We sometimes get a bad rap here in Canada for being too nice, maybe even a little passive. Little do foreigners know that not only has our humble country been the incubator for inventions like basketball, Plexiglas, insulin and the Caesar (yes, the drink—you’re welcome, world), but we’ve also contributed to some of fashion’s most iconic innovations and designs. Here are five you might not know about:
1. The Zipper
Today, the zipper one of fashion’s most ubiquitous accessories, but it wasn’t always so popular. Leapfrogging off the work of inventors before him, Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born electrical engineer who immigrated to Canada, invented the zipper as we know it today in 1917. It was first manufactured by the Lightning Fastener Company in St. Catharines, Ontario, and was called the “separable fastener” until the B.F. Goodrich company renamed it the “zipper” in 1923. It wasn’t until the 30s that the zipper became more popular than the button.
2. Canada Goose Parkas
Recognized around the world as the ultimate in cold weather gear, Canada Goose is a distinctively Canadian company with a distinctively Canadian design. Back in the 1970s, when Canada Goose was still called Metro Sportswear, their jackets were produced by an innovative volume-based down filling machine and were mainly used by Canadian police departments, park rangers and municipal workers. In the 80s, scientists wore Canada Goose parkas at some of the world’s coldest research stations, most notably Antarctica. Today, the company maintains its roots with manufacturing facilities in Canada, but the jacket with the iconic red patch can be seen all over the world.
3. The WonderBra
Who hasn’t heard of the WonderBra? Turns out this world-famous brand and its now classic brassieres are Canadian natives. Developed by Moe Nadler in 1939, the WonderBra brand underwent a series of design changes from the first strapless bra to the pointed bust. In the 1960s, the company produced their first push-up bra, the precursor to the one we know and love today, the iconic WonderBra. That’s right, WonderBra has been supporting women everywhere for over 55 years. Now that’s a legacy!
4. Lululemon Apparel
What would a list about famous Canadian fashion design be without mentioning Lululemon and its sportswear innovations? While the Vancouver-based brand has had its ups and downs (see-through pants scandal, anyone?), it continues to thrive and expand with stores on almost every continent. While the company capitalized on the growing yoga craze, it has simultaneously made strides in technical sportswear production. Novel innovations include their signature performance material, Luon, as well as their Silverescent technology, which weaves silver into the clothing’s fibers for a deodorizing, antibacterial and temperature regulating effects.
Odds are your first pair of shoes featured this singular fastening mechanism, nurtured and promoted in Canada. George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, first came up with the concept of velcro in 1941. De Mestral was out hunting with his dog when he noticed the burrs sticking to his pants and his dog’s fur. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the burrs featured an interesting hook mechanism that the engineer recreated using nylon. He named his invention “velcro”, a mashup of the French words “velour” and “crochet”. De Mestral patented his invention in 1955, but J. Donald Webster, a Toronto-based venture capitalist, acquired the world rights to Velcro, and he would prove to be instrumental in making velcro a part of everyday life.
There you have it—five famous sartorial, home-grown contributions. Maybe Canadians should boast a little bit more after all.