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Sep 7, 2020

If you believe that Canada can't compete in the design and creation of wonderful garments, then I encourage you to listen to this episode. And if you ever question the value of immigration, then I suggest you listen to it twice. For everyone else, get ready for some goosebumps, and some incredible advice from one of the worlds thought leaders on fashion, Jeanne Beker, as well as David Kincaid, a business and branding strategist who has guided the positioning of some of the world’s top companies and Lori Darlington from RBC.

Kathy Cheng emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in the 1970s with her parents. To make ends meet, her Dad worked three jobs, sewing in a factory, delivering pizza at night, and waiting on tables, and her Mom wasn't far behind. There was no money for child care. Kathy was a latch-key kid who grew up watching her parents work. Over time Kathy's father and two siblings saved enough to start their own sewing shop, and within a decade, they employed 500 Canadians. Fast-forward to today, and Kathy is now the CEO, her Dad is her partner and they still sew everything in Canada.

Is it easy? No, but it's never been easy for Kathy and her family. Is it possible to defy the odds and keep Canadians employed in designing and manufacturing in the garment trade? Absolutely if Canadians support theirs and others, Canadian Dreams.

Presented by RBC.

Coming to Canada (01:03)
Having emigrated from China at the age of 4 with her parents, Kathy, learnt to be independent and resourceful, in a new country, learning a new language. After working multiple jobs Kathy’s parents decide to open up their own business with 10 sewing machines and 5 staff. It’s a small start but they grow quickly.

From boom to almost bust (04:13)
Their business grows to over 500 people, manufacturing for some of Canada’s most iconic brands as well as expanding into the US. When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, competition increased putting pressure on their business and after the 2008 crash, things got worse. However, to her surprise, Kathy’s father asks her to be his business partner.

The revival (07:22)
Together, they restructure the business around 40 people, focus on quality versus fast fashion and leverage the Made in Canada “label”. The strategy pays off and the business flourishes once again, now they have their own brand, Redwood Classics. As the business continues to grow what should focus on? Our experts step in.

Sound advice (11:15)
Lori Darlington, VP, Small Business & Strategic Partnerships, RBC, compliments Kathy’s focus and commitment to “Made in Canada” - it’s a significant differentiator. David Kincaid, Founder & Managing Partner, Level5 Strategy, challenges Kathy to step up to that next level and declare her vision and answer that question: What business do I want my business to be? Jeanne Beker, Style Editor at TSC & Creative Director gives Kathy a big idea: team up with a local fashion school and invite students to design a garment, injection a little edge into the design.

My closing thoughts (29:07)
There is so much more inside of Kathy Cheng - that’s her North Star.
“ …stop focusing on what you make and instead focus on the moments that fashion will be.” Own the moment, as it's not about what you sell but instead, the feeling people experience when they wear your garmets, that's your quest.

Links & References

Kathy Cheng, President & Founder, Redwood Classics Apparel
LinkedIn -
Website -

Jeanne Beker, Style Editor at TSC , Author, Keynote Speaker, Host, Freelance Journalist, Creative Director
LinkedIn -

David Kincaid, Founder & Managing Partner, Level5 Strategy
LinkedIn -

Lori Darlington, VP, Small Business & Strategic Partnerships, RBC
LinkedIn -

RBC Business page –
RBC Financial Relief page -
Support local businesses -
RBC Small Business Navigator -


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