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Canadian Pan Am and Parapan Am Games uniforms pay homage to the past

04/29/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 08/05/2015 08:59 EDT
TORONTO - Canadians competing on home soil at this summer's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will don uniforms celebrating the country's iconic symbol that also pay homage to the past.

Track star Jessica Zelinka and champion para-swimmer Benoit Huot were among the athletes modelling the new collection unveiled by Hudson's Bay Co. on Wednesday in Toronto, the host city for the Games.

The retailer was inspired by the 50-year anniversary of the Canadian flag with the Maple Leaf used as a starting point for the graphics throughout the line.

The 22-piece collection is red and white accented with grey, black and gold.

The line bears similarities to classic varsity sport, while also giving a nod to the athleisure trend with garments suitable for both physical activity and everyday casual wear.

The "Canada" wordmark in a rounded font is prominently displayed on T-shirts, as well as vertically on half-zip jackets and pant legs.

Zip-up red jackets and windbreakers feature the Maple Leaf with stripes on the sleeves.

A red-and-white fringed rally scarf includes the words "En Garde" (on guard) in bold white block lettering.

White-collared polo tees and a Maple Leaf-adorned ball cap are also in the new line.

Canada's chef de mission Curt Harnett said there was consultation with Hudson's Bay throughout the design process, emphasizing the need to balance style and function.

"It's not their grandmother's underwear," said Harnett following the unveiling. "This is something that they can feel is fashionable, it's current and it's going to make them feel good, and they'll wear with a little more pride and a little more confidence.

"When you have those things and you start combining them together, that's going to give them the swagger that they need to achieve great success."

Zelinka said athletes appreciate comfort and versatility, adding that the vast range of pieces in the line allows Canadians to "change it up" as the temperatures fluctuates.

"Weather in Toronto can switch on the dime in the summer so that's important — to make sure that it's functional gear," said Zelinka, a two-time Olympian who competed in heptathlon and 100-metre hurdles at the 2012 London Games.

"It's not just to look good — you can actually wear it and feel good, and it does its job."

With the exception of a few items, the clothing the athletes will wear will all be produced in Canada. The replica garments for consumers will be manufactured offshore.

The apparel and accessories, priced from $30 to $140, is now available in Hudson's Bay stores and online.

Hudson's Bay president Liz Rodbell said the retailer doesn't see the homegrown nature of this year's Pan Ams and Parapan Ams as added pressure in their design approach.

"We always want to deliver the best, so this is no different than when we worked on Vancouver or Sochi or London that we want to make sure our athletes are most proud to wear what we outfit them (in)."

The retailer has also designed two limited-edition collections that will be carried in select stores beginning June 1.

Canada is fielding its largest-ever Pan Am Games team of 700 athletes for the July 10-26 Pan Am Games. The Aug 7-15 Parapan Am Games open in exactly 100 days.

— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter

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