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.
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.
Magazine editorials featuring Claire’s designs. Source: clairehaddad.wordpress.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.