How Kathy Cheng saved the family business with a new made-in-Canada clothing brand

After the recession forced her father’s textile company to downsize, she bet on a new homegrown clothing label

 
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Redwood Classics Apparel president Kathy Cheng
“With the cost of fuel rising, not everything made in China is that cheap anymore.” (Nikki Ormerod; hair and makeup by Claudine Baltazar/Plutino Group)

In 1988, Kathy Cheng’s father co-founded garment maker WS & Co. Kathy increased her role after the recession devastated the business, and turned it around producing new garments for Roots and Holt Renfrew, and launching the Redwood Classics brand.

“After the recession, there was a much lower demand for domestic garment production. I became my dad’s business partner then, and we humbly restructured down to 40 people from around 100. Textile-wise, my father has so much experience, but he was never into sales or marketing, and felt that as a manufacturer we always had to be behind-the-scenes. But we couldn’t wait for business to come, so we developed the Redwood Classics brand.

I felt there was a niche for retail-quality promotional apparel where, for example, a company puts its branding on a T-shirt for an event. It’s a made in Canada brand to stand out from the clutter. There used to be a lot of made-in-Canada products, but by 2009 they had mostly moved offshore. With the cost of fuel rising, and the cost of labour rising in China as well, not everything made in China is that cheap anymore. Now I’m getting people to realize if you do compare apples to apples, we’re not that much more expensive. It’s a quicker turnaround time, and we’re giving back to the economy.

I say to clients, “Why put your brand on an inferior garment as opposed to one that will last longer, and is higher quality?” Since we started doing that, we’ve doubled in size. We moved to a bigger factory in January because we were just bursting at the seams.”

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