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Parks Canada launching clothing line featuring beaver

Still photo of a beaver from the film "White Tuft, The Little Beaver." EVERETT COLLECTION

Nothing screams Canadian couture louder than a beaver.

Parks Canada certainly thinks so: The agency is launching its own clothing line featuring the country’s national critter.

Companies are now being sought to design beaver-bedecked T-shirts, ballcaps and other merchandise, such as travel mugs and water bottles, to be sold first at national parks and eventually on the Internet and at stores in downtown Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Parks Canada hopes its new line appeals to people’s fashion sense.

“We believe it is possible to develop higher-end apparel around key themes like hiking or the great Canadian seasons that resonate with consumers as ‘the’ products to have because of their quality, durability and association with the Parks Canada Brand,” says a contract document.

But there are a few style rules.

Rule No. 1: Put the beaver on everything.

“The successful proponent shall ensure that all merchandise carry the beaver design symbol.”

The industrious rodent became Canada’s national animal in 1975. But the beaver’s emblematic status has recently been challenged by a Tory senator who wants to replace it with the polar bear.

Besides the beaver, designers should plaster the agency’s web address across all merchandise. They must also stick to its colour palette.

Parks Canada even has a handy guide to explain its unique ‘look.’

“Our look is vibrant, exciting, energetic and vital,” the guide says. “When it needs to be, it can be reserved and sombre. Simply put, it’s flexible.”

One fashion guru had her doubts about the government garb.

“The reality is that people are influenced by brands, but Parks Canada is not a really trendy brand, I don’t think,” said Kathy Cleaver, a retired fashion professor from Toronto.

“But they’re also influenced by just how it looks. So when it comes down to the wire, what does it look like when you go into a store? Is it something that would attract a lot of people, or not?”

But Greg Danchuk of Parks Canada says they’re not trying to compete with big retailers like Roots, a Canadian chain that also has a beaver for a logo.

“We’re looking at it as people who have some kind of affinity to the things that Parks Canada does. Protect natural and cultural heritage, et cetera,” said Danchuk, the agency’s acting director of brand experience.

“So it’s not like we’re looking at who has the deepest pockets or anything. It’s like, who has an interest in the things that we do, and building a connection to Parks Canada and the national parks and national historic sites of Canada.”

The winning company will design the merchandise and then sell it online and in stores. The company gets to keep every penny it makes from sales of Parks Canada merchandise, and the agency will get a royalty each year or a cut of wholesale revenue, whichever is greater.

Parks Canada has high hopes for its foray into the world of fashion. This year, it marked its 100th birthday with the launch of new merchandise. Parks Canada says its shops ordered 30,000 items to sell at its national parks and historic sites. Danchuk says Parks Canada sold most of those items.

Now it wants to move into city shops.

“With more than 20 million visitors arriving at Parks Canada places and then returning home or continuing their travels (where they shop),” the contract document says, “we believe there is an excellent business opportunity to sell official Parks Canada merchandise in urban centres.”

The new duds hit stores by 2013.