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I keep thinking I'll be able to get through a day without someone telling me, "Gosh, your coat looks warm." So far, I haven't.

For the past week, I have been one of the few people travelling with the Olympic Torch Relay not dressed in corporate-branded ski jackets, so naturally my black Moose Knuckles parka trimmed with fox fur stands out from the corporate-branded.



As we made our way through a string of northern British Columbia towns - Smithers, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Prince Rupert - I noticed that local people, men and women alike, were the most curious about my coat. And people in this part of Canada, where temperatures can drop below minus 20 one day and a vicious rain pelts down the next, are coat connoisseurs.

They noticed, for instance, that the exterior is a heavy coated cotton rather than nylon. And some people expressed relief that it wasn't a certain ubiquitous parka brand that has had a lock on outerwear for a few winters now. Others seemed intrigued by the metal logo on the sleeve. Only one person tsk-tsked me about wearing real fur. Then she sheepishly admitted that she liked it.

The name Moose Knuckles invariably proves a good icebreaker. Before I took my parka on the road, founder Will Poho told me he had wanted to produce something that felt distinctly Canadian yet was also cheeky. "I was tired of companies with a made-up marketing message," he said. "I wanted to make people laugh."

He succeeded, especially in cases when people pick up on the double entendre; moose knuckles means the same thing as "camel toe," although it apparently applies equally to men and women.

Poho, who studied at Toronto's Ryerson University and New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, started the brand two years ago as a men's-wear line before realizing he had a winning item with the parka, which has since become his focus. After introducing the women's version as well as a bomber style to Holt Renfrew this season, he is now struggling to keep up with the demand.

Having worn it on the road for days now, I can attest to the quality and fit. The material is protective and breathable; never once did I feel too bulked up. I have worn the coat on airplanes without overheating and in the rain without getting wet. I no longer had to wear my usual five layers of thermals and woolens to stay warm, and the chunky double zipper is a unique design detail and proven conversation starter. I have also ditched my trapper hat thanks to the deep (and detachable) hood.

Moose Knuckles coats are admittedly pricey, ranging from $700 to $840 each. But they look expensive and wouldn't be out of place in Aspen or Gstaad. With such boldface Canadians as Tragically Hip vocalist Gord Downie and hip Toronto rockers Fritz Helder & the Phantoms among the growing legions of Moose Knucklers, a Canadian star has undoubtedly been born.

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