Putting Toronto on the fashion map may happen a lot sooner than later, thanks to a new $1-million investment at Ryerson University by Joe Fresh.
The Canadian fashion brand announced on Monday it is collaborating with Ryerson’s Fashion Zone to create a new fashion innovation centre: The Joe Fresh Centre.
Robert Ott, the chair of Ryerson’s fashion school and director of the Fashion Zone, says the collaboration will give fashion entrepreneurs access to workspace — at places like Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) desk spaces come at a pricey cost — along with access to a mentorship program and seed funding.
“For us, it’s an important Canadian brand that is investing in education — and that’s important. The creative economy needs support from the industry within,” says Ott.
Katy Sun, a third-year fashion communications student, agrees.
“The Toronto fashion industry is really lacking, so it’s nice to have a company helping us out and not leaving us in the dust,” says Sun.
“We’ve got some really talented people here that are passionate about what they do. As students, most of us probably don’t have the funds to start our own business, so it’s a great opportunity and I’m sure it will be successful.”
But, while the centre will be held at Ryerson, the application process is competitive. Spots at the Joe Fresh Centre will be open to Ryerson students, Ryerson alumni and non-Ryerson students. While Ott says they’re still figuring out all the details, the program will take in approximately 21 individuals.
Joe Fresh announced its Joe Fresh Fund, an investment to help support emerging Canadian design talent, during Toronto’s World Mastercard Fashion Week in October 2014 and Ott says it’s exciting the company chose Ryerson to partner with.
But while the collaboration has brought on a lot of positivity, some may ask whether a collaboration with Joe Fresh is positive for the school’s reputation. In March 2013, after a deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, the world discovered that Joe Fresh was using that factory to make its clothes.
“We’ve considered all the factors at Ryerson and we’re satisfied. When the Bangladesh factory collapsed in March of 2013, Joe Fresh responded quickly and they have agreed to a local agreement,” says Ott.
According the Loblaw Companies website — Loblaw’s owns the Joe Fresh brand — the company signed a local agreement, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which “aims to improve worker safety and better the Bangladeshi garment industry.”