck crest sweatshirt. (Instagram/Club Monaco)

Ralph Lauren acquired the company in 1999, but the American clothing giant sold the company to an equity firm in May 2021. Notably, Joe Mimran went on to launch the popular fast-fashion brand Joe Fresh.

MAC Cosmetics

MAC Cosmetics — an acronym for Make-up Art Cosmetics — is easily one of the most successful beauty brands in history. Photographer Frank Toskan and beauty salon owner Frank Angelo launched the company in 1984 after being frustrated with the products available to professional make-up artists at the time.

A MAC Cosmetics store. (Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics)

Madonna helped put the company on the map when she wore one of their signature matte, red lipsticks in the late ’80s — and the brand quickly grew from one Toronto department store counter to stand-alone stores all over North America (and, now, the globe). MAC was acquired by beauty conglomerate Estée Lauder in 1998.

Nicki Minaj and Ricky Martin appear in a Viva Glam campaign for MAC Cosmetics. (Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics)

The company was also a trailblazer when it came to philanthropy, raising awareness for HIV and AIDS with the launch of their Viva Glam initiative in 1994.

Celebrities including Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga have lent their support to the ongoing program by collaborating on product lines and appearing in adjacent campaigns. Today, MAC has raised over $500 million for their MAC AIDS Fund.

Roots

Is there any brand more quintessentially Canadian than Roots? The company got started back in 1973 as a shoe store, opening its first location near the Rosedale subway station. For several years, the retailer was known solely for its leather goods, and later added shoes and jackets to their repertoire.

roots

A Roots Canada store. (Courtesy of Roots)

Amid the fitness craze of the 1980s, founders Michael Budman and Don Green introduced the brand’s iconic logo sweatshirts and sweatpants — which have remained a Roots staple to this day.

A beaver logo sweatshirt by Roots. (Courtesy of Roots)

The casual clothing company gained global recognition after designing Team Canada’s official uniforms for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Before the term “viral” was a thing, the unforgettable red poorboy cap became a sensation. Roots went on to do the uniforms for the 2000 Sydney games, the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2004 games in Athens, eventually being outbid by HBC in 2005.

OVO

No celebrity is more associated with Toronto than Drake. The Forest Hill native launched OVO (an acronym for October’s Very Own, a nod to his birth month) clothing in 2011 with an extremely limited drop, recognizable with a unique gold owl emblem.

OVO’s Vancouver store.

Initially a collaboration with Roots, the brand has since produced a number of hard-to-get collabs — including one with Drake’s hometown team, the Toronto Raptors.

Drake wears his own OVO sweatshirt in a music video.

By 2014, OVO was a full-fledged streetwear line selling limited collections out of Dundas West Boutique, and eventually opening locations in Vancouver, New York, LA and Chicago. The brand is, of course, worn by Drake and his crew, along with other celebrities alike.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose has put our country on the global map loud and proud. The outerwear company made its debut way back in 1957 as Metro Sportswear, later changing its name to Snow Goose, before adopting the name Canada Goose in the 1970s.

Canada Goose opens its doors in the city it calls home (CNW Group/Canada Goose)

Their world-famous, down-filled Expedition Parka made its eventual debut in the 1980s. Originally designed for scientists working in Antarctica, the extreme cold weather coat went on to become a beloved item by those doing outdoor activities — eventually becoming a must-have fashion item in the 2000s.

The “Expedition” parka by Canada Goose. (Credit: Canada Goose)

The parkas have had some on-screen time in Hollywood, too: Nicolas Cage rocked one in 2004’s National Treasure, while Dennis Quaid sported a yellow version in The Day After Tomorrow.

More recently, the company has vowed to stop using fur by 2022.

Smythe

Smythe makes some of the best blazers in the game. Friends turned business founders Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe made their fashion dreams a reality when they founded the company in 2004. While the Toronto company has since expanded into a full-fledged apparel line, Smythe’s perfectly tailored women’s blazers remain central to the brand’s DNA.

Holt Renfrew helped the brand gain traction in Toronto, with the luxury retailer eventually carrying the line nationwide. Kate Middleton helped build on the company’s budding popularity after wearing a navy blue blazer on her Canadian tour with Prince William in 2011 (an item she consistently re-wears: she was most recently spotted rocking it at a COVID related event in 2020). Sister-in-law Meghan Markle — who lived in Toronto for seven years while starring on Suits — has also proven to be a fan, along with style icons Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kim Kardashian.

Sentaler

Another Toronto brand Kate Middleton helped elevate. The Duchess of Cambridge wore a short version of Sentaler‘s signature ribbed sleeve alpaca coat in their gull grey tone while touring the Yukon in 2016. The moment was a dream come true for Serbian-born designer Bojana Sentaler, who launched her eponymous brand in 2009.

 

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The “Kate Middleton effect” kicked into gear shortly after, with the jacket selling out immediately. Like Kate, Meghan Markle has also worn several pieces over the years including a chic camel jacket and classic midnight blue jacket. Other stars who have sported the Toronto brand’s designs include Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy, Jennifer Lopez, and Canada’s own Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau.

Dsquared2

This popular designer label might be made in Italy, but the designers are Toronto’s own (Willowdale, to be exact). Before venturing out on their own, twin brothers Dean and Dan Caten honed their talents at the prestigious Parson’s School of Design in New York City and relocated to Milan in 1991 to work for both Diesel and Gianni Versace.

Dsquared2 founders Dean and Dan Caten. (Credit: Dsquared2)

Dsquared2 debuted as a men’s line in 1995, proudly blending their influences from Canada and Italy (their motto “Born in Canada, Made in Italy”). Dean and Dan made their first foray into women’s wear after Madonna asked them to design 150 pieces for her 2001 world tour.

Britney Spears wearing Dsquared2 on tour in 2009. (Credit: Rex/Shutterstock)

Britney Spears followed suit with her 2009 Circus tour, while stars like Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz and Awkafina have been spotted in Dsquared2’s designs. The label retails today in over 100 stores around the globe, operating several flagship locations in places like Milan, Dubai, and Macau.

 

Cassandra GillCassandra Gill

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