“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”

Alexander McQueen


An invaluable support for creation

Radio-Canada’s costume department developed over the years thanks to the broadcaster’s productions. From the 1950s onward, the designers and tailors who dressed the characters of serial dramas, children’s shows, televised plays and more added to the collection, making it one of the largest of its kind in North America today. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Radio-Canada’s costume workshops were operating at full capacity, sometimes with up to 40 full-time employees.

Around 1995, when Radio-Canada was already creating significantly fewer in-house productions, employee Jean-Marc Diorio convinced management to open the costume department to outside clients. He received the President’s Award that year for his initiative. Media and performing art producers were quick to use this creative resource. Costumers were pleased to find everything they needed under one roof and also appreciated the collection’s quality.

In October 2014, an announcement that Radio-Canada’s costume department would be closing sent shockwaves through the cultural community. With the public corporation intending to part ways with this invaluable support for creation, the general public became aware of the wealth that it contained. Despite the clamouring of countless voices requesting that the costume department be kept open, its doors were shut on December 5, 2014, with the contents slated to be sold in the winter of 2015

A new life for the collection

In an effort to uphold the cultural industry, the Centre-Sud/Plateau-Mont-Royal CDEC (community economic development corporation) and Culture Montréal came together to gauge the cultural community’s interest in finding another solution. The response was a resounding vote of encouragement.

Radio-Canada was favorable to the partners’ proposal, putting them into contact with a group of independent producers who had also expressed an interest in saving the costumes. Comprised of KOTV, Salvail & Co and Groupe Fair-Play, the consortium agreed to join forces with the CDEC and Culture Montréal in this somewhat unusual rescue operation.

Throughout 2015, the members of the working group pooled their resources and expertise to devise the structure required to give the costume department new life.

In April 2015, 143 costumes were classified as heritage items and donated to the Musée de la civilisation de Québec.

This project would not have been possible without the bold vision of Radio-Canada costumer Diane Lavoie. She lit the spark that started this epic saga. Also, the unwavering determination shown by Marie-Anne Marchand, Social Economy Advisor at the CDEC, and Jean-Marc Diorio, retired Radio-Canada costumer, both of whom invested countless hours and great passion into making this dream a reality. 

A model of coordinated action

In December 2015, it was officially announced that a social enterprise and non-profit organization would be created to take over management of the costume collection. The project was a model of coordinated action, bringing together people from the production, social economy, cultural and government sectors who were interested in preserving the integrity of a rich cultural heritage and keeping it available to the creative community.  

The organization’s non-profit status will ensure that the collection remains community property and will be available to the largest number of people possible: a great example of what social economy is all about. 

First row: Bernard N’Dour, Caisse d’économie solidaire Desjardins, Ariane Savard, Fair-Play, Jean-Marc Diorio, costumier retraité, Manon Gauthier, Ville de Montréal, Ginette Petit, Films Outsiders, Louis Lalande, Radio-Canada

Second row: Marie-Anne Marchand, CDEC, Louis-Philippe Drolet, KOTV, Guy Villeneuve, Fair-Play, Hélène David, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, Luc Rabouin, Caisse d’économie solidaire Desjardins and Éric Salvail.