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After years of turbulence, small clothing designers struggle for a


Amid high inflation, rising operating costs and shrinking Canadian demand, clothing designers in Nova Scotia say they’re struggling to find a sustainable business model.

Designers say they’ve had to adjust to significant changes in consumer behaviour, supply chain disruptions and inflation as they’ve navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

“We’ve made a lot of hard decisions. They were tough at first but since we’ve done it, we feel a lot freer,” said Anna Gilkerson, co-owner of Lunenburg-based clothing brand Ana + Zac.

But while businesses have made adjustments to survive, there are other challenges on the horizon, including next month’s deadline for the repayment of federal loans handed out during the pandemic.

“I think people were hoping that things were going to go back to normal but they’re not normal,” said Gilkerson. “It’s very difficult for businesses, particularly smaller independent businesses, to try and catch up.”

Cost pressures intensified

During the pandemic, Gilkeron said demand for their product — high-quality cotton basics sustainably made in Peru — went up, though the business encountered other challenges, including paying rent on a Halifax retail space they leased just before non-essential businesses were forced to temporarily close.

But it was in 2022 that the cost pressures really intensified.

“Anywhere from shipping to utilities, sourcing products, it was getting more expensive.”

Through our Owning It series, we're checking in with entrepreneurs across Nova Scotia.
Anna Gilkerson, left, and Zac Barkhouse, co-own the Lunenburg-based clothing brand Ana + Zac. (Cody Turner)

In response, Gilkerson said they decided it was best for the business to move online. They got out of the lease on their Halifax store, shrank the size of their team and moved to a much smaller space on the South Shore, where Gilkerson is from. 

While the brand has been able to attract new customers by targeting the U.S. market, Gilkerson said Canadian demand is stagnant. “I feel like consumers really are struggling with just food and with housing.”

The cost of doing business is going up. Small clothing designers are being hit hard

Amid high inflation, rising operating costs, and shrinking Canadian demand, clothing designers in Nova Scotia say they’re struggling to find a sustainable business model. The CBC’s Moira Donovan has the story.

Declining demand a challenge

Other designers say they’re also dealing with the consequences of stagnant or declining Canadian demand.

They include Maggie MacCormick, owner of the small, sustainable clothing brand Daytime People, which she designs in Nova Scotia and has manufactured in India.

Like Gilkerson, MacCormick’s sales spiked early in the pandemic. “I felt like every customer I ever had showed up and bought multiple pieces.”

But at the same time, supply chain issues posed a challenge — from a worldwide zipper shortage to extreme weather in India that affected her manufacturer’s ability to work — her production cycle was thrown off by about a year.

Manufacturer of Daytime People block printing in Sanganer, Rajasthan
The manufacturer of Daytime…



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