Update: Please note Red Canoe has moved locations, and thus will appear different than these photos reflect.
Red Canoe is a brand that boasts licensing deals with Boeing, CBC and the Royal Canadian Air Forces - if you ever wanted the retro logo of the CBC on a t-shirt, bag, hat or folio, Red Canoe Brands offers all of that and more.
I questioned the value of the brand for most fashion conscious consumers, but it became very clear, very quickly, that owner Dax Wilkinson was not approaching this market naively.
In addition to its Dundas West location, Red Canoe moved in to Trudeau Airport and Whistler B.C. - areas both known for their high tourist traffic. If you have ever been hard pressed to find something last minute in an airport gift shop, you may been a touch disheartened by the ubiquity of stuffed moose and hockey playing bears. At least Red Canoe speaks to iconography that is not so cliche. You can also be assured that your CBC t-shirt is printed with care and at $32.50, you would likely have spent the same amount on some factory-tortured novelty.
Despite what I may think about the excess logo placement, Red Canoe is wearable and practical for gift giving to those relatives who may ask for a little piece of Canada. They really do not want any more maple syrup.
Where Red Canoe's clothing may have a too-close-for-comfort Roots aesthetic, the beauty lies in their covetable Black Canoe label.
A camel Canada field sweater is made with 100% Merino wool and is detailed with contrast cotton twill patches (chocolate) on the epaulettes and elbows ($159.99). It is a very classic option with full button down closure in a slim fit. The same palette is attached to a cardigan option, with ribbed cuffs and a more casual v-neckline ($159.99).
Accessories were peppered throughout the Dundas showroom from both the Red and Black labels, including a bateau scarf ($29.99) that serves as an ideal accent for a nautical inspired ensemble.
Ontario and BC tartan scarves ($49.99) are lightweight and boast a pop of colour that will add interest to a solid jacket during the city's cooler months. However, scarves were not the only accessory that demanded attention. Strewn on a chair or next to a pair of staged hiking boots were patch-appliqued bags at very affordable prices. A North West Mounted Police kit bag ($149.99) and a CBC thunderbolt Radio-Canada small kit bag ($129.99) update a market of travel bags that is relatively untouched.
While some may opt for vintage Louis Vuitton luggage to make a statement, the same can be made with Red Canoe's many options - the beauty of their product being, it is made for wear. Their rugged twill body will stand up to any mistreatment you would expect from your favourite airlines or bus terminals.
Given the volume of stock that Red Canoe has in their showroom, you may be overwhelmed. Sort through the racks of over-embellished t-shirts to find the gems that both collections offer. They are there, I promise.
Thursdays and Fridays, 9:00am - 5:00pm
Otherwise, book an appointment: 416-205-1271
Writing by Kevin Naulls. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.