Roots Canada Ltd. is in it for the long haul. Co-founded in 1973 by Michael Budman and Don Green, Roots emerged just a little more than a decade after the publishing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring-a book that heralded a new ecological awareness. Thus, the company was age mate with the environmental movement, and it held priorities accordingly.
A leading retailer of apparel and accessories (from athletic to fun casual dress), Roots has grown with the times and our changing concerns. For example, in 1989 they began to incorporate organic cotton into their Nowadays product line, and their new Roots Green collection features sustainable fibers such as bamboo, hemp, and soy.
Departure from the norm is the way of much design, but it seems that Budman and Green appreciate the anchoring effect of dearly loved tradition as well. Their leather pieces are vegetable tanned, utilizing a method more than 200 years old. You see, they’ve named the venture quite appropriately.
It all started with one small store in Toronto. Now you’ll find locations all over Canada, the U.S., and Asia. Even celebrities have taken notice; Hilary Swank, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Paris Hilton are all Roots fans.
As the company grows, they extend their eco-conscious efforts. While improving the sustainability of merchandise, Roots also builds and maintains offices, stores, and factories with energy efficiency and waste reduction in mind. This holistic approach is highly ecological, accounting for the total effect of the manufacturing and consumer processes.
Most impressive, Roots and its founders are not afraid to take a stand. An Olympic Games outfitter as early as 1976, Roots recently announced the end of their partnership with the U.S. Olympic Games Committee. While disagreements over uniform design were offered as cause, it’s likely that politics played a role in this decision, because human rights controversy has served as a loud overture to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Polo Ralph Lauren will outfit the U.S. team instead.
As for my favorite Roots Green item, I’d have to say it’s the 1973 tee (an organic cotton/cotton blend), which serves as a good reminder that environmentalism isn’t breaking news or a trend. It’s a legacy.
In an increasingly globalizing world where national identity is rapidly gobbled up by globalization like we’ve never seen, it’s heart-warming to know that there are still a few Toronto guys who are continuing to make celebration of the Canadian Style their business.
Don Green and Michael Budman are Detroit natives but learned to appreciate this country at a summer camp some 40 years ago in Algonquin Park. Now they have launched a great lifestyle brand that radiates that fantastic Canuck spirit. They currently have over 225 stores across the world, and the guys who started Roots are still playing around the idea of “rustic luxury,” a successful trend that’s catering to both cottage glam and urban coziness.