Category Archives: Canadian Designers

Claire Haddad: A Canadian Fashion Icon (1924-2016)

Claire Haddad (1924-2016)

Claire Haddad (1924-2016)

By Dale Peers

It is with sadness that I write this blog and offer condolences to the family of Canadian fashion legend, Claire Haddad.  Claire passed away on Tuesday May 17th just two months to the day of what would have been her 92nd birthday.  Claire was a “force majeur” in the Canadian Fashion industry.  With her husband, Albert Haddad’s love and support Claire produced designs from the 1960s to the 1980s and ran a successful fashion company in Canada.  Her beautiful and fashionable lounge and sleepwear created an entire new category of women’s fashions, “At Homewear”.    Claire believed that a woman should feel elegant and comfortable at home where the most important people in her life were. In addition she pioneered the idea of bringing loungewear outside of the home for elegant eveningwear to the theatre, balls and cocktail parties.


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Over the years I had the great good fortune to meet with Claire several times and each time it was a delight to speak with this incredible woman.  She was so proud of all her family and spoke of them often.  Her beloved husband Albert was also top of mind in our conversations.  When they say “behind every great man is a great woman” Claire would have flipped that to describe the tremendous support and encouragement Albert provided her.


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Claire and Albert were passionate about the Canadian fashion industry.  Claire often told me about her choice of fabrics.  That she looked for beautiful fabrics in Canada and when she did import something she infused an aspect of Canada into the production by having artists create some of the unique painting on the silks that were then used in the fashions.  She loved colour and elegance and embodied that in her own stylish self.  Whenever she came to visit, to attend our annual Fashion Show, Fashion Resource Centre exhibitions or student award presentations she wore a fashionable outfit topped with a beautiful hat.


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Elizabeth Taylor, Cyd Cyrisse, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett were just a few of the celebrities she dressed.  The gown for Elizabeth Taylor presented a challenge – Taylor refused to be measured so Claire asked to have a bra belonging to the actress smuggled out so she could create the perfect garment!


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Her work was recognized by members of the press as well as her peers. Claire was the first Canadian designer to be recognized in international publications such as Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue Magazine.  She won a Coty Award which was the equivalent of a fashion Oscar as well as six Canadian Edee awards.   Her contribution to the Canada was also recognized when, in 1979 she received the Order of Canada.


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Claire’s contribution to the Canadian Fashion industry exceeded the bounds of her successful company as she was actively involved in the establishment and as a member of organizations such as Fashion Group International – Toronto chapter and the Fashion Designers Association of Canada (FDAC).


Fashion by Claire Haddad

When Seneca College began the Fashion Resource Centre in 1989 Claire was front and centre as both a volunteer and donor.  Our Fashion Resource Centre has been gifted with so many of her lovely designs and each term our students are astounded by the beauty of the fabrics, the embellishments and the creative design details.

The Albert and Claire Haddad Fashion Award each year recognizes the efforts of a student in the School of Fashion and Claire was always graciously present when the student would be recognized.  The students were always grateful to receive an award but were even more excited to meet Claire in person.  As excited as the students were some were also shy.  Each time Claire made them feel so special since she talked with them about their work and hers.  The experience of winning such an honour became an extraordinary moment in their lives.

Claire led an extraordinary life that one can only aspire to.  It included love, family, integrity, generosity, creativity and a legacy that allows others to be inspired well into the future.


Fashion by Claire Haddad

Claire Haddad visiting Seneca

Claire Haddad visiting Seneca

A Canadian Fashion Dynasty – Albert and Claire Haddad

One of the most poignant facts about studying the history of fashion, in fact the history of anything, is that time marches on. And as it does, things change and evolve. At the same time, there is the hope that we will, through this study, learn from the past. As time moves on some things are lost. Such was the case last month when Albert Haddad, husband of Canadian fashion icon Claire Haddad, passed on.


Left: Albert Haddad, Right: Claire Haddad.

I would like to pay tribute in this post to the dedication and delight that Claire and Albert have given to the Canadian fashion industry. They have been tireless supporters and provided a foundation that current and future designers in our country can truly be thankful for.

The accolades and attention that Claire received for her outstanding designs culminated in: being the first Canadian designer recognized by Women’s Wear Daily (N.Y.), first Canadian designer recognized in full-page editorials, selected to create special designs for celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, and featured in Time Magazine – all of which helped to set Canadian fashion on the map.

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Magazine editorials featuring Claire’s designs. Source:

Married for 69 years – which is an outstanding feat in itself! – Claire and Albert were not only husband and wife but partners in business. Claire grew up in the fashion business; her father, Joseph Bardwell, established Bard’s, which specialized in the production of bathrobes and housecoats. This proved to be an excellent training ground for young Claire.

Albert and Claire married when she was just 20 years old, and in addition to raising a family she continued to work at her father’s company. Designing for Bard’s, her father marketed her work under her married name and with the label: Bard’s, by Claire Haddad. After the untimely death of her father, Albert joined Claire at the Company.

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Left: Claire Haddad in The Gazette, September 3, 1958; Right: Advertisement for Claire’s lingerie. Source: Google News Archive

By 1964 the dynamic couple was ready to embark on their own path and established Claire Haddad Ltd. Their background in robes gave them a solid foundation to move into a business which would specialize in lingerie and designs. These designs would make every woman who owned them feel so glamorous.


Albert’s business acumen was apparent when they named the company Claire Haddad Ltd as he knew that the company’s name was rarely included by fashion editors, so including the designer’s name in the title ensured double exposure! And what amazing editorial coverage they got!

Claire and Albert were very involved in ensuring that the quality of their product would never be anything less than outstanding. They searched the world together for beautiful fabrics that could be used to create fashion that would become precious pieces of art for their owners. Beautiful colours, hand-painted silks, original designs and quality workmanship were so important to them.



Clothing by Claire Haddad from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

When David Weiser designed the Maple Leaf tartan (which includes all of the colours of the maple leaf transitions, in celebration of Canada’s 1967 Centennial , Claire and Albert created a collection using the tartan which was received in New York with a standing ovation. They were strong supporters too of Canadian manufacturing and fabrics and used them whenever possible.

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Maple Leaf Tartan suits from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Their zeal to please their customers and settle for nothing less than the best became a hallmark of their business. They were awarded with all of the most prestigious fashion awards including: Cotton Council Awards, Edee Awards, a Coty Award, American Collins Aikman Award, Rothman Fashion Award, and, the pinnacle, an Order of Canada Award in 1979.

Screenshot of Order of Canada Award recipient database. Source: Clothing Canada Fashion

Throughout their business years they also gave back to the community. Albert served his country during World War II moving from second lieutenant to captain by the end of the war. Claire was a founding member and strong supporter of many associations that established the fashion industry as we know it including: Fashion Group International – Toronto Chapter, Fashion Designers Association of Canada (FDAC) and Toronto Ontario Designers.

The Haddads were also long-time supporters of education in fashion and specifically our Seneca College community. When the Fashion Resource Centre was in its embryonic stage Claire was already on board, supporting our mandate. She worked as a volunteer in the establishment of the Centre and we are incredibly fortunate to be the repository of many of her garments.

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Claire Haddad and students at the Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

And, I know that every inch of the way, Albert was supporting all the important causes Claire was participating in. The Haddads also established an endowment Scholarship for students of Seneca’s School of Fashion which assists and celebrates the efforts of a student in their graduating year. How synergistic that this year’s recipient, Amaryn Boyd, worked in the Fashion Resource Centre during her time at Seneca College and has been intimately involved with both our Claire Haddad collection and our Digital Fashion Photography project.

Without Canadian fashion pioneers like Albert and Claire Haddad paving the way, there is no telling how much more difficult it would be for young Canadian designers of today. I hope that as we continue to see our industry evolve and grow, we never forget to pay tribute to those who have given so much to the success of fashion in Canada. For the upcoming graduates, — new and hopeful designers to be –may you build on the beautiful foundation that has been established by those who have come before.

In memory of Albert Haddad, January 31, 1916 – February 23, 2014.