Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets gear made here

Manufacturer proud to offer team jackets produced locally

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The immense popularity of all manner of garments with the Winnipeg Jets logo plastered on them might make even Ralph Lauren envious.

But even though the current demand may seem unquenchable, it's a market that is not open to just anybody.

The Winnipeg Jets and the NHL aggressively protect their brand, and rightfully so.

Two weeks ago, the RCMP seized a second batch of fake Winnipeg Jets jerseys made in China worth about $76,000.

With the Jets Gear store at the MTS Centre packed on a regular basis, merchandisers who have not become official NHL licensees are largely shut out of the market.

But Julie Land was convinced that consumer demand for Winnipeg Jets gear might be heightened even more if there were high-quality, well-priced products that are locally made.

The owner of Pine Falls Clothing, a long-standing Winnipeg workwear manufacturer, took matters into her own hands.

"I saw all these imports and promotional wear and much of it is lovely and I am all for all the hype and all the activities around the Jets. This is just what we needed," said Land. "But something that was really bothering me is that we are importing all our goods. This is our home team."

She eventually persuaded True North's director of retail development, Ryan Rogers, to take a flyer on her company's custom-designed jackets -- a quilted fall jacket and an unlined shirt-jacket in a military style with epaulettes. They both feature the Jets logo on the left chest.

Rogers said probably about three-quarters of the merchandise sold at the Jets Gear store is supplied by companies that have qualified for and acquired an NHL licence.

"But there are times, based on local demand and the availability of a local supplier, where we will target a grassroots organization or company that can deliver a quality product at an affordable price," Rogers said.

Pine Falls is not an NHL licensee, but has an arrangement with the Jets that restricts the sale of its Jets jackets to the Jets Gear store only.

At the beginning of this month, Rogers had just received the first batch of authentic jerseys that were pre-ordered. They are made by Reebok, the supplier of authentic "on-ice" game jerseys to all 30 NHL teams.

Rogers agreed there are plenty of items in the Jets store that are manufactured in low-cost, offshore locations, but the authentic jerseys are not one of them. They are made in Canada and will retail for about $299.

Land said she believes her Winnipeg production operation, which includes about 20 sewers who work from home, is able to match the Asian pricing.

Her charcoal-coloured jackets will retail at $79.99 to $139.99.

True North is also developing other products with local suppliers, including Mondetta, a local firm that has lots of history supplying activewear to sports as well as casual wear for fans.

Tony Lavilla, Mondetta's brand director, said the MTS Centre ice crew, including the Zamboni driver, will be wearing Mondetta gear at the season opener.

Mondetta is also completing samples for a range of Jets products that will hopefully be for sale in the Jets store, including casual hoodies, light tops and some heavy outerwear such as down-filled jackets.

For Mondetta, it is a return to a familiar market of sorts. The company did work for the Moose in their early days and even produced some merchandise for the original Winnipeg Jets.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2011 B6

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