When it comes to manufacturing in Canada, the challenge that often comes to mind first is the significantly higher cost of labour, when compared to overseas manufacturing.
However, cost is not the only challenge faced by Canadian-made fashion brands.
The apparel manufacturing industry in Canada struggles with little infrastructure left in Canada for knitting, dyeing and sewing, it can be challenging for brands to find production, and even not possible for some types of garments to be made here.
History of the Apparel Manufacturing Industry in Canada
When trade levies were lowered on imported apparel in the 1990s, Canadian manufacturers were unable to compete on cost with overseas manufacturers, forcing many to relocate their operations, or shut down. Between 2004 to 2015, the percent of clothing made in Canada decreased from 40% to less than 5%. Not to mention, the Canadian apparel manufacturing is one of the few industries that receives no support from the Canadian government.
This impacts not only the ability to sew clothing in Canada, but also the ability to knit and dye fabric, and manufacture notions such as buttons, labels and thread.
At Encircled, we’re so proud to work with one of the last remaining garment dye houses in Canada, Ajax Textile. As we approach Canada Day, we want to highlight the work they do to support the Canadian apparel manufacturing industry and provide Canadian brands with a local and sustainable dye house for their fabrics.
History of Ajax Textile
Ajax Textile is a family-owned business, founded by Tony Serra in 1954. As an experienced dyer and businessman, Tony began Ajax Textile in a small 2,000 sq. ft. building.
Despite the increased global competition within the apparel and textile industry, Ajax Textile has continued to grow over the years, expanding into a 100,000+ sq. ft. facility with annual dyeing capabilities in excess of 27 million pounds of fabric. They’re commitment to innovation, sustainability, and quality, along with their expertise have made them the leading provider of products and services to the North American textile dyeing and finishing industry.
Sustainable Fabric Dyeing at Ajax Textile
Ajax Textile’s commitment to the environment is one of their core values. Over the last 60+ years the company has implemented a number of environmentally friendly policies and procedures. They’ve also developed an expertise for processing specialty, organic-based fabrics and blends, including bamboo, organic cotton and hemp as base materials.
The fashion industry is responsible for around 20% of wastewater worldwide, which comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. While Canada has stringent regulations covering the dye and finish industry, the same regulations don't exist in many countries overseas. Not only does Ajax Textile meet the Canadian standards, but their discharge levels are far below both federal and provincial standards.They work with the City of Ajax to continuously monitor their waste water to ensure it’s treatable by the municipal sanitary authority.
Ajax Textile also makes an effort to utilize more sustainable, non-toxic dye options. They source their dyes from Huntsman, a founding Bluesign® system partner. Bluesign® approved is a certification given to manufacturers and brands who meet a high standard of resource productivity, consumer safety, air emission, water emission and occupational health & safety in their production. The Bluesign process assesses each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products.
Another way Ajax Textile has been able to reduce their carbon footprint is by utilizing and supplying renewable energy. They work with Index Energy, a renewable energy company, providing clean electricity, steam and hot water for the greater Toronto area and province of Ontario. Ajax Textile uses their renewable recycled steam energy in their facility, and in turn, Index Energy uses the recycled filtered waste water from Ajax Textile’s dye production for their Hydro/Steam production.
In addition to the above mentioned sustainability measures taken by Ajax Textile, they make it possible for Canadian apparel brands to keep their entire supply chain local. Transporting clothing overseas is one of the principal reasons the fashion industry has such a large carbon footprint, so having access to a local supply chain greatly reduces an apparel brand’s environmental impact.
Working with Ajax Textile
One of the major benefits to working with a Canadian dye house is the assurance that workers receive a fair wage and have a safe working environment. The strict labour regulations in Canada paired with the ability to visit our contractors allows us to feel confident knowing that the workers who make our clothes are being treated fairly.
Also, having our fabrics knit and dyed so close to each other results in better overall quality clothing, since problems and adjustments can be made really quickly. For example, the knitter of our Micromodal, goes to Ajax weekly to check on the progress of their fabrics. This attention to detail wouldn’t be possible with overseas production.
Over the years, at Encircled, we’ve been able to increase the amount of fabric we knit locally from 0% to over 55% of the volume of fabric used in production. One of the main reasons we can’t knit and dye 100% of our fabrics locally is the minimum yardage required to make the production financially viable for both our knitter and dye house. As we grow, our ability to knit more locally increases.
We are so proud to be able to make our clothing in Canada and work with such an amazing Canadian supply chain. We want to encourage you to keep looking for the “Made in Canada” label in your clothing, and keep in mind that, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” By purchasing Canadian-made clothing, you’re voting for workers rights, sustainable production, and to revive the Canadian apparel manufacturing industry.
Currently, the Encircled designs made with fabric dyed by Ajax textiles include:
The Dressy Sweatpant
The Dressy Legging
The Dressy Sweatskirt
The Retrograde Jacket Dress
Want to learn more about the amazing Canadian supply chain behind Encircled? Here are the interviews our team has conducted with the sewing studios that make our clothing:
Why is shopping Canadian-made important to you? Let us know in the comments!