and one-time ski racer, the Winter Olympics is a highlight every 4 years that it rolls around again. I am most interested in the alpine skiing events, but I can’t help but get interested in all of the pomp surrounding the event as well. Since the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, special attention has been paid to the Canadian team’s uniform. That year, and in 2002 (as well as in the Summer Games), Roots has set the bar pretty high, eschewing the traditional (silly) faux-native themes for a slick collection that was the talk of the Games. This year, the contract went to the Hudson’s Bay Company, one of the oldest retailers in the world – but a company that has been mired with problems and was recently sold to an American investor.
I’m really curious to know how HBC got the contract, because the clothes are in stores and the reviews are in, and it’s pretty clear that a) The Bay was overdue to be sold, b) the company has been reduced to little more than a discount store that has no business trying to design an original line, and c) someone thought, incorrectly, that re-creating the success Roots had should be a pretty simple job.
I visited the HBC Olympic shop around Christmas time, and I can personally attest to the fact that although HBC managed to retain some sense of style around this year’s Olympic uniforms, they obviously had little clue about what they were doing. Once you see the clothes up close, it is obvious that they have been manufactured with the absolute cheapest junk materials they could source. The nylon in the ski jackets has no “hand” at all and is shinier and more plastic than anything I have seen since the 70s. The “fleece” toques are not made with anything resembling quality polar fleece, and the logos are in some kind of rubbery substance that will clearly crack and peel within weeks.
Hopefully the sale of HBC will help it reclaim its status in Canada – because if the Olympic line was a Hail Mary pass to try and reclaim some relevance, it will likely be a major failure.