Free Guide: Sustainable Certification Readiness Checklist

Startup Fashion Week: A Catalyst for Creativity in Canada’s Fashion Scene

sfw header

Toronto’s fashion scene boasts some of Canada’s most illustrious fashion weeks. Amidst the glitz and glamour, there’s a dynamic undercurrent of fresh ideas and entrepreneurial spirit pulsating through the city’s fashion scene. At the heart of this movement lies Startup Fashion Week (SFW), a catalyst for emerging talent. Spearheaded by Executive Director, Jodi Goodfellow, SFW stands as a beacon for emerging designers, entrepreneurs, and industry enthusiasts alike. With its unique blend of runway showcases, insightful panels, and networking opportunities, SFW not only celebrates the artistry of fashion but also cultivates a fertile ground for burgeoning talent to flourish.

Join us as we sit with Jodi Goodfellow and learn more about the indispensable role that SFW plays in fostering innovation and shaping the city’s fashion narrative.

Startup Fashion Week – Exclusive Q&A with Jodi Goodfellow

DK: What motivated the establishment of Startup Fashion Week?

JG: I launched Startup Fashion Week in response to my own experience of trying to create a fashion tech business and finding that there were not enough resources to support me in the startup stage. Specifically, I found difficulty creating networks within the industry, along with brand awareness aligning with the fashion industry.

Often other fashion events and major fashion week events don’t have any room to showcase the smaller businesses because they don’t have the budgets to participate. I felt like there were a lot of missed opportunities. There are a lot of amazing businesses that I have seen over the years that were startups with such incredible potential but just couldn’t make it because there was a lack of opportunity, a lack of funding, and a lack of support overall. So, I wanted to create a platform to help give startup businesses a chance of being more sustainable.

DK: Your path from grappling with the challenges of launching your own fashion tech venture to spearheading Startup Fashion Week is very inspiring. It’s clear that you’ve not only spotted a crucial gap within the industry but, also turned it into a beacon of hope for up-and-coming fashion labels. 

Could you dive deeper into what distinguishes SFW from other fashion weeks in Toronto? What unique features and strategies make SFW stand out as a nurturing ground for fashion brands?

JG: There are a few things that make SFW stand out. Our programming is very different and it always has been. I wanted to kind of be a little disruptive with how I produced the event overall. When I launched this 11 years ago, I felt that fashion, the whole industry itself, evolved very quickly. I found that the idea of a fashion week has stayed the same over decades and hasn’t evolved, so I wanted to be a little bit disruptive with that.

I program Startup Fashion Week in a different way where there isn’t runway every day. Instead, I also focus on networking events and learning about the business of fashion at our conference. We offer designers the opportunity to participate in photo shoots and help them acquire essential things that are necessary for their businesses. And then of course we have that one day of runway, where we only feature startup businesses.

In the past, I have also produced startup Fashion Week in other cities. We held a few small networking events in Ottawa and we have done the full fashion week a few times in Montreal. We also had an event in Vancouver. We’re the only multi-city fashion week in the world.

I think one difference that I hear quite often from people who attend our events is that they all feel very included. And that’s one of the goals that I had right from the very beginning was to create more of a community, as opposed to an industry, and to me that makes a big difference.


DK: Your passion for challenging the norms in the fashion world is admirable, as is your drive to reshape the traditional fashion week landscape. With that in mind, I’m eager to delve into how these values translate into real support for local designers, particularly small or emerging brands. How does SFW actively champion these players in the fashion ecosystem?

JG: When designers align with Startup Fashion Week it helps them establish credibility because people know they have gone through an application and selection process. Based on who we choose to showcase, they get more credibility within the industry and community, whicch helps them get a step in the right direction for other opportunities.

We also help them bridge a gap in creating networks and facilitating introductions where they wouldn’t otherwise have access to certain people, agencies, or organizations. Sometimes that happens outside of the events, online, and in the background. 

We also provide other opportunities for brands to gain recognition. Last year, we worked with one of our sponsors, Horn + Mane – an agency that helps brands with growth and development. We hosted a contest where all of our designers were invited to apply after the Fashion Week ended. The applications were first reviewed by the team at Horn + Mane, and three were selected to compete against one another. Those designers had to prepare and present a pitch deck. The 2023 winner was Oakbark & Chrome. Horn + Mane are calling this their unicorn project. Through this contest, they’ve provided the winner with their services for free to help them develop their brand and business strategy further so that they can accelerate their growth. From what I’ve heard and seen there has been tremendous success already.

Just building and establishing partnerships can help some of the startups that are participating. It has given them that one extra step in the right direction to succeed and to have a chance at success and last a long time.

DK: That’s an amazing opportunity, not just for the winners, but the brands that went through the process! It’s so important to nail your pitch and value proposition for prospective investors and buyers – and to be able to refine that with the help of experts is invaluable. Are there any other notable success stories you’d like to share where SFW has positively influenced the careers of local talent?

JG: The pandemic hit the Canadian fashion industry hard, and after the pandemic, unfortunately, many of the businesses that we were supporting seized operations. Some that have had amazing opportunities are no longer around, which is really sad and disappointing.

However, we do have some amazing stories to share. We hosted a preview party in the summer, to give everyone a glimpse of what our designers would be presenting in the fall. We had some of our designers present just one or two looks to give a bit of a teaser. One designer in particular was approached and hired by someone who happened to be at the event. They were hired to redesign their new company’s uniforms. So, a seemingly random sort of scenario happened by chance and luck – this person happened to be at the event and connected with the style of that designer. Things like that happen all the time through our events! Two amazing people in the same space, at the same time, just by chance and through serendipity end up connecting and benefiting from that contact.

Last year at our opening party, a model from the previous year’s show stopped by. She attended specifically to thank me for giving her the opportunity to be a model in the show. She said she wasn’t experienced at all as a model, but thought she would come to the audition. She was very surprised that she was selected and enjoyed the experience. Afterward, it gave her confidence and she decided to pursue modeling professionally! She has been in commercials for Shoppers Drug Mart and a few other big brands. She ultimately wanted to say thank you and to keep giving people similar types of opportunities.

Another Designer, Musa Raza the founder of bootiiq from our 2023 show was just recently featured in a Tim Hortons commercial! He introduces himself as a fashion designer and shows his work throughout the commercial. When I first saw it I screamed and immediately sent him a DM on Instagram to congratulate him!

Hearing stories like that validates that what you’re doing is actually helping people. Sometimes you don’t even realize at the time the impact you’re having on people, so it’s nice to get that feedback. But there are certainly many more examples similar to this.


DK: For sure! And while I’m not a designer, you also helped connect me with amazing folks like Lila at Montloup. You facilitated an introduction between us at SFW’s business of fashion conference, and we have been collaborating on different ideas. I wholeheartedly agree that SFW creates a community where it is easier to make those connections and find the people who should be in your circle that you may not have heard about.

JG: Exactly. Yeah, and I do find that too. Sometimes there is just an awkwardness with networking as well. Sometimes it takes an introduction for that to happen and then once an introduction happens, it is like magic happens! It’s really cool to see.

DK: Are there emerging trends or styles that you’ve observed gaining traction within the Toronto fashion scene?

JG: I am seeing a lot of designers adopting more sustainable practices within their business plans. Sometimes that can be in the sense of doing custom orders so they are not wasting material. It could also mean they are sourcing dead stock material from fabric manufacturers or sourcing locally. I am seeing that happen more frequently.

What is interesting though is observing what you are doing with Global Measure, in terms of validating the idea of what is sustainable and making sure there is authenticity in terms of when designers are using that terminology to promote their brand and the ethics behind their brand.

I think it is wonderful that there are agencies and organizations out there that are trying to make it more official and make businesses more accountable for their choices and how they present themselves to consumers. In fashion, I think it is really important to be very, very authentic.

But I would say that is definitely a growing trend in Toronto specifically because when we were hosting and producing events in Montreal and Vancouver years ago, sustainability was already a really important part of business for brand owners out in Vancouver. Whereas it kind of happened to be a bit of a later for business owners here in Toronto. It is something that I have noticed on the rise in the last 4 to 5 years.


DK: This year’s SFW events are coming up soon! How can an interested brand learn more about the application process to be part of SFW?

JG: Yeah, that’s a great question. In fact, I just updated the application today on the website as well as Instagram. If anyone is interested in showcasing, their designs on the runway, they can go to our Instagram account which is @StartupFashionWeek. There is a link in the bio that they can click on for the application or they can go to our website, which is and they can find the application 2 ways on the website. The first is on the homepage, there’s a little banner at the top that has a link and then there’s also a page for our Toronto events, and on that page, they’ll also find the link to apply as a designer.

DK: Are there any criteria that brands have to meet if they want to be considered to be part of Startup Fashion Week?

JG: That’s a really great question because we get a broad variety of applications. Designers who apply are at different stages of their startup. At the very least, if there isn’t a website developed yet for the Designer’s business, designers are required to submit photos of what they would showcase.

However, they are required to have a website before the event happens. The reason for that is if you are participating in a fashion week, the whole purpose is to create brand awareness. It is essentially a major marketing tool. And if you are going to invest a big chunk of money and time into marketing then you need to be prepared for inquiries and publicity. When people become aware of you through our events, they will want to check you out on social media and visit your website. Whether they are a consumer, someone in the industry, or media – they are going to want to do their research and find out who you are, what you are selling, and where they can find out more information. So it is really important to have those assets up and running before the event and to have them really polished as well.

A common thing I get asked by brands and designers is that they don’t understand why they can’t get on the racks of places like Holt Renfrew. And then I say, okay, but if you go to your Instagram account, do the photos align with the same quality of photos as on the Holt Renfrew Instagram account? Because if not then they are not going to see the validation and they are not going to see the alignment with what their clients want. So they really do have to polish up their assets online.

In terms of who we select, it really varies. We prefer not to select two of the same type of designers. So for example, if we select a bridal designer, we are not going to select 2 bridal designers just so that they all stand out. That is really important to us. We want to make sure that all of the startups are standing out.


Toronto’s fashion scene is alive with beauty, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit – and Startup Fashion Week (SFW) embodies this energy! Led by Executive Director Jodi Goodfellow, SFW is a hub for emerging talent, fostering creativity and connections. Through its mix of runway shows, insightful panels, and networking events, SFW not only showcases fashion’s artistry but also nurtures the growth of up-and-coming designers. Jodi’s own journey, from struggling to launch her own fashion tech venture to founding SFW, highlights the organization’s commitment to supporting small and emerging brands.

As SFW prepares for its upcoming events, now is the perfect time for designers to seize the opportunity to showcase their work and connect with industry insiders. Whether you’re a budding designer eager to launch your brand or a fashion enthusiast looking to explore the latest trends, SFW invites you to be part of the excitement. Don’t miss out on this chance to be part of something special. Apply today to showcase your designs at SFW, and mark your calendars to attend this year’s upcoming events!

Picture of Deborah King

Deborah King

Deborah is a sustainable fashion expert located in Toronto, Canada. She’s an Industrial Engineer with a post-grad in Sustainable Fashion Production. She grew up on the tiny island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and has been sewing her own clothing since the age of 10. She founded Global Measure to help authentically sustainable and ethical fashion businesses stand out from the greenwashing noise through third-party certification.


Startup Fashion Week (2024). SFW: Building the Canadian Fashion Landscape. Retrieved on May 7, 2024 from