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Quebec's garment industry, ravaged in recent years by lower-cost competition from Asia, is making a comeback.


Some companies are starting to buy from Canadian wholesalers instead of the cheaper foreign suppliers in the developing world.


Suits at the Banana Republic chain are now made in Canada -- Boisbriand, to be more specific.


Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, chose the factory north of Montreal despite labour costs that are much higher than those in Asia.


"The bottom line is it is about quality," Gap spokeswoman Kindley Walsh Lawlor told a news conference on Wednesday.


"It is about commitment to the workers and it is about treating the workers with dignity and respect."


Good news


The announcement about the Canadian-made suits is good news for local garment workers.


"It's going to give us more work," one woman told CTV's Rob Lurie.




Lina Aristeo of the group Workers United Quebec said it's about time clothing firms pulled out of the "unfortunate race to the bottom" that she says ignores workers' rights and deprives Canadians of quality, home-grown clothing.


Now the industry and unions are trying to sell Canada as a better choice.


"A suit made in Canada is, first of all, a good quality, high end suit and it's made in great conditions," said Aristeo.


"The people here have air conditioning in the summer, they're not passing out (from) heat exposure, they have a pension plan, they have insurance."




Patrick Thomas, of the apparel industry association called Apparel Quebec, says there's another advantage to making clothes in Canada – speed.


"If you have a hot seller on the market it can be done in 20 days," he said.


"If you have to go back to China it's not going to be done like that."


Consumer choice


But the question remains -- will shoppers choose to buy Canadian again?


One customer said yes, with a caveat.


"I would prefer Canadian products," one man told Rob, before adding: "if it's double the price point, my morals go down the drain."


Banana Republic will continue to have many other products made overseas but it plans to expand its made-in-Canada policy to jeans.


Meanwhile, the garment industry hopes other retailers will follow Banana Republic's example.



(Courtesy of CTV News Ottawa)

February 4th, 2010

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