Local Love: Toronto design firm takes a crack at reinventing the classic tuque


Come cooler temps, Torontonians, without doubt, turn to the tuque. While there’s presently not even a whisper of fall in the air, the keeners amongst us are already dreaming of tuque-topped têtes (and perhaps a lapsed hairwash or two). Chances are, you remember last year’s headlines yapping about ‘the world’s best tuque’ which, despite being dubbed as a rather pricey purchase, sold out in just three hours. As luck would have it, the tuque is back for fall and, yes, is better than ever.

Toronto’s small creative studio Frontier Design waded into the world of hats after realizing they rarely had the opp to be their own clients. Paddy Harrington and his team thought that the ole Canuck tuque might be just the ticket. But how could they reinvent it? They decided not to mess with the shape (why bother!), instead choosing to focus on the materials themselves. Working with a local master knitter helped shed some light on how the classic accessory could be made into its best self.

Frontier spoke to a biomimicry expert who recommended looking to nature for inspiration. In caribou, a coarse outer layer of fur protects a softer under layer, helping to maintain warmth in winter and keep things cooler in summer. (Ever had a sweaty scalp while hitting the slopes? Exactly.) So using a similar two layer approach, the tuque ($240) features an outer layer of more structured merino wool and an inner layer of qiviut, aka muskox fur, which is softer than cashmere and both stronger and warmer than wool.

From the get-go, it was super important to the team that the tuque be made in Canada. “This project is really about finding ways to do things in a more responsible way,” Harrington says. “It’s cheaper to get these made across the ocean and the cost would have come down if we’d done that, but it’s not about that for us.” While they couldn’t pair up with the master knitter for a bigger product run Frontier enlisted Parkhurst Knitwear — one of the last domestic knitting mills in the country — to create the final product.

“The tuque performs better than your average tuque but it is also made in Canada with materials sourced in Canada,” Harrington says. “It’s a tuque with a conscience.”

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Karolyne Ellacott is senior editor at Post City Magazines. She can oft be spotted at Toronto’s most nostalgic diners wearing glittery heels and pink faux fur. Follow all of her eclectic writing interests on Twitter @kellacott and Instagram @itismekar.

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