Canada’s two largest fashion retailers are in a sort of ‘label war’. The Hudson’s Bay Company (The Bay) and Holt Renfrew have been fighting to carry designers in a sparsly populated country where designer distribution is tightly controlled. This ‘war’ will only intensify in anticipation of Nordstrom’s entry into Canada in late 2014, and furthermore as The Bay continues to upscale itself as a premiere fashion retailer.
Strolling through the second-floor of The Bay in Vancouver, for example, one finds numerous women’s designers available at both Holts and The Bay. To rattle off a few mutually-carried designers: Nina Ricci, Comme des Garcons, Balmain, Akris Punto, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Ralph Lauren Black Label, Nicholas Kirkwood shoes, Brian Atwood shoes, Vince, Diane von Furstenberg, Eileen Fisher, Elie Tahari, J-Brand Jeans, McQ by Alexander McQueen, Naked & Famous, Opening Ceremony, Theory and Z-Spoke Zac Posen.
We’ll review menswear at both stores once The Bay’s sixth-floor men’s store is open in mid October. Again, expect some designer cross-over.
Our source at Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew tells us Holts has been scrambling to pick up some of the more upscale designers selling with some success at The Bay, including expensive designers Nina Ricci and Balmain, and shoe designers Brian Atwood and Nicholas Kirkwood. What’s interesting to note is The Bay’s pieces by these designers are generally more ‘out there’ and ‘unique’ compared to more subdued offerings by the same designers at Holt Renfrew. This phenomenon is thanks a Bay buyer/creative director named Nicholas Mellamphy, who has carefully cultivated an avant garde, upscale image for The Bay’s luxury salon known as ‘The Room’. The Room is currently at Bay stores in Vancouver and Toronto, and will open tentatively next year in Montreal.
The Bay has taken some women’s designers that Holt Renfrew has dropped, including DSquared2, Armani Collezioni, L’Wren Scott, Piazza Sempione, Moschino Couture and Thakoon. Our Holt Renfrew insider source notes that Armani Collezioni, DSquared2 and Piazza Sempione struggled at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver and were therefore dropped prior to being picked up by The Bay.
Readers in more remote parts of Canada may be surprised to hear that you can buy a $10,000 dress at The Bay. Readers can be assured that more remote Bay stores, some currently in awful shape, will be renovated via money raised from an initial public stock offering which is expected to happen between mid-October and the early New Year.
We will keep you updated with various movements within Canada’s designer label availability, and we will start posting about where Canadians can find some premium designers. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as we sometimes provide insider retail information not posted on this website.
Hudson’s Bay Company website: www.thebay.com
Holt Renfrew website: www.holtrenfrew.com