King Athletics builds its reputation with top-quality Canadian-made activewear
ELIZABETH CHORNEY-BOOTH, POSTMEDIA CONTENT WORKS
Updated: August 15, 2018
The concept of buying “Made in Canada” products is more popular than ever — many of us want to support Canadian employers while having the peace of mind that the goods we buy are produced in an ethical way.
When it comes to mass-produced clothing, it can be difficult to find items that are 100 per cent Canadian-made, but a Calgary company has been proudly producing sportswear domestically for more than a decade.
King Athletics specializes in hoodie sweatshirts and also makes T-shirts, shorts, sweatpants and other apparel. The items are typically sold through wholesale distributors to schools, sports teams and corporations, with the organization’s logo printed on the garment. Most of us have these kinds of items in our closets, but how many of them are truly made in Canada?
“Manufacturing in Canada is our niche,” says Phong Vu, King Athletics’ owner and president. “Many of our distributors started carrying us at first because we are made in Canada — almost everyone else is manufacturing overseas. When you hear about clothing manufacturers you automatically think that the product is being made in China.”
The only non-Canadian element at King Athletics is the cotton yarn that comes from North Carolina because cotton doesn’t grow in Canadian climates.
“Many of our distributors started carrying us at first because we are made in Canada — almost everyone else is manufacturing overseas.”
The yarn is shipped to Montreal where it’s transformed into a knit fabric that is coloured with high-quality reactive, environmentally friendly dyes at a plant in Ajax, Ont., before arriving either at King Athletics’ in-house facility in Calgary or a sub-contractor’s factory in Toronto for cutting and sewing.
Everything is done with sustainability in mind, as well as supporting local workers and partnering businesses. At the Calgary plant, Vu has 35 employees who make about 1,500 garments every day.
“It’s all ethical and our staff are well paid and well taken care of,” says Darren Barker, King Athletics’ general manager.
“People can even come here to Calgary and see the place for themselves. Canadian made still matters to a lot of people — it’s a priority for a lot of us.”
Vu started in the garment business almost 30 years ago when he started King Fashion. His wife had a job working at the activewear company Sunice and Vu realized that there was a market for Canadian-made clothing.
In 2007, he changed the brand to King Athletics in anticipation of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and a growing demand for Canadian-made athletic wear.
While wholesale distribution to groups looking for logoed apparel will always be King Athletics’ bread and butter, late last year the company also started selling logo-free items direct to consumers via its website.
“We have the stock, so it’s a good way to sell to people who were just asking for one piece or two pieces,” Vu says.
King Athletics is also seeing a generational change. While Vu jokes that he isn’t planning to retire anytime soon, his son Andy has taken over the vice-president’s role at the company, which will help set King Athletics up for the future. Vu is looking forward to the 2026 World Cup when the demand for Canadian-made athletic apparel will be even higher.
“Visitors want something that says ‘Made in Canada’ on the label,” Vu says. “We offer that, as well as high quality — you know that our hoodies aren’t going to fall apart in the wash.”
For more information or to purchase something from King Athletics’ retail collection, visit kingathletics.ca.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of King Athletics.