Parks Canada clothing brands the Canadian wilderness

Parks Canada has launched a premium line of clothing that it hopes will speak to visitors about their memories of Gros Morne or Banff National Park and help a little with the bottom line.

Cash-strapped national parks hope to raise money by licensing line of outdoor wear

Designer Roger Edwards shows off the beaver logo and moose design on a line of merchandise for Parks Canada. (CBC)

Parks Canada has launched a premium line of clothing that it hopes will speak to visitors about their memories of Gros Morne or Banff National Park and help a little with the bottom line.

Marketed under the slogan “This Land is your Brand,” the Parks Original line includes hoodies, T-shirts and hats sporting the Parks Canada beaver logo from the 1970s.

The line is designed by Roger Edwards, a former Toronto fashion designer of the year, who has created clothing for the NHL, CFL and Team Canada. The clothing has a series of images, including the current crossed paddles logo of Parks Canada and a moose with antlers.
The 1970s beaver logo is shown on a cap created for Parks Canada. (CBC)

"We take iconic images that have been around for a while, like the moose and we just find that it’s perfect for Parks Canada," Edwards said in an interview with CBC News.

He says he’s "playing around" with other wildlife images to add to the clothing as the line expands, including an orca or a cougar.

Only at the Bay

Hudson's Bay is the exclusive retailer for the clothing, which is made in Toronto with ethically sourced cotton. Beginning this week, items are to be offered online from Hudson's Bay Co. and  at Hudson's Bay locations in Banff and at Pearson and Vancouver International Airports.

The RCMP faced a backlash for turning to Disney to design its merchandise.  Parks Canada licensed its line to Canadian maker Cotton Candy Inc. for five years, signing a contract in 2012. 

Cotton Candy initially produced a line called Parks Canada Memories that is sold in Parks Canada stores. Parks Canada Memories, still relatively new to the agency, has generated approximately $250,000 since inception.

The premium Parks Canada Original line was meant to be sold only through a Canadian retailer.

Strong Canadian brand

John Houlding, a former Olympic rower who competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, is president of Cotton Candy. He says he’s hoping the strong Canadian brand represented by this line will catch on with international visitors and Canadians alike.

"People love Canada. People love our parks more, so if we get this out there going wild, there are companies I believe that have done really well with a Canadian-made product. We could be one of those companies," he said.

Parks Canada will get eight per cent of the wholesale price of each item. A peaked cap sells for $30 and a red, zip-front hoodie selling for $119 on the Hudson’s Bay site.

How much the agency ultimately gets depends on the success of the brand. 

The official launch of the clothing line is Wednesday. 

Parks Canada has had to cut $27.2 million from its 2014-15 budget of $659.7 million, on top of  $25.7 million in cuts over the two previous years in response to federal efforts to balance the budget.

The cuts have forced the agency, which operates 44 national parks, 167 national historic sites and four national marine conservation areas, to reduce the season in some parks, allow more private operators in others and reduce the number of rangers and visitor services. 

But the idea of building on its brand name with a line of merchandise predates the federal cuts and is a response to visitor requests for high-quality souvenirs, a Parks Canada spokesman said.

Andrew Campbell, vice-president of visitor experience, says the clothing is a way for Canadians to "connect to the country that they love."

"It’s about getting people out and into these great places across Canada. As I’m wearing my Parks Canada logo, hopefully friends and neighbours will come up and ask, 'Where did you get that and what’s it all about.'"


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