TORONTO - With the Vancouver Olympics on the horizon, consumer appetite for patriotic apparel will undoubtedly grow as sports lovers and fashion fans seek out duds that boast Canadian colours and symbols to show their national pride.
While the Hudson's Bay Company creates the officially sanctioned clothing line for Canada's athletes at the 2010 Games, unveiled last month, other homegrown retailers are forging their own paths in celebration of Canadiana by releasing heritage-inspired lines.
Lifestyles brand Roots outfitted Canada's Olympians prior to the Bay taking over for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. Renowned for using homegrown culture, sports and iconic national imagery and symbols as inspiration for its apparel and accessories, Roots continues on a similar trajectory with its latest line.
The Canada Collection by Roots melds influences of Canadian history with the brand's varsity look and athletic heritage. The line includes tuques, scarves, watches, hoodies and hockey jerseys in a vintage-inspired palette of red, white, charcoal and grey mixes, as well as a stable of leather goods emblazoned with the Canadian flag.
Head designer Daniel Allen said inspiration was drawn from Canada's rich history of winter sport, and efforts were made to celebrate and modernize those themes in a contemporary line.
"You're seeing a real strong graphic inspiration from the 1920s sports teams," he said. "We've got all kinds of progressive modern lines and details."
A portion of the proceeds from sales of the collection will benefit Right to Play, an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children around the world.
Roots held a fashion show at its flagship store in downtown Toronto on Thursday night which featured champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden, figure skating star David Pelletier and other athletes modelling apparel from the new line.
Roots co-founder Michael Budman touted the collection as their finest ever, and said it had "not a thing" to do with the Olympics.
"This has everything to do with Roots, and everything to do with the holiday season and being home for the holidays, and celebrating this great country we live in."
Tabi is tapping into the winter sports domain with its limited edition collection of apparel and accessories.
The womenswear retailer zeroed in on hockey, curling and skating for their Olympic-inspired sweaters. It's also releasing an "Everything Canadian" vest featuring a collage of Canadian iconography, ranging from beavers and bears to the Mounties.
Tabi also teamed up with American jewelry designer Angela Moore on a limited edition hand-painted line of earrings, necklaces and bracelets, including pieces which depict winter sports such as skiing and bobsledding along with the Maple Leaf.
"We were really inspired by the spirit of Canada and all its heritage and we wanted to be able to honour the Winter Olympics and somehow participate in it," said Patti Simigran, executive vice-president and chief merchandising officer for Tabi.
Despite sourcing the Games as inspiration, Simigran said they didn't necessarily see the collection as one competing with the HBC Olympic line.
"It's really for us to show off our patriotism, and for customers to show off their patriotism in style."