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Civic Impact

George Brown's Fashion Exchange in Regent Park aims to create jobs, help designers flourish

When George Brown was exploring ideas around creating a fashion-oriented program as part of the revitalization of Regent Park, it passed on the idea of a fashion incubator. What the school chose instead for its partnership with Daniels Spectrum was something more daring.
“What we’ve come up with is something far more integrated between the college, the community and industry. Normally incubators are separate and only the people in the incubator would be in that space, as growing small businesses,” says Marilyn McNeil-Morin, chair of George Brown’s School of Fashion Studies. Instead, the new Fashion Exchange, which officially opens this week, combines training with a production facility that can help Toronto fashion houses bring their designs to reality.
In phase one, George Brown has established a program offering entry-level training to at-risk youth, leading to an internship and possible employment in high-need areas like industrial power sewing. The Exchange will also offer advanced production skills, courses aimed at people who may already work in the industry. “Our industry is ramping up production here in Canada, which has a lot to do with consumer interest in environmental and social sustainability. There’s a real need for people to know how to do production,” says McNeil-Morin. “So we’ll be offering production training in a production setting.”
That setting—and what’s particularly unique about the Fashion Exchange—is a program that will invite emerging designers to use the production facilities to create samples and short-runs. “That’s a major concern for so many emerging designers—there’s nowhere they can get their work done. They’re too small, they’re not established labels and can’t do the quantities they need to go to a standard contractor and definitely not to go overseas.” So community people can not only get training, but get jobs running a professional production facility. There will be between six and eight jobs to start, a number that could grow up to 20 as the hub evolves.
“We don’t see our students being the ones doing that work. We want them to learn about production by observing and putting their own products through a production line,” says McNeil-Morin.
The 6,000-square-foot space location, away from the college’s campus, is meant to be visible and accessible, so passersby can see garments being made. “We kept it very industrial looking with lots of light, white walls, a very clean look.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Marilyn McNeil-Morin
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