THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Donovan
TORONTO — The moment Canada's athletes, clad in the iconic red and white, march into the stadium for the Olympic opening ceremonies never fails to take Alison Coville's breath away.
The president of the Hudson's Bay Co., expects nothing less when the Pyeongchang Winter Games open Feb. 9 in Hoenggye Olympic Park.
Hudson's Bay Co., unveiled its Team Canada collection for Pyeongchang on Tuesday, and Coville said the kit will have Canadian athletes winning the fashion game.
"I've had the great privilege of seeing some of the Olympics live, but even if you're not there in person, and you watch on television and see in alphabetical order the countries come out, we are so proud," Coville said. "And even though we've seen the uniforms, we do the press releases, we do lots of internal sort of little fashion shows, until you see the impact of all of those athletes walking out so proud, it's really amazing, and never gets old."
More than a dozen Canadian athletes modelled the collection at the morning unveiling at a downtown Toronto mall.
The patriotic apparel flaunts colour blocks of Canadian red and white, plus black. The opening ceremony parka falls to the mid-thigh and features "Canada" emblazoned across the chest in bold white letters, and a large white Maple Leaf on the back. Medal podium outfits feature a puffy red coat, while the athletes will march in the closing ceremonies in red and black softshell jackets.
"We really looked to capture what we believe is the iconic Canadian winter style," Coville said. "Over time, we've looked at things like the strength and beauty of our country, the backdrops of the mountains, and the white in the snow. . .
"And we looked for inspiration, what our athletes are inspired by, and of course we know that's hope and possibility, but we also want them to feel super confident, and beyond that, we do believe that comfort plays a big role.
"Almost as importantly, as a fashion retailer, we want them to be cool. We want them to put on those uniforms and feel they're the best dressed at the Olympics, and we do believe that's really been the case for many years now."
The collection also features buffalo check shirts, tuques and ball caps.
"We hear all the time from our athletes that one of their best moments is when they receive their kit," said Chris Overholt, the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "In fact if you go and look at some of the social media postings over the years, oftentimes a lot of it revolves around them receiving and then unpacking their kit, and how proud they feel in that moment. We spend a lot of time leading up to Games getting the team oriented around just that, being a team. . . Certainly the kit is part of that."
Canadian athletes competing in the Paralympics, which open March 9, will be outfitted with the same kit, but with some modifications to fit athlete needs.
"We do a lot of research and thinking and working with the teams to make sure that the kit is in keeping with anyone who has a disability," Colville said. "So if you're in a wheelchair or you have disabilities, the uniforms work with that as well, so they're cut differently, proportions and pockets, and all those things are looked at very closely."
Pyeongchang features the ninth edition of the red mittens have become symbols of Canadian Olympic pride, Colville said.
"It doesn't matter where I am, whether I'm out west or I'm in Ottawa, or in our own streets of Toronto, I still get a little warm and fuzzy when I see how many people are out there on the streets wearing those mittens," she said.
Mitten sales have contributed more than $30 million to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. The money raised helps provide access to coaching, equipment, sport medicine, nutrition and other high-performance resources. Mittens retail for $15, with $3.90 going to the Canadian Olympic Foundation.
"I travel around the world and meet with my colleagues from different national Olympic committees, and (the mittens) are in many ways the envy of the international committee, and such a great expression of support," Overholt said. "It's appropriately Canadian, it's subtle in its own way, but it's really come to mean something for the country and for the fans, and by extension the athletes. They've also been a huge part of how we fund our athletes."
Replica wear will be available at all Hudson's Bay locations across Canada. The collection is priced from $10 to $114.99 for accessories, $20 to $55 for kids/infants, and $35 to $225 for adults clothing and outerwear.