How Philanthropist Suzanne Rogers Inspires Canadian Fashion
“The qualities I most admire in women are confidence and kindness.”
—Oscar de la Renta
Being a fashion designer requires more than dedication and talent. Designers also need opportunities to display their creations. These occasions are few and far between, and for Canadian designers they’re even rarer. Fortunately, philanthropist and style icon Suzanne Rogers has made it her mission to change that.
Rogers has often been called the “fairy godmother of Canadian fashion” due to her knack for discovering talented designers and helping to launch their careers. In 2016, she formalized that role through the Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute (SRFI) at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University), a fellowship program that helps talented young Canadian fashion designers to transition from education to practice.
“The idea for the institute came to me at a university fashion show,” Rogers says. “I asked the chair of the School of Fashion, ‘What happens to these designers after this? There’s some amazing talent coming out of the graduating class.’ He threw up his hands and said, ‘Who knows?’”
“We just don’t have an industry here that supports these young designers. There aren’t big fashion houses in Canada where they can get internships. We don’t have a master’s program to further their studies after a three- or four-year degree. It kind of ends there.”
With the help of SRFI, graduating students now get financial and professional support to launch their careers. The results speak for themselves: fellows like Olivia Rubens, Sara He, and Alexandra Armata have built their own brands or joined major fashion houses.