Canadiana gets a makeover at the Hudson Bay Company

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      Hudson Bay Company’s iconic looks, including those stripes, go chic and cool.

      When you’re riffing on something as iconic as the Hudson’s Bay Company point blanket to create a “Canadiana cool” lifestyles brand, there are many fine fashion lines to walk. Step over one of them, and the whole thing’s, like, shot to hell, eh?

      For instance, you could take the Canuck thing a tad too far and end up with a collection of high-end hoser tuques and plaids. There’s also the risk of crossing over to the souvenir dark side, in which case you could wind up with a surplus of beaver-shaped USB keychains and sterling Mountie wine stoppers, or you could just veer ever so slightly into the trendy zone with asymmetrical, shoulder-padded bomber jackets that feature the Bay’s famous stripes running every which way.

      Thankfully, in launching the new Company Collection, the Hbc creative team didn’t do any of that. In fact, they really nailed it. The entire line (out in time for the Olympics, naturally) is a perfect marriage between classic and modern sensibilities. Clearly, the designers they chose to collaborate with got the spirit of this haute-heritage concept. This despite the fact they were given a fair bit of creative freedom for the project. According to Hbc fashion director Suzanne Timmins, the guideline was pretty simple: Must Love Blanket.

      “The blanket is to the Hudson’s Bay Company what the trench coat is to Burberry,” says Timmins, who sat down with the Straight in the freshly minted Hudson’s Bay Company Shop Downtown. “The blanket is the core item—it’s the flag. It’s the starting point. This entire collection revolves around the blanket itself.”

      And like Burberry’s trench coat, the Bay blanket’s come a long way, baby. In 1779, the Hudson’s Bay Company commissioned the textile mill of Thomas Empson of Witney to produce the first woollen striped cover. Back then you could pick one up for anywhere from one to 2 1/2 beaver pelts, whereas the updated covers will set you back $275 to $475. They come in the signature cream-based, multistriped pattern, as well as several retro colours dug up from the Bay archives. The cabin red is striking, but the bold grassy green is the one to beat.

      In clothing, standouts include the cream-based women’s cardigan by Pink Tartan ($195), which proudly features the traditional bars. But there’s more to this collection than black, red, yellow, and green stripes running across the bottom. Many designers were more subtle with their homage to the great Canadian cover. Harricana’s Mariouche Gagné, for example, designed some gorgeous purses and scarves made from recycled fur as well as Nassak, a white leather trapper cap with fluffy fur trimming ($995). (Hbc has its own red-and-black tweed version for $50.)

      As you’ve probably figured out by now, the selection process for this collection wasn’t driven by price point. It’s more about fitting in with the Bay’s vision of celebrating Canadian culture in a way that is both timeless and cutting-edge—no easy feat.

      “This brand will never have trendy, trendy items that are just in and out,” Timmins promises. “It’s not what this is about. However, as we start to build apparel around this brand, it’s still going to be fashionable. It’s not about old classic, momsy things.”¦It will always have a modern-classic edge. It will always have longevity.”

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