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Malabar staff outside the McCaul Street store, 1960

Sara Mallabar & family

Sara Mallabar started her business around 1900 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, catering to the carriage trade as a supplier of ball gowns. With unprecedented economic growth and the golden age of live entertainment, Sara sensed opportunity in the thriving local scene and by 1906 she was the proprietor of S. Mallabar Costume and Hair Goods. Sara's relationship with the Winnipeg Operatic Society helped to establish her reputation as a professional costumer and by the 1920s Sara had a viable costume business.

In 1923 Sara's son Harry moved to Toronto to establish operations, setting up shop as a costume and dancewear supplier on Spadina Avenue. The business name was eventually changed to Malabar Limited, dropping one L in the name, to avoid confusion with the Winnipeg store.

During the 1930s on a quest for more space, Malabar moved into the heart of Toronto's "Entertainment District" and by 1950 had become the leading costume house in Canada, providing costumes for theatrical/musical productions and masquerade galas.

Harry Mallabar at the Toronto Storefront, 1923

In 1954 European-trained tailor Luigi Speca joined Malabar and quickly advanced to become the company's renowned "master cutter". Over the next few decades Musicals and Operas brought continuous growth to the business and it was during these years that Malabar created many full-scale opera productions, achieving international recognition for their quality and workmanship.

Malabar Today

Our retail stores located in Toronto and Ottawa sell costumes, theatrical makeup and dancewear as well as rent high-quality theatrical costumes originally produced for the stage. In 2003, we opened an online division (store.malabar.net) as an extension of the retail shop.

Our renowned opera department continues to manufacture and rent opera and theatre productions to companies across North America and our Toronto warehouse is home to over 30,000 historical costumes. From amateur to professional, our diverse range of products and services has proven a valuable resource to the performing arts community. We take pride in the quality of our workmanship, and our talented and professional staff whose continuous efforts deliver drama and excitement to our loyal customers.

Luigi Speca with Harry Mallabar, 1972