Canadian Fashion Connection – Norma Lepofsky

Toronto knitwear designer Norma Lepofsky was well known in the 1980s, but there is very little written about her or her business, including when the business began and closed. I have pieced together what I can and hope readers will contribute more:

Born in 1924 in Toronto, Norma Balaban married Harold Lepofsky in about 1955. Norma started  making knitwear dresses and sweaters in the 1960s and grew her business to its apex in the 1980s, when she earned the nickname ‘Queen of Knitwear’.

By 1980 Norma had a workshop on Carlaw avenue and a retail store at 116 Cumberland Street in Yorkville, as well as a shop in Calgary, however, the bulk of her unique and limited edition knitwear was wholesaled to retailers in the United States and Japan. 

Chenille and wool sweater by Norma, 1981

According to one article, her hand knit sweaters, that retailed for several hundred dollars, were made by 400 free-lance knitters consisting of English grannies, university students and recent Hong Kong immigrants. However, Norma got into a bit of legal trouble when it was discovered her ‘free-lance’ knitters turned out to consist mostly of unregistered immigrants. 

By 1987 Norma had expanded her product line into lambskin leather jackets and suits. Articles and mentions of Norma dating after 1991 don’t show up in searches. Norma Lepofsky died May 1, 2009.

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