We’re coming up to Canada’s 150th birthday, and it’s fair to consider what it means to be Canadian in this global era. The other day I was interviewed on Global News about what Canadian cuisine is, for example.
I tried to stray away from a typical description of our culinary options as “multicultural.” Because I think it’s more than that. I tried to dip into references to the global without it coming across as feel-good Canadiana.
As Canadian consumers and brands we face real challenges. I wanted to highlight one B.C. company’s soul-searching blog post in the lead-up to our momentous anniversary.
Today I loaded up a podcast featuring a surfer and automobile fanatic who was sponsored by Sitka at one time. Over the winter I borrowed and fixed up one of the company’s boards. It has a pretty good rap for quality boards, although the dude who lent it to me for a bit there (actually I just saw him for the first time in months just moments ago headed to the gym) said the reason that particular board was so dope was because it was from before the company shifted production to China.
And that gets to the crux of the issue, outlined so carefully in a post the company put out yesterday on its website.
In our earlier days, Sitka shifted our clothing production from Canada to China because on paper it seemed like the way to offer the best value to our customers. By comparison our options for production seemed endless. But eventually we came face to face with the reality that we had been paying hidden soft costs, and passing those on to our customers as well.
Whether its Rip Curl getting caught making stuff in North Korea or West Coast docks using Chinese steel to create “authentic” Canadian whale watching experiences for European tourists, we can’t escape the fact we live in a globalized society. There’s no one right answer, but it’s always nice to see when brands own up to the challenges.
That’s something Sitka describes in the post:
There’s a truth in the apparel industry that’s hard to reckon with for those of us who believe wholeheartedly in doing things locally. Many of the highest quality products on the market today are made in China. In a number of ways, China and several other countries are far ahead of Canada in apparel manufacturing, producing everything from cheap, fast fashion to high-end luxury items.
It’s pretty tough to compete in the surfboard manufacturing realm if you don’t produce in China. In fact, one surfboard shaper told me he was quitting the biz because it was just too difficult to try to survive when dealing with an influx of cheap boards from the other side of the Pacific. So lets remember these lessons as we head into Canada’s 150th.
But lets also remember AJ’s story of how awesome it was to work with a local surf company to expand his own oceanic horizons. Because in one very small way it helped make a difficult situation that much more palatable for me. The frequency ripples you create reverberate. Don’t forget that.