Jackie Tardif has dedicated her career to the retail fashion industry – ultimately landing herself a job as President of Reitmans. She’s held a few different roles, but it’s her passion for helping Canadian women feel comfortable in their clothes that’s driven her success. We talked to her about sizeism in fashion, and what she’s doing to stop it.
Throughout your time in the fashion retail industry, what’s changed and what still needs to change?
I think the biggest change for us has been how the digital market has grown. Not just online channels where people can purchase, but also how people can now express themselves through the digital. It brought a kind of democracy to women’s fashion, that people can design their own clothes and talk to their favourite brands, it gave every woman a voice. They can choose now what they want to portray, how they want to be represented in fashion. They can speak about it with their own voice and choose brands that align with their values. It changed the perception of fashion because of the voice it’s given to women of all ages.
I think the industry is going to continue to move towards personalization, that there will be new trends that come straight from consumers and not retailers, and because it will be an expression of what people think fashion should be for them, we’ll see more diversity in fashion.
Why do you think sizeism is still so pervasive in the fashion industry today, and why has it been so difficult to eradicate?
Obviously in the fashion industry there’s been a long history of unrealistic beauty standards, but the thing about Reitmans is that we’ve been around for more than 80 years. It’s really in our brand DNA to accept and understand Canadian women, and to have our fashions cascade into their culture, their favourite trends, their climate, their background. So although it may have started one way, I think a lot of brands like us have valued difference and are working to push it forward.
I think everybody at all levels of the industry, retailers, photographers, marketers, they all have a role to play in changing the mindset of the industry.
We understand and listen to Canadian women, and we want to make sure we understand her and respect her. We have a third of Canadian women entering our stores each year. So we need to be designing clothes that will fit her, but we also need to go beyond that. What are her needs? What is her culture? What is the climate in Canada? What is her background, and how can we make sure our clothes are affordable and accessible for her.
We used to have a complete collection that was designed for plus-sized women with her silhouette and her needs in mind. But the one thing we kept hearing was ‘please, don’t treat me different. Give me all the choice, give me the same products at the same price as my counterpart that is either smaller or larger.’ So we decided to go that route, and now we offer the entire assortment that we have in our stores to all sizes, from the smallest sizes to the 3X. We also offer clothes for all lifestyles, from casual, denim and sweaters to dresses, career wear and activewear with our Hyba stores. I think we’re meeting all the needs she has in her life.
Reitmans’ “Even Better” campaign won the IMAGE/in 2017 Grand Prize, which congratulates Québec companies for a healthy and diverse body representation in the world of fashion, media and advertising. Can you tell us about the campaign and why it was so successful?
That really touched us quite a lot. The Even Better campaign was about letting our community know about how we’ve made all our products available in all sizes.
The prize really recognized that beauty is not in a specific shape, or form, or culture. It felt great to win the grand prize, but I have to mention that we also won a prize from the youth, from 13 to 17 year olds. This one meant almost more to me, because we know this is the very fragile age group, and this is the time that they have to build up their self-confidence. They aren’t our target customer, and the fact that they chose us for this prize meant that we might have done something that will have an impact on how future generations think about themselves.
This holiday season you can make a donation to the Canadian Women’s Foundation when you make a purchase at any Reitmans or Hyba Activewear location across Canada between November 6 and December 24. When you donate $2 or you’ll receive a beautiful holiday box as thanks for supporting women and girls across Canada.