A stroll through my winter clothes - Denny Scott editorial
Early last month, the news broke that the cost of many Canadians’ traditional winter wear had increased to more than four times its traditional cost as Lululemon unveiled its Team Canada Olympic gear with rather high price points.
The biggest disappointment for many was the Team Canada mitts (no, Google, not mittens, mitts, get with the times) - a traditional gift for many and a great way for people to support Team Canada both in spirit and financially.
When the gear, which included the iconic mitts, was made by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the price point was far more reasonable. The mitts, for example, cost $15. Under new producer Lululemon, the mitts price shot up to $68.
Lululemon’s representatives said that was due to the high-quality material and craftsmanship, but failed to comment on the fact that Hudson’s Bay donated from every sale of the more-reasonably priced mittens, raising $30 million over the years, according to a 2017 CBC article. Lululemon, in comparison, only contributed from a cross-body bag sold for $40, which has neither the affordability or the universal appeal as the iconic red mitts, in my opinion.
There were a lot of complaints about the bag, and in this reporter’s opinion, they were justified. Many complaints focused on the design of the monocolour bag which, aside from a leaf emblazoned on the bag in the same colour as the bag (how striking, am I right), showed little to support Team Canada.
I’m not one of the folks who got a new pair of Team Canada mitts every Olympic year (though I understand the appeal), but I am a person with some Team Canada gear and I’ll tell you, I never had a problem with the Hudson’s Bay craftsmanship, which was offered at a much lower price point.
As a matter of fact, if you see me out on my morning walks between the months of October and May, odds are I’m wearing a pair of 12-year-old Team Canada sweatpants that a family member bought me around the time of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. I also have a Team Canada toque that’s likely around the same age that I wear out most cold mornings as well.
I’m not trying to knock Lululemon here because I know a lot of people enjoy what they make, but, as far as I’m concerned, the material and craftsmanship of Hudson’s Bay clothing items have always been high quality.
Beyond all the complaints, there is just something right about the Hudson’s Bay Company, which was founded in 1670, outfitting not only Canada’s athletes but a good number of Canadians in gear to support those athletes. Did you know it’s the oldest company in North America? And the Olympics are argued to be among the oldest organized sporting events in the world? (Though it bears noting they were relaunched in the 19th century closer to the modern events we see today.) Doesn’t that pairing just make sense?
Aside from that, there’s something to be said for tradition, even one that’s younger than me. When Lululemon decided not only to eschew tradition (by not having the mitts support Team Canada), but to also put them out of reach of the average Canadian (as one woman who received the mitts every year said, $68, plus shipping, is an unreasonable cost for a family of four), the company seemed to put financial gain ahead of not only tradition, but the well-being of the athletes themselves (since I doubt those gaudy cross-body bags are going to raise what the mitts did).
I know, a lot of people weren’t happy about the Canadian Tuxedos (denim jackets) that Hudson’s Bay provided to our summer athletes for the 2020 games, but at least they were better than those all-white uniforms Team USA wore to the same Olympics that made them look like a spoiled rich protagonist in an 1980s teen movie.
Actually, you know what, those jean jackets are growing on me after researching this column and seeing the Lululemon lineup. At least Hudson’s Bay didn’t put its gaudy logo near front-and-centre on every piece of gear they sold. Seriously, look at the 2018 Team Canada jackets and compare them to the Lululemon ones with the Lululemon badge on the right hand side of every piece. Or better yet, check out my sweatpants and toques, with the only Hudson’s Bay logo is on the tag. While many of us may be happy being walking billboards for our athletes, making us walking billboards for some trendy clothing company goes a step too far.
Regardless, we all make mistakes and the Olympic and Paralympic committees should have known better than to jump ship from Hudson’s Bay after one lukewarm launch after years of successes (some of which came before Roots took on the job, officially, in the late 90s and aughts).
My best hope now, however, is that Lululemon learns from its mistakes and brings out some reasonably-priced gear for the next Winter Olympics. The company has the contract with Team Canada until 2028, encompassing four Olympic games in total (two winter, two summer). By then, those sweatpants will be old enough for a driver’s licence and likely in need of a reasonably-priced replacement.