Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Label Love link up: Canadian labels

Thanks to Jo over at Joyatri for hosting a cool round up called Label Love, enabling us vintage hounds to share pics and info about our fave vintage labels. I think she'll have her Label Love party Wednesday, so check it out.

John Hort of Canada is one of my fave vintage labels, which is just perfect as collecting John Hort purses has been a passion of mine. I don't know a hellova lot about the label, only that, presumably, Hort was an actual person. From what I can tell, John Hort operated mainly in the 1960s and 70s in western Canada (Vancouver), producing handmade purses.

Source:  Wladyslaw, Wiki Creative Commons

I had no idea what the little drawing on the label was until I was recently trolling the Internet and found a discussion on a vintage forum. Hello! How could a gal who lived in Toronto for almost seven years not recognize the city's iconic City Hall, fronted by the public space, Nathan Phillips Square, both of which were erected in 1965?

Not sure why a designer who seems to have been based in the western part of the country put a space-age building in the centre of Canada on his label, especially since Ottawa, not Toronto, is the capital of Canada (though many people mistake it for Toronto, and indeed people in Toronto seem to have the attitude that TO is at the centre of things. I say this without malice as I lived there and also thought that - it's such a great city!). Considering that all my John Horts were found in the Big Smoke, the label is apt.

I have several John Hort handbags dug up in thrift and vintage shops in Canada, and I love them for their simple structural shapes and nifty yet understated hardware. As you can see, this cute cherry red clutch (which I gave away to a friend before I left Toronto, wah, I miss it!) is asymmetrical, not perfect. I paid $13 CAD for it in a Kensington Market Toronto vintage shop.

I hung onto this silver evening bag as I thought it would be indispensable - so much so, it seems, that I forgot it and the rest of my vintage handbag collection in Canada when I immigrated to the UK in early 2012. Don't worry: Mommy has them safe and ound, but alas, that fact means I have resorted to showing you old and rather blurry pics taken years ago. This baby was a mere $2.99 CAD and is in mint condition, found at Goodwill in Toronto.

This patent one was also $2.99 at Goodwill but was slightly beat up. I loved the shape and ribbed detail but gave it to a friend who bought some vintage pieces from me before I moved.

I also kept this one as I thought it was so unique, and I spotted it as a John Hort a mile away. It was way more expensive than what I normally pay, bought from a high-end vintage consignment shop in Toronto called Act Two. The chain is long and I love the orange and black combo. I am guessing it's more 70s than 60s.

John Hort apparently won a design award called the Judy Award sometime in the 60s/70s. Some labels have  "Attribution Judy Award" written on the label with a photo of the award, along with "Made in Canada/Fabrique au Canada." I can't find any other info about the company or when it ceased to exist, but I am always on the hunt for different John Hort purses on the Internet - since the likelihood of finding them overseas is pretty slim!

This label isn't as visually interesting, but the company it represents takes a wee slice out of Canadian history. The James Bay Coat and Blanket Corporation (the company's official name, if vintage product listings on the Internet are correct), seems to have been based in Quebec in the 70s and 80s, I'm guessing, and perhaps earlier. A reference to the company on a trade mark Internet site (the only official company reference I could find) indicates that several trademarks expired or were not renewed in the early 80s, so perhaps the company was starting to peter out then.

James Bay, just so you know, is a large bay on the southern end of the historic and very large body of water, Hudson's Bay, in Canada, and it borders the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Several different Aboriginal communities live on the islands or the shores surrounding James Bay. The first fur-trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, which would evolve into Canada's oldest department store (and still exists today ), was erected on James Bay in the 1680s.

Source: Google News

The only visual images I can find of James Bay products are not of blankets but rather coats - and very iconic Canadian coats. Most people who are selling them online call them "Eskimo" coats, Eskimo referring to the indigenous peoples inhabiting northern Canada - but the politically-correct term is now Inuit. I found this image, part of an ad, via Google News in the Dec, 18, 1984 edition of The Milwaukee Journal, so we know the coats were still being made then.

Source: Goolge News

As the ad says, the wool blanket coats were handcrafted by "Indian" women (the politically-correct term these days being Aboriginal), meaning indigenous peoples, though it's not clear what group or groups these women hailed from. The coat pictured above had fox-fur trim and sold for $357 CAD, regular price $449.

My fabulous wool coat by James Bay is more retro than Aboriginal, but I love it. I found it for only $10 CAD in one of my fave Toronto thrift shops - I was with my now-hubby at the time, who had flown over two years ago from the UK to see me. He brought me thrifting luck! I am not so sure that this one is handcrafted, like the others, but regardless it's staying in my closet!

This was a long post but I hope it was somewhat interesting! Thanks for popping in.
NOTE: Due to the high volumes of spam this blog is getting, I've regrettably had to turn on the word verification function, something I personally hate as my aging eyes often have difficulty with this function. I tried the comment moderation function for a mere hour and had about 50 spams. To save myself from rocking in a corner, I had to resort to this. I really hope it doesn't piss you off, dear readers, and it does, please accept my sincerest apologies and tell me via email if it's just impossible to leave a comment! xoxo


  1. You certainly do, or have had, quite the handbag collection. And I just love that fur coat on you, I'm wanting one right now badly. Have my eye on a pea green fur coat on Etsy but the price is a little high. Hmmmmm
    Nice to see your smiling face!

    1. I think this is wool made to look like fur, but it does have that effect. Green fur; sounds intriguing! I love trolling Etsy to see all the nifty goodies for sale - it's my salvation now that I'm not in thrift-shop land anymore! xo

  2. Love the John Hort bags, especially the red clutch (sooo sorry you don't have it any more). I've seen a few of the vintage inuit style coats around lately, even a pink one, which I coveted!

    1. Those coats are worth their weight in gold, Shellery - they're not easy to find and even harder to find a good deal on one. If you do get the pink one, you must share it! (It would be incredibly warm ....). :)

  3. nice handbags collection you have there
    This is something i don't buy very often unless exceptional, but yours is quite something, good eye you have
    Awwwww fur , faux fur you have to tove it
    I have a few should do a post with my fab Parisian Faux fur
    About your spam thing - i am ok since i chose to approve before publshing and do not get spams

    Ariane xxxx

    1. I admit it: I have a vintage handbag problem. I buy them out of love, and many of them I don't use. But I still regret giving so many away. A collection can still be collection, even if it hangs on your wall like my purses used to!

      Would love to see your faux fur from Paris!!

      What is your secret for no spams? I can't get enough of it, it seems. :(

  4. Thanks for this label-love post. I have come across a few cool Canadian vintage labels recently, which makes me pay more attention. I should take photos of them too.
    No worries about the verification.

    1. Some of the retro labels are so cool, aren't they? I will def pay more attention to them after this - it's fun to (try to) uncover the histories behind them. :)

  5. I love vintage labels, I've only got one Canadian one, on a fruit printed maxi dress - "Unicorn of Toronto" complete with a fabulous embroidered unicorn's head.
    The bags are gorgeous and that James Bay coat is a beauty, love the illustration of the "Eskimo" one. xxx

    1. Neat, I wonder if you found your Canadian frock in the UK? Always good to know! So many of the old Canadian labels come from toronto. Haven't heard of Unicorn of Toronto but it sounds intriguing! xoxo

  6. I so regret getting rid of that one. I never used it, but I can see (in retrospect, of course!) how special it is. :)