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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.