As Canada prepared to celebrate its 150th birthday, French-Canadian journalist and TV host Frédéric Choinière wondered what a life entirely "Made in Canada" would look like. Last summer, he decided to embark on a challenge of living for one year exclusively on Canadian goods. Choinière moved into an empty Toronto apartment, bringing only his possessions that were considered either Made in Canada or a Product of Canada, following the strict definitions set out by the Competition Bureau, before starting to rebuild his life from scratch.
The result is Ma vie made in Canada, a four-part documentary series scheduled to air in the fall on Unis/TV5, which chronicles the unique challenges Choinière faces living exclusively local. As he puts the finishing touches on the project, Choinière says he has found Canadian versions of most things he needs in his life, but often encounters one major obstacle.
"What is coming up every day, three times a day, is food," he says from Montreal over his mobile phone, which along with his computer, have been his only two cheats throughout the experiment, as Canadian-made versions of the devices don't exist for consumers. "Food is becoming very taxing in terms of time and in terms of being very annoying at restaurants," he says.
What Choinière has been lacking in fresh foods, relying heavily on potatoes and frozen blueberries, he's been making up with his sampling of Canadian beer, wine and even sake, mentioning Osake, a Vancouver-based sake brand that is made using rice grown in Canada. "He also sells the rice, which means I could reintegrate white rice into my diet thanks to him."
Choinière has also had trouble sourcing electronics for his apartment, telling me that the only items he has plugged into electrical outlets at home are a vintage RCA Victor record player and a lamp. Clothing, however, has been plentiful, if not always affordable. "A Canadian wardrobe is very nice, but with very few items – at least with my budget," he says. "In terms of style, it means you have to shop for something that you will like for a long time and that will hopefully last for a long time." Sourcing a winter coat, sweater or long johns has been a cinch. "Anything to do with winter, we're really good at."
As his made-in-Canada experiment winds down, Choinière says what he's learned over the year is that incorporating Canadian-made goods into his lifestyle was easier than he thought it would be, with one major exception. "I can't wait to be done just to get a good few cups of coffee," he says.
THIS WEEK'S STYLE HAPPENINGS
- Los Angeles-based makeup artist Vlada Haggerty is visiting Sephora at the Toronto Eaton Centre on the last stop of her Lip Art World Tour. Running from noon until 7 p.m. on April 29, Haggerty will be on hand to help guests choose Smashbox products before selecting a lip-art look to be applied by a makeup artist (Haggerty’s lip designs have been imitated by Kylie Jenner’s lip kits). For more information, visit www.smashbox.ca.
- Two creative collaborations are hitting stores on April 28. At Louis Vuitton, find artist Jeff Koons’s Masters collection of bags and accessories featuring recreations of masterpieces by da Vinci, Rubens, Van Gogh transposed onto classic Vuitton styles such as the Speedy, the Keepall and the Neverfull. Each bag also includes a tag in the shape of signature Koons rabbit. Meanwhile, Japanese retailer Uniqlo is launching its own artist-led collaboration, a Kaws x Peanuts collection of T-shirts and accessories, which features the New York-based artist’s interpretation of the Peanuts cartoon characters.
- As Scotiabank’s Contact Photography Festival kicks off in Toronto, don’t miss the Currents and Clichés featured exhibition by Globe Style contributors Saty + Pratha. Held at the Only One Gallery, this show, which was over two years in the making, explores ambiguous ideas of femininity through cliché. For more information, visit www.scotiabankcontactphoto.com.