The maker of a Canadiana clothing line says northern Ontario served as the muse in his designs.
The company, Red Canoe, makes clothing and bags emblazoned with logos of the CBC, Royal Canadian Air Force, RCMP and CN Rail.
The produces are designed by Dax Wilkinson, who was born and raised in Sudbury, and founded Red Canoe 13 years ago.
When looking for inspiration for his line, Wilkinson said he turned to his roots.
“The whole lifestyle [in northern Ontario], from wearing wool in the wintertime or down jackets,” he said. “I’ve got a certain aesthetic that I think is unique because of the way I grew up.”
Wilkinson cited going to camp in the summer, splitting wood, duck hunting and boating, as quintessential northern experiences that came to mind when designing.
His "eureka" moment for the company came when he took a flight in a deHavilland DHC-2 Beaver aircraft. He spent many years of his childhood watching that same aircraft and other bush planes landing on Ramsey Lake.
“I realized that, in Canada, we had a lot of things with stories behind them like the Beaver, and that I should create a product line around them,” Wilkinson said. “I thought the market was missing a Canadian-focused product.”
The Red Canoe products are now sold in more than 400 stores across Canada and sales are growing in the United States.
Connection to the north still strong
Wilkinson maintains a close link to northern Ontario, with members of his extended family still having a camp on Kukagami Lake.
Wilkinson’s family legacy in fashion is strong in Sudbury. His grandfather started Reg Wilkinson’s Men’s Wear, which is still a popular shopping destination in downtown Sudbury. The younger Wilkinson said choosing to go into clothing design was always a natural fit.
As for his northern connection, Wilkinson said it "continues to inspire the product line all the time."