Text by: Quartz Co.

Before being Quartz Co, the brand was originally called Hiverna (here collection 1980-81), then renamed Quartz Nature.

Canada is a world leader in winter outerwear, with expertise developed over centuries of adaptation to the harshest weather conditions. From traditional Inuit parkas to the latest technological advancements in outerwear fabrication, let's explore the milestones in the evolution of our winter coats and how Quartz Co. combines technology with sustainability.


Fur and Wool

In Canada, outerwear adapted to extreme cold is indissociable from Traditional Inuit and First Nations cultures.

We can trace back the apparition of structured garments around 1000 to 1600 CE. In this time and environment, the main resource was animal skin; and fur – mainly caribous and seals – was (and still is) the most efficient protection against the cold. Not only does it to retain body heat by creating a layer of still air next to the skin, but it also manages moisture effectively. It’s the most natural and effective insulator, while remaining breathable. Let’s add that it’s durable, resilient and perfectly adapted to the harshest temperatures.


Inuit Women, photographed by Leonard McCann, Archives of Vancouver Maritime Museum.

Later, around the 16th century, Indigenous’ contact with Europeans introduced wool in the conception of clothing. Wool and fur then remained the essential components of warm winter apparel for centuries. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, almost everyone in Canada wore fur, and Montreal was the most important fur-depot of the country.

A more affordable option was to wear wool coats and wool undergarments. Besides being warm, natural and durable, wool allows the skin to breath, it absorbs and wicks away perspiration, while being odor resistant. For a softer sensation against the skin, the ultimate choices were – and still are - cashmere and merino wools.

Which is why today, Quartz Co. favors wool in the conception of its beanies, hats, mittens, scarves and ready-to-wear sweaters. Wool items last because its fibres can bend up to 20,000 times before breaking. This durability far surpasses other fibres, making wool resistant to tear and abrasion. Quartz only uses only RAS (Responsible Alpaca Standard) and (RWS Responsible Wool Standard) certified wools in the making of its products.


Waterproof Garments

Native people in Alaska such as the Yup’iks discovered the incredible properties of marine mammals’ intestines – like seals and whales - to protect themselves from humidity. And Inuits notably used it too, as the guts were not only waterproof but also breathable. The strips were assembled then sewn together with sinew – a very delicate seamstress work performed by women who spent years mastering the technique before passing it on to the next generation. 

In 1823, the Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh invented a method for making waterproof garments by using rubber dissolved in coal tar naphtha. The idea was to paint one side of a wool cloth with the rubber preparation, then place another layer of wool cloth on top to obtain a waterproof fabric to which he gave his name. 

In 1839, the invention was perfected thanks to the use of vulcanized rubber – which resists temperature changes – to make it more stable and comfortable.

In 1977, more than a century later, the American Bill Gore accidentally discovered a waterproof, lightweight and breathable membrane - a stretched-out form of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), that he named Gore-Tex.

Today, to protect its coats from water and humidity, Quartz Co. treats it with a C6 DWR. DWR, also known as durable water repellent, is a coating applied to fabrics to make them water-resistant. It is not the perfect solution yet, but it’s the safest and greenest option currently available on the market.

Georges Flinch, from George Ingle Finch collection.


Technical Advancements

Early 1900’s: heavy wool coats and fur-lined garments
In 1922, HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company) introduced its first commercial blanket coats, inspired by the wrap-style coats - or capotes – dating back from the 17th century. At the time, those capotes or blanket coats were a merge of influences, as they were cut out of European textiles but made through Indigenous techniques and worn by Indigenous. The 1922’s HBC coat combined the warmth and wear of the traditional capote with the style and fit of a European-style garment: double-breasted, mid-thigh length with full skirt, patch pockets, and buttons.


1936: The first down-filled coat
The 1930’s marked an era of winter activities, like skiing and hiking, becoming more mainstream, which sparked demand for more effective light winter coats. Although the Inuit tribes in Alaska and Canada had already understood and taken advantage of the insulating properties of feathers, the invention of the first goose-down jacket is attributed to American Eddie Bauer. He reportedly designed it after a fishing incident where he almost died of hypothermia because his wool coat literally froze! Eddie Bauer was the first to patent his puffer jacket, produce it and sell it by 1940, but the first ever down coat was worn by Australian mountaineer George Finch, who climbed the Mount Everest in 1922 equipped with a bright green eiderdown coat that his companions made fun of! It’s hard to be a pioneer. 

Today, Quartz Co.’s down coats are made with traceable down, sourced in compliance with local animal welfare regulations that ensure down and feathers are a by-product of the food industry and come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm. Down is a natural fine thermal insulator with an exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio, range of warmth, and durability. Research has shown that down has only a fraction of the environmental impact of the most comparable petroleum-based down alternative fibres. All of Quartz Co’s down is traceable and certified Responsible Down Standard (RDS). 

1950’s: the rise of synthetic materials
Until World War II, the main textiles used for clothing were cotton and wool – or textiles derived from wool. Although nylon, an entirely synthetic fiber, was developed by the DuPont Corporation in the early 1920’s and more commonly used in the 1940’s, it became more popular during the 50’s. Its strengths? It’s lightweight, very strong, it dries quickly, doesn’t absorb water, and it’s resilient. Polyester, made from plastic, was also born in the 1940’s, but despite their numerous advantages, both synthetic fibers’ popularity declined in the 70’s, when consumers became more aware of their environmental impact. 

Early 2000’s: low-impact fabrics
Today, we have eco-friendly alternatives.The increasing environmental awareness and the push for sustainable fashion led us to explore and adopt new materials. In this perspective, Quartz Co.ensures that its products are crafted from the most ethical and lowest-impact options available. In the case of synthetic fibres, we only use recycled polyester made from post-consumer plastic bottles and recycled nylon textiles, that are made of post-industrial waste from discarded nylon products. An efficient way to reduce waste from oceans and landfills and give it a new life. As for insulation, Quartz Co. offers an alternative to down with PRIMALOFT®100% PCR (100% RECYCLED) made from high-performance, sustainable fiber technology,and recycled ISOSOFT®,a high-loft, performance insulation made of 92% post-consumer recycled polyester recuperated from plastic bottles. It’s hypoallergenic, and moisture and mildew resistant.It is breathable and retains its flexibility and volume over time. Its unique blend of fibres provides excellent warm air retention, offering exceptional protection against the cold.

The Vostok by Quartz Nature, in 1997.


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