Canadian Fashion Champion Susan Langdon Awarded the Order of Canada
"I believe in Canadian fashion."
Canadian fashion champion Susan Langdon has been awarded the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours. According to a press release from the governor general, Langdon, who is the executive director of Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), received the award for “her contributions to the fashion industry as an executive, mentor and educator who has positively impacted Canada’s culture and economy.”
Langdon has dedicated her life to mentoring and supporting Canadian designers, including some of the biggest names in Canadian fashion, like David Dixon. (She was nominated for the Order by Jennifer Ger, founder of Foxy Originals jewellery, another one of her mentees.) “I believe in Canadian fashion,” says Langdon. “I buy it and I pay full price for it. I tell people that if it’s made-in-Canada, it’s ethically made and high-quality. The designs are world caliber.”
As a former designer herself, Langdon developed relationships with retail buyers both in Canada and internationally, and leverages her experience to give others a foot in the door. “It really gives me that very unique perspective because I’ve been there, I’ve done it,” she says. “I know what designers need to survive and to succeed.”
Some of the hurdles Langdon helps Canadian fashion designers navigate are raising capital, getting into retail stores and finding dedicated consumers who are willing to pay more for quality, locally made items. “There are very few angel investors and financial backers in Canada who are willing to put money behind a fashion business,” says Langdon. “If you had $2 million right now to invest, where would you put it to yield the greatest return in five years? Between people investing in Toronto tech and Toronto real estate, what’s left for fashion entrepreneurs?”
Since 2018, Langdon has hosted an event connecting Canadian designers with big-name British retailers, like Harrods and Selfridges, at Canada House during London Fashion Week. One recent, pre-pandemic event saw Montreal denim company Yoga Jeans receive an order for £ 20,000 – a significant entry order for an independent brand.
“People are curious about Canadian fashion,” she says of the event’s success. “They’ve heard good things about Canadian design, and the royals wearing Canadian helped push it into the spotlight. I can’t tell you how many attendees said to me afterwards, ‘Wow, I had no idea you had this scope of talent in Canada. I’m really impressed.'”
Langdon is a Toronto-born, third-generation Canadian. Members of her Japanese Canadian family were placed in prisoner of war internment camps in British Columbia during World War II; her parents, she says, felt ashamed to be labelled “enemies of Canada.” For her to receive the award, says Langdon, is “truly a dream come true.”
“My mother told me about the Order of Canada when I was a kid, and I could just see the pride in her eyes as she was telling me about the amazing new honour Canada had created. In the back of my mind, I always thought what an honour that would be to make my mother so proud of me.” (Because of pandemic restrictions, Langdon has been unable to see her mother, who lives in a long-term-care home, to share the news.)
The Order of Canada ceremony, where recipients are formally awarded by the governor general, is on hold due to the pandemic, but will be held when it’s safe to do so. When asked who she’ll be wearing when she receives the award, Langdon laughs: “Canadian.”