Chabanel, heart of the Montreal garment industry

The Chabanel industrial neighbourhood, once known as the Montreal garment district, is featured on Page 1 of the Montreal Gazette. That’s not necessarily good news.

Just 6 weeks ago, it was the turn of the Montreal fur industry. Newspapers thrive on bad news and seem less interested in good news. Business successes are normally to be found on Page 1 of the Business section. For businesses, Page 1 of the newspaper is often equivalent to the obituary page for humans.

Certainly the Montreal garment industry has seen massive changes under the force of globalization. Employment in the clothing sector in Quebec fell from 57,000 in 2003 and is now at 30,000 in 2005 according to Statistics Canada. That’s a massive change in only two years. The secret seems to be reflected in the words of Eddy Wiltzer, an industry veteran, “If you want to be in this business, you have to build a brand, become a brand or be a distributor of a brand.” Much of the manufacturing is now off shore but local manufacture can still win out when great quality and on-time delivery are needed.

Nevertheless the Centre International de Mode de Montréal (CIMM) at 555 Chabanel St. W. now has 95 per cent of the building as showrooms when 20 years ago 40 per cent was used for manufacturing. With over 200 tenants and over 850 collections, the building houses in whole or in part over 70 per cent of the garment industry in Montreal. Over 1,200 buyers from across North America attend the twice yearly “fashion sessions”. There’s also a lavish collective fashion show twice a year as part of Montreal fashion week.

Despite these changes, the Chabanel sector remains the third largest employment centre in the greater Montreal area, after the downtown area and industrial St. Laurent. As the garment industry shrinks, other industries such as banking and insurance are taking the vacated space. There’s even talk of the Montreal fur trade moving here, which is about where we came in.

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Related Books:
For this and other interesting Montreal places to visit, see
Frommer’s Montreal & Quebec City 2009 Guide (Frommer’s Complete)
Montreal & Quebec City For Dummies (Dummies Travel)