By Helen Siwak
It all started with a kiss and a cheeky dress shirt that solidified the name ‘Christopher Bates’ into the Canadian consciousness. This singular quintessential design catapulted Bates from novice to expert and launched a business that consistently delivers sophisticated yet edgy men’s wear in the highest quality Italian fabrics.
Bates visited Vancouver this spring for back-to-back meetings and to oversee the inclusion of his Spring/Summer 2019 collection in CF Pacific Centre’s Nordstrom. Located in the centre of the upscale men’s wear section of the third floor, the 40-piece collection is striking in its tailoring, the complementary colour choices, and the fabric selection which ranges from lightweight suiting to knits to cutting-edge technical fabrics.
As we flip through the racks at Nordstrom, I mention that many pieces in the new collection would be easily marketed as unisex and prompt him about creating a line for the stylish woman who loves to wear men’s wear. Bates says, “I’m very keen to start designing my women’s wear line, but realistically it is more a mid-term goal, as we still have much work to do on expanding and streamlining our men’s wear and footwear businesses.”
In 2014, Bates opened a design studio in Milan primarily for sourcing and production with the objective to create a high-quality authentic ‘Made in Italy’ line. “It has taken a few years, but we now have an established network of excellent suppliers.” He continues, “We have sold to some great stores in Italy, but the economic situation and turmoil in the EU has made doing business difficult. In the interim, our brand continues to grow in Canada, and we are working on expanding throughout North America, and possibly into China.”
He references an arts and fashion entrepreneur trade mission, which saw Bates travel to Hangzhou, China, last fall. “It was organized by RozeMerie Cuevas of Jacqueline Conoir. It was a fantastic experience, and I am very keen to expand my brand to China, as she has done so successfully.”
Toronto is once again his home base. The move was always part of his business strategy so when the time came, Bates was ready. “I will miss the food, wine, and climate the most. It was so easy to travel around Italy and Europe being based there… but I never mastered the Italian language which made living there and doing business quite difficult at times.”
What is on the agenda in 2019 for Christopher Bates? There is no hesitation in his voice as he answers. “We will continue to strive for excellence with respect to our materials, production, and being a ‘Made in Italy’ product. Next phase plans are to continue to grow with our existing Canadian accounts - Nordstrom, Harry Rosen, Gotstyle, Espy - and to pursue expansion into the US market with Nordstrom.”