Official outfitter Hudson's Bay Co. unveiled the new Canadian team uniforms during a splashy presentation in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, with both Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls modelling the fresh slate of patriotic apparel for the 2014 Winter Games.
But with the recent six-month anniversary of the tragic Bangladeshi garment factory collapse, heightened attention and focus on the manufacturing practices of affordable apparel brands and retailers remains top of mind.
HBC president Bonnie Brooks said that everything the athletes will be wearing in Sochi will be made in Canada, while the replica garments for consumers are being made offshore, mostly in China.
"We are a company with a very, very stringent social compliance policy and obligation to people around the world. And we ethically source every factory that we work in," Brooks told a gathering of reporters following the presentation.
"I understand that issues have come up recently with retailers recently sharing ... where things are made. I can assure you that up until now, that has been extremely proprietary — not due to lack of transparency — but primarily due to the competitive nature of our business."
Brooks added that they have joined with a group of retailers who will provide "complete transparency" on the locations of their factories.
Hilary Kelley, HBC's vice-president of design, said they sought to do something somewhat different with the current crop of Olympic designs, suggesting the collection channels influences from traditional sport clothing and vintage sport.
As always, the patriotic new designs flaunt Canada's colours, though this time adding black. Colour-blocking — the teaming of multiple shades within one garment — is a prominent theme in the new line. Items such as T-shirts, knit sweaters and hoodies feature logos in one colour with sleeves and other accents in complementary shades.
The "Canada" vintage wordmark sees the country's name emblazoned in bold lettering across the front of several garments as well as some colourful tuques in the collection. The range showcases a number of outerwear options including an all-red duffle coat accented with a black stripe around the waist and a reversible down jacket.
Kelley said the clothing line also includes three animal icons representative of the elements upon which the athletes will compete: the beaver for land, the polar bear for ice and snow, and the loon for air.
Versions of the animal symbols are threaded throughout the line, such a graphic beaver print teamed with a miniaturized Maple Leaf adorned on a scarf, or the animal depicted curled up on the back of a wool sweater.
"The collection is an evolution of Canadian sport and style, exuding a sense of refinement," said Kelley.
Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut described the uniforms as "the ultimate symbol of our country's Olympic dreams and aspirations."
"These uniforms are so much more than just fabrics and design ideas. They are a manifestation of the hard work and determination of countless supporters, including friends, coaches, team supports and family members."
Model-athletes on hand gave the new line a thumbs up.
"I love fashion. For me, it's a real pleasure to have good clothes for the Olympic Games," said freestyle moguls skiier Justine Dufour-Lapointe.
Sledge hockey player Billy Bridges called the clothing line "incredible."
"It's made us proud to put it on, and that's what it's going to feel like in Sochi, Russia, when we're out there. And we're going to be one of the best-looking countries by far," said the Summerside, P.E.I. native.
Hudson's Bay Co. will be the official outfitter of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams until 2020.
The 2014 Winter Games begin on Feb. 7.Suggest a correction