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Made in Canada winter wear: Patriotic parkas

Parkas made in the Great White North are currently hotter than a fresh cup of joe from Tim Hortons.

On a bone-chilling afternoon a line of cars waits to park at high-end lifestyle retailer Sporting Life. Inside, most shoppers make a beeline for the racks of Canada Goose parkas. Rival made-in-Canada brands like Moose Knuckles also attract interest. Many customers will eventually get in line to shell out hundreds (and sometimes north of $1,000) for a down-filled coat.

Despite the hefty price tags everyone from students to seniors has bought in.

So have retailers. At Sporting Life, Canada Goose products are always front-and-centre at its midtown Toronto store, even in the middle of July. The Ontario chain has recently grown and is set to expand west to Calgary next year.

Canada Goose, which started in 1957, has taken celebrating Canadian connections to new heights. Our country is in its name and a map of the Arctic is on its logo. The brand may have finally hit peak Canadian earlier this season when it teamed up for a second time with Drake for a capsule collection.

Branding parkas as symbols of Canadiana chic has paid off. Canada Goose has opened a new 96,000-square-foot factory in Toronto, doubling its previous production capacity, and it expanded its Winnipeg facility last fall.

“In terms of cold weather apparel, we are a world leader,” says Marilyn McNeil-Morin, chair of the School of Fashion Studies at George Brown College.

We Canucks are known for knowing how to stay warm in cold climates. Centuries before Canada Goose hit it big, Canadian companies such as Hudson’s Bay Company were famous for selling furs, McNeil-Morin points out.

These days most of the winter gear we buy, from toques to coats to boots, is made somewhere else. Buying parkas actually still made in our home and native land is an easy way to show others the depth of our true patriot love.

“We like supporting local jobs and our manufacturing economy,” adds McNeil-Morin. The fashion expert also notes that the quality of coats made here is usually higher than those made overseas. We are clearly buying the Buy Canada message.

You can’t hit the ice rink or the coffee shop without seeing a sea of red-and-white logos. The ubiquity has bred a backlash. Activists have called the parka-makers that use real fur and feathers “cruel.”

And some of us would rather shiver than wear what everyone else is wearing.

Upstarts have cropped up for the hipster set looking for a homegrown alternative. More subtle brands like OSC Cross have obviously taken a few pages from the Canada Goose patriotic playbook. OSC Cross has named many of its coats after some of our cities and towns, such as the St. John’s coat.

Parkas made at home are now both “cool and practical,” says McNeil-Morin. What could be more Canadian than that, eh?

Six other parka options

Johnny Yiu

Johnny Yiu started in 2004. Its parkas are made in Toronto. The women’s Adalyn parka is $880 and is filled with goose down. At select retailers and johnnyyiu.com.

OSC Cross

OSC Cross

OSC Cross grew out of the Outdoor Survival Canada brand in 2012. Its parkas are made in Toronto. The men’s St. John’s parka is $670 and contains goose and duck down. At select retailers and osccross.com.

Quartz Nature

Quartz Nature started in 1997. Its parkas are made in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que. The women’s Éliane parka is $699 and is filled with Canadian down. Find retailers or buy online at quartznature.com.

Cold Manufactured (CMFR)

CMFR started in 2010. Its parkas are made in Winnipeg. The men’s Gormley parka is $795 and filled with white duck. At select Sporting Life stores. Find other retailers at cmfrcanada.com.

The Wild North

The Wild North

The Wild North started in 2014. Its parkas are made in Oakville, Ont. The women’s Lila parka is $900 and made mainly of wool and filled with down. At Deluxe Boutique in Toronto and thewildnorthapparel.com.

Moose Knuckles

Moose Knuckles started in 2007. Its parkas are made in Winnipeg. The women’s Stirling parka is $795 and contains down insulation. At select Sporting Life stores. Find other retailers at mooseknucklescanada.com.

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