When most people think of Canada, they think poutine, maple syrup and hockey. Other people might think fashion, and they may be onto something. Many Canadian clothing brands have cult followings on both sides of the border. From activewear to haute couture, Canadian clothing brands offer a big boost to the country’s economy and cross-border shipping brings it all into the United States.
Popular Canadian clothing brands include:
With so many popular clothing options coming from Canada under NAFTA regulations, you might be wondering how all your favorite styles get across the border. Cross-border shipping is essential for Canadian clothing brands, as you’ll find threads from the Great White North on the backs of stylish folks south of the border, too.
According to information from the Government of Canada, the country’s apparel industry consists of manufacturers who specialize in making clothes and accessories. The clothing and accessory business is a big deal on their side of the border. In fact, the fashion industry’s market value adds up to $43.6 billion Canadian dollars each year. Nearly 50,000 people are employed by fashion-related manufacturing jobs in Canada, including clothing, footwear, textile and leather goods manufacturing.
Canada’s fashion and apparel industry produces a variety of goods, including:
Nearly half of all of the apparel and related goods manufactured in Canada is either exported or re-exported. Much of it comes south into the United States.
Some might argue that Montreal is the fashion capital of Canada. This Quebecois city is the third leading North American city for clothing manufacturing. There are more than 1,800 fashion and clothing related companies in Montreal and these companies bring in more than $7.6 billion in annual sales. Additionally, the fashion sector provides nearly 30,000 jobs to Montreal residents. In fact, Montreal is home to 70 percent of the businesses in Canada’s fashion sector according to information from the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.
Important pieces of the fashion industry in Canada and Montreal include design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution.
In addition to Montreal, you’ll also find a fashion industry presence in British Columbia. Many major brands are based in British Columbia. Additionally, one of Canada’s best design schools, the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is located in Richmond, B.C. The design school is very exclusive, only about 20 students graduate annually.
You’ll find a number of Canadian clothing brands hanging in your closet, especially if you’re a member of the active set. Activewear is huge in Canada, as the temperate climate creates tons of opportunities for recreation, adventure and sports.
Lululemon Athletica is a retailer of athletic apparel based in Canada. Many of their designs are yoga-inspired, but you’ll find attire for other fitness options, too. Today Lululemon’s offerings include performance shirts, dresses, shorts and pants, along with undergarments, accessories and lifestyle clothing. The company dates back to 1998 and was originally established in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company has grown quickly and now has 460 stores internationally.
If you have a screen-printed shirt in your wardrobe, you might be sporting a Gildan style. Gildan is a Canadian manufacturer of blank t-shirts, sport shirts, fleece sweatshirts and more. Many of Gildan’s products are decorated by screen printing companies with original designs and logos. Gildan is also known for manufacturing socks, and works with brands including Under Armour, New Balance and Gold Toe.
If you’ve dealt with wet winter weather, you might know that Sorel boots are among the best options for keeping your tootsies dry and toasty. Sorel has made winter and work boots since 1962, originally by the Kaufman Rubber Company of Kitchener, Ontation. Today the famous boots are made by Columbia Sportswear. Since purchasing the brand, Columbia Sportswear has added other winter gear to the Sorel lineup.
Toronto-based Roots is a publicly-held Canadian brand. They produce a variety of products, including apparel for men, women and children; shoes; handbags; activewear; and even home furnishings. Roots dates back to 1973, when it originally launched as a footwear brand. Roots has also been a big part of past Olympics, as they have supplied the Canadian team with clothing and uniforms.
This outdoor clothing and accessory brand was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia. Arc’teryx is known for their high-end products, all of which come with a lifetime warranty. Each of their collections is based around certain outdoor activities, many of which are part of the Candian lifestyle. Arc’teryx offers collections for rock climbing and mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding, hiking, running, and technical urban activities.
If you’re among the cool hipster set, you’re likely familiar with Herschel Supply backpacks and duffles. These canvas bags feature retro- throwback styles. The company was founded in British Columbia and is available at more than 10,000 retailers in Canada and the U.S. You can find Herschel Supply bags stateside at retailers like Nordstrom, Zumiez and Tillys.
High fashion is also a big deal in Canada. You’ll find that many of the designers you see strutting down the runway have Canadian roots. Jason Wu, Joe Mirman, Alfred Sung, Liz Vandal and Adrianne Ho all come from our northern neighbor.
With so many Canadian clothing brands making an impact in fashion on both sides of the border, it’s easy to see why the country is becoming a fashion destination.
While this company is no longer Canadian-owned like it once was, its corporate headquarters in Brampton, Ontario, and former life as North America’s largest fur-trading outfit point to a storied history in Canada. Known as HBC, this now privately-owned company is also the official clothing outfitter of the Canadian Olympic team, having outbid fellow Canadian company Roots for the privilege in 2005 and since has extended the deal through the 2020s. While the company features many famous brands in its stores, HBC also has its own store brand for clothing as well.
Created in Toronto, this fashion-forward outerwear company debuted in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since American websites began taking notice of the brand’s offerings later than year. Another company that has its clothes made in the same country where they’re designed, this brand has 3 co-founders, one of whom is a former art school student.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Reigning Champ came into existence in 2007 and has been designing and producing athletic wear known for quality materials that are uniquely comfortable for its wearers. This includes comfortable clothing made of pima cotton, which is known to be more durable, wrinkle-resistant and softer than normal cotton.
Reigning Champ does business online through its website and also has several Canadian store locations. It is featured in many Canadian, U.S. and international retailers on four different continents.
Founded in 2008 by a pair of men in Ottawa, this streetwear label has attracted attention for its high-quality graphic tees, hoodies, hats and more. Raised by Wolves has also partnered with other Canadian clothing brands in the past to collaborate on designs. More than just a designer, their outerwear is made in Canada and sold by many different retailers.
High fashion is also a big deal in Canada. You’ll find that many of the designers you see strutting down the runway have Canadian roots. Jason Wu, Joe Mirman, Alfred Sung, Liz Vandal and Adrianne Ho all come from our northern neighbor. Some smaller Canadian clothing brands — such as Tamga Designs — also strive to be eco friendly in many respects, including using organic cotton to craft its wares.
With so many Canadian clothing brands making an impact in fashion on both sides of the border, it’s easy to see why the country is becoming a fashion destination.
The United States offers a great market for Canadian clothing brands. It is close to Canada and is similar in culture and lifestyle to Canada. Exporting and importing Canadian fashion offers a new and exciting way to expand your business.
When you are getting ready to export or import Canadian clothing, there are a number of things to think about. Prepare yourself by considering the following 10 points:
Many of the considerations above depend on your target market. As a business professional, you likely know that market research is essential. Things to think about when doing market research include:
After you’ve done the research and you’re in the know, you can make an informed choice about your imports and exports.
For the vast majority of clothing, especially of the mass-produced variety, packaging clothes for shipping from Canada to the USA might not be very complicated at all. For things like basic shirts, pants and underwear, placing them in a plastic bag to ship in bulk and then putting them in a sturdy cardboard box should be quite sufficient.
On the other hand, clothing that retails on the higher end might need a bit more subtlety in the way it is handled. It can’t afford to show up wrinkled or disheveled, so it is often packaged with very thin layers of paper to keep the clothing in place and prevent the material from rubbing against itself while being shipped. You’ll still want to make sure to use a carrier who will take care of these containers while in transit but these types of clothes don’t require white-glove delivery.
It’s never advisable to ship any clothing on hangers since it is not only unwieldy for mass shipping but can actually cause damage to the garments you’re trying to get out of Canada and into the United States.
You don’t need a license to import clothing from Canada. In fact, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t require a license. This doesn’t mean there isn't any paperwork involved.
Even without a license, you’ll still need to be aware of taxes and duties, along with entry documents. When you’re shipping Canadian clothing across the border, you’ll need to know a few things:
When you’re importing clothing from Canada into the U.S., you'll need to indicate the Importer of Record on your customs paperwork. The Importer of Record assumes responsibility for making sure that the goods are legal for import and more. The Importer of Record is also responsible for paying duties and other fees.
In most cases, if you’re importing the clothing from Canada, you’ll be the Importer of Record. You have ownership of the goods, and you are the responsible party. This can become more convoluted when you start working with suppliers, distributors and your customers. When you are importing clothes you’ve already sold, you might that that your customer is the one required to pay duties and fees. However, if you’re importing the goods for your customer, you should be the Importer of Record. You’ll become the temporary owner until the goods reach the distribution center and then your customer.
While the majority of the time you’ll be the importer of record, another scenario that can arise is if you use a licensed customs broker to import the clothing on your behalf. In that case, you can designate the customs broker as such.
After you’ve made your considerations and done your market research, it’s time to start creating your plan for importing and exporting Canadian clothes and textiles. You’ll want your plan to answer a number of questions. These questions include:
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 2020. NAFTA had already made shipping between the U.S. and Canada simple and easy, while also eliminating many of the tariffs surrounding the import and export of textiles, which includes clothing.
According to Global Affairs Canada, the USMCA “preserves the important benefits of NAFTA, modernizes the agreement’s disciplines, and makes it easier for Canadian companies to benefit from preferential access to the U.S and Mexican markets.”
The new USMCA has done nothing to really change that aspect; it’s lowered some tariff preference levels while increasing others. Overall though, you’ll find that goods, like clothing, manufactured in Canada can be eligible for duty-free or reduced duty rates, according to information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
To be eligible for duty free or reduced duty treatment, the shipper or importer must be able to produce a Certificate of Origin. This document proves where the clothing was made. Working with a customs broker or import specialist can help you determine the duties on your goods.
Even with the USMCA, duties can vary when you’re importing clothing from the U.S. into Canada. If tariff preference levels are not applied, the duty to import clothing and textiles into Canada is between 17% and 18%.
After you have your business plans worked out, it’s time to start moving your shipments across the border. You might find that it’s easy to bring Canadian clothing brands into the United States. Whether you’re working with a major designer or manufacturer like those mentioned above for a smaller fashion distributor, you’ll find regulations in place to make importing easy.
Canada has free trade agreements (FTA) for clothing and textiles with North American neighbors the United States and Mexico. Canada also has free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Honduras. This means the agreements have set tariff preference levels (TPL) which set import controls. The TPL is a rule that allows for certain amounts of products including apparel, yarns, fabrics and textile articles to be traded with a special tariff rate. In most cases, the TPL reduces the tariffs on most clothing and textile items. Clothing and textile goods being imported and exported within the free trade zones get preferential tariffs to make importing and exporting easy.
In many cases, the FTA depends on the “Rule of Origin.” To get the benefits of the agreements, clothing and textiles exported from Canada into the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and Honduras must be produced in one of the countries in the agreement.
With the FTA, you might be eligible to export your goods duty free or with reduced tariffs. All TPL-eligible exports and imports are dependant on rules and regulations under the Canadian Export and Import Permits Act. This means a permit issued by the Canadian Government is required. Exports to Mexico and the U.S. need a Certificate of Eligibility.
Clothing is one of the most popular items to cross the U.S.-Canadian border, however, that doesn’t make it exempt from customs regulations. There is some paperwork required to get your clothing across the border. Making sure your paperwork is thorough and complete can ensure your goods get across the border without hassle. Problem-free customs clearance is a possibility!
You’ll find there are two major ways you can get your Canadian clothing across the border and into the U.S. You can opt for a formal or commercial entry, or choose an informal entry. Formal entry requires the use of a customs broker, while informal entry does not. Informal entry requires the shipment to be accompanied by the exporter or for the consignee to collect the shipment at the port of entry.
When you’re shipping clothing in from Canada, you’ll likely select a formal or commercial entry. Formal entry is required when shipments are valued at more than $2,000. If you’re shipping large amounts of clothing cross border, you’ll need to work with a customs broker. A broker can help you ensure all paperwork is complete and correct and can guide your shipment across the border.
A customs broker can provide a number of beneficial services when you’re moving truckloads of clothing across the U.S.-Canada border. These benefits and services include:
Working with a customs broker is essential for getting your shipment of Canadian clothing across the border. You can learn more about customs bonds through customs consulting and import consulting services.
A Canada Goose down parka can retail for more than $1,000. This is a lot of money for a quality product with a designer label. With so many expensive designer items coming into the U.S. from Canada, it’s important to be aware of the implications of importing counterfeit goods. There are legal implications, along with other risks that come with bringing in counterfeits.
Counterfeit goods can be seized by Customs and Border Protection when they enter the U.S. Other risks of importing counterfeit clothing and other goods include:
Counterfeit goods violate intellectual property rights. According to statistics from Customs and Border Protection, the products seized for violating intellectual property rights in fiscal year 2017 at the country’s borders include:
There are many major ports of entry for clothes coming into the U.S. from Canada. Because Montreal and British Columbia are Canada’s two major apparel and fashion regions, most clothing from Canada uses ports of entry near these regions. Common ports of entry for clothing include:
While Montreal and British Columbia on opposite ends of the country are the leaders, don’t discount the burgeoning apparel scene in Toronto. With its own Fashion District (which is also called the Garment District) starting back in the 20th century, Toronto employs about 50,000 people in the industry. This counts as one of the highest concentrations in the country.
Toronto is directly across Lake Ontario from upstate New York, so a boat across that Great Lake is a possibility. But even using the more common truck to transport your goods is pretty easy with many U.S. ports within a half-day’s drive.
In the same vein, crossing from Toronto and its surrounding areas into Michigan is an extremely strategic entry point for any goods — including clothing — to enter the U.S. Detroit is less than 4 hours from Toronto and shares a major bridge over the Detroit River with its Canadian neighbor Windsor. Another popular route from eastern Canada into America is into Port Huron, Michigan.
When you’re shipping clothes cross border into the U.S., you can make the process simple by using a PAPS number. A PAPS number is a special Shipment Control Number (SCN) assigned by a carrier when the shipment requires pre-arrival processing. Using a PAPS number can speed up the processing and release of commercial goods at the border.
Similarly, when you’re shipping clothes cross border into Canada, you can make the process simply by using a PARS number. A PARS number is a Cargo Control Number (CCN) that identifies the carrier and the shipper to the Canada Border Services Agency. This can expedite the shipment processing and help you get goods across the border quickly.
It is important that you choose the right freight shipping service when you’re moving clothes from Canada into the U.S. You’ll likely want to ensure that your freight broker matches you with a carrier that has experience and expertise when it comes to moving freight across the U.S-Mexico border. Things can go wrong at the border with the wrong shipper, and your goods could end up detained by customs. When it comes to shipping clothes and logistics, time is money. Time spent at the border is money leaving your pocket. You might even be charged a fee if your shipment is detained or incorrectly documented.
You can avoid complications by using a reliable and experienced carrier. Working with a strategic third-party logistics partner can be the most cost-effective and safest way to find the right carrier to move your freight. A 3PL partner will also come with the benefit of managing your shipment and serving as the liaison between the carrier and you the shipper.
Besides just the actual freight hauling, an experienced 3PL company will have other services readily available that can enhance your business. Customs brokerage and consultation, warehousing and order fulfillment (including pick and pack delivery) are all part of an international supply chain and could factor into your decision on which shipping service can best handle your unique business needs.
When you’re moving products from Canadian clothing brands and other goods made above the border, you need a shipping partner that can make the process easier. R+L Global Logistics can be your strategic partner for all your cross-border truckload shipping needs.
R+L Global Logistics can pair you with an experienced carrier that will get your shipment across the border with the care and consideration you’ll only find with a family-owned company. We offer solutions to all your logistics needs, including customs brokerage, warehousing, supply chain management, and more.
For those instances where you require faster movement, one of the additional freight shipping services offered by R+L Global Logistics is expedited shipping. For longer journeys, such as Quebec to Los Angeles, this can trim valuable hours or even a day or two off the trip for your clothing. We also have 24/7 tracking for your freight loads and boast a 99.5 percent on-time delivery rate.
You’ll find we have a multilingual staff who has the acumen to work internationally to guide you through the cross-border shipping process while also providing excellent customer service as a matter of course. If you have freight to ship like clothing, baked goods or even heavy equipment, work with R+L Global Logistics to get it there intact and on time.
Contact us today by calling (855) 915-0573 to request a quote and get your freight on the road and across the border. Whether you need freight shipping to Canada or from it, R+L Global Logistics has you covered.
The article provides me with useful content to better understand the Canadian market. It is a pity that it is not possible to list all of Canada's small fashion brands as a way to support their sales. I feel we don't support our talented designers enough so that they can compete with designers from the US. I believe they are not inferior in capacity but only in communication and finance.
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