In celebration of Canada's sesquicentennial, two distinctly Canadian brands, the Drake General Store and Bata Shoes, are releasing a limited-edition version of the 1970s-era Bata Bullets sneaker. Available during the Bata Heritage takeover at the Drake General Store's Toronto flagship, on until May 14, only 200 pairs will be produced.
The black and white canvas sneaker marks Bata's Canadian homecoming. Founded in the Czech Republic in 1894, Bata relocated to Frankford, Ont., prior to the Second World War and operated there until 2000. While the brand maintains an innovation lab and the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, its headquarters are now located in Switzerland.
"This is our small way of participating in the celebrations and wanting to show Canadians a bit of their history, even if we're no longer present in Canada at a retail level," says Charles Pignal, the Singapore-based Bata Heritage director and great-grandson of company founder Tomas Bata. "Canada is still a big part of our history and our international culture. We feel there's a great opportunity for Bata to come back, and there's a lot of nostalgia for the brand. People love its authenticity and history."
The footwear partnership also marks the beginning of a series of partnerships for the Drake General Store. With seven locations across Canada, the retailer will be releasing reinterpretations of its apothecary cross logo – originally inspired by the neon beacon spotted on European pharmacies – on goods made with other brands for its +collaboration series, including a set of swim trunks made by Toronto-based beachwear brand Bather.
"When we were thinking about collabs, we came up with the idea that, whether we're working with an artist or a shoe producer, we'll really use our cross as inspiration," says Drake General Store co-founder Carlo Colacci. Like the iconic Hudson's Bay stripes, which have adorned everything from Teva sandals to a Smythe coat, the Drake General Store logo is on track to become emblematic of a new generation of Canadian style.
As a pioneering force in lending a newfound cachet to the country's image, the Drake General Store helped pave the way for a wave of Canadiana cool incorporating brands like Peace Collective and the Tuck Shop Trading Co. "Eight years ago, we were really limited to souvenir type shops that were not really designed well," says Colacci. Instead, the Drake took a modern, design-centric approach to patriotic merchandise while maintaining a sense of nostalgia. "As a brand and also in our design, we are really proud to showcase that we're Canadian."
THIS WEEK'S STYLE HAPPENINGS
- In celebration of 4/20, (a.k.a. national marijuana day held annually on April 20), Canadian lifestyle-focused cannabis company Tokyo Smoke is offering free coffee and rolling papers to customers at its two Toronto locations, as well as 20 per cent off select items in store and online. The brand has also launched a series of new products, including an in-house magazine and smoker kits, and recently announced the opening of a new flagship location on the city’s Queen Street West. For more information, visit www.tokyosmoke.com.
- Swiss watchmaker Breitling has announced the opening of its first boutique in Canada. Located at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, the 500-square-foot space will debut this June. For more information, visit www.breitling.com.
- A new film examines a Canadian perfumer’s efforts in retail activism. Playing now in select theatres across Canada, Perfume War is about The 7 Virtues founder Barb Stegemann’s strategy to purchase rose and orange blossom oils from Afghan farmers while helping to rebuild Afghanistan and Rwanda. For more information, visit www.perfumewar.com.