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Jonathan Walford:

Good evening. I'm going to have Rachel speak first but before I do that, I'd like to introduce you to our governing board. Four of them are here tonight.


Iris Simpson has been in fashion retail her entire professional life, including as the buyer from Yves St. Laurent in Paris for Holt Renfrew. She is currently teaching fashion at T.M.U., and is also a professional stylist and has her own line of clothing. 


Jeffrey Kong has been involved with every aspect of the fashion industry from design to manufacturing, and has worked in Italy, New York, and Toronto. 


Ian Drummond is the owner of a costume supply house for film and television. He has supplied costuming to productions including Killers of the Flower Moon, Chicago, and Hairspray. 


Diane Gallinger has worked in the museum field where she specializes in accessibility for museum visitors. 

Rachel Behling:

Good evening, my name is Rachel Behling and I am the Outreach and Program Person at the Fashion History Museum.

I am honoured to share with you the many Programs and Outreach activities we have established over the past three years since taking on this role at the museum.


Our Senior and people living with dementia programming began as a pilot project in early 2021. As we navigated the many challenges because of Covid that came with running a program like this that centred so much on face-to-face contact, we were still able to connect with Retirement Homes, Community Groups and organisations that would benefit by our program. I have been privileged to share historical fashion pieces with the program’s participants in the hope to ignite memories and give them the opportunity to share stories about their lives. This program has gained in popularity and we have visited groups from Cambridge, Kitchener Waterloo, Ayr, Drumbo and London, Ontario. We now have many ongoing relationships with Langs groups here in Cambridge, and have even branched into online groups for seniors who live in rural areas or are housebound. The smiles, laughter and connection I feel each time I visit these programs acknowledges that we are making a difference.


Another program that puts the Fashion History Museum on the map is our book club, an online group that meets once a month to discuss fashion in literature. We have local members as well as individuals as far as The United Kingdom and France.  This group has hosted many authors, bringing fashion enthusiasts together who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to meet. This group is now into its 3rd year- and going strong!


Our programming and outreach activities have also focused on sustainability. Our first annual Upcycling Challenge, held last Spring, offered designers and sewists both local and throughout Canada a chance to utilise materials destined for landfill to create new wearable fashion.  We have also been part of other organizations’ events such as a community clothing swap with Femme Folk Fest in Kitchener Waterloo, The Circular Fashion Festival in Guelph as both panelists in discussion surrounding fast fashion as well as having a booth at their festival. We recently have started working with an Austrian designer, who incorporates damaged historical garments into their new designs. In a world where we need to inspire others to look at their fashion choices in a different light- there are so many other opportunities of engaging the public.


Over the past two summers, we have opened a pop-up vintage shop in there heart of Hespeler. This has been an excellent opportunity for us to engage local residents and build relationships with other local businesses. It also gave us a venue to provide our membership and local theatre community with two sold-out performances of a comedic staged-reading by Nora Ephron entitled Love Loss and What I Wore. 


Our next Pilot Project is for youth in the later years of secondary school who are considering fashion as a career. We are developing two, two-week intensives where they will hear and engage with guest lecturers in the industry and have the opportunity for hands-on sewing and upcycling projects. They will build a portfolio for post-secondary applications that can develop to suit their area of interest. 


It is truly an honour for me to work alongside Jonathan and Kenn to establish long-lasting relationships within our community groups and members. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive an email from one of our members or community partners sharing a story about a meaningful piece of fashion or a thanks for the program they attended. Fashion is universal, and the impact it has on us all is lifelong and universal.

Jonathan Walford:

My Name is Jonathan Walford and I am the Curatorial Director of the Fashion History Museum.


I am NOT the owner of the Fashion History Museum, I am a trustee and one of the founders of the museum, along with Kenn Norman who could not be here tonight due to a death in his family. 


The FHM is a nationally registered, charitable, non-profit institution. In 2023 visitation was just over 12,000. According to TREIM (Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model) our economic value to Cambridge was in excess of $1,000,000.


We get NO funding from Municipal Accommodation Tax for marketing despite promises of funding last year which would have been great for our Bob Mackie/CHER exhibition.


We are NOT asking for funding for programs, staff, or collection. We raise money to pay for those via book, textile  and clothing sales, events and programs, admission, membership, grants, donations, as well as our tea room.


We are internationally recognized by our museum peers as a significant institution and have been identified as having the third most important collection of antique clothing and textiles in Canada, after the McCord Museum in Montreal and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.


We signed a lease with the former owner of our building in November 2014, with the help of the city to secure a downpayment for first and last month’s rent.


In 2015, the city made a contribution towards insurance, utilities, and preventative maintenance, and Mayor Craig worked to get us $50,000 in funding from the region. This was followed by four years of City support for the museum, but not from the Region, although that City support was reduced without notice in the third and fourth years. 


The city purchased the former post office building in 2020. Our previous landlord requested the museum to pay an increase in the rent for the three months between the sale and her move out west, and when the city took possession in September. The city created a lease with the museum but retained the increased rent for the rest of the year.


In 2020/21 we received $200,000 in Federal and Provincial Trillium grants to improve the building for accessibility and security. As well as for creating original online digital content. 


In 2021 we did not receive enough money from the city to cover the city’s rent or carrying costs, but because of COVID, we were eligible for Federal rent subsidies, which we used to make up the difference.


In 2022, we received enough money from the city to cover their rent, although it was scant for utilities, maintenance/insurance. 


In 2023 – our grant was cut by more than half, but the rent was not altered, and the cost of utilities, maintenance, and insurance have dramatically increased. 


We met this time last year and council agreed that there would be an adjustment, but no deadline was set and so we had no choice but to stop paying rent – and here we are again. 


We are struggling and funding issues challenge the kind of work we can do. We now owe 46,433.20 in rent arrears and we are also now paying back our $40,000 CEBA loan.


As for the city, the value of the building has doubled since it was purchased in 2020. There is also money coming from the solar panels on the roof.


If we weren’t the tenants and the building was empty, the city would still have to pay for some utilities, maintenance and insurance. 


With no rent, the city is still making money from our existence, and they have free maintenance and security built into one of the only cultural tourism attractions Cambridge has to offer .


NO charitable, non-profit museum in Canada pays rent – ZERO – so we are requesting:

- Forgiveness of rent owed $46,433.20

- Rent to be reduced to $1.00 per year

- Annual support for preventative maintenance, insurance, and utilities of $35,000 per year


That's it. Thank you.

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