in 2010 Derrick Stryker and Derek Virgo both started working at a sports-focused High School in Markham. After being thrown into an office together and finding they had a lot of common interests (such as a passion for artwork, unique designs, and the outdoors) they decided to turn their ideas into something. Working together they sketched out shirt ideas, put them on a computer via Adobe Illustrator, built a website and began sourcing materials for production.
The two had a slight advantage as through work, they already had to outfit their teams with clothing. They looked long and hard for a Canadian manufacturer which proved difficult, so they sourced from a Canadian company that manufacturers offshore. Their aspirations are to build brand strength and one day bring the manufacturing work back to Canada.
We had an opportunity to sit down with both Derrick and Derek and chat about how Northern Park Apparel came to be.
Derrick Stryker: lived in New Zealand for a year, and while I was away I started to realize just how much of a passion I have for Canada. I sat down with a sketch pad and just started drawing stuff. I like the simple designs that mean a lot. There are two sketchpads in my basement, and once I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator, it became one after another. My computer is packed with designs, but we had to whittle it down to six and go from there.
Derek Virgo: I think it was interesting to come up with six designs with enough variety in them. I wanted something that you would think "I haven't seen that on a shirt before". With the exception of our 'classic' few designs, we hope to come out with new designs every year.
The mockups for the sweaters are in the works and they are already thinking ahead for the Spring.
Derrick Stryker: The big thing with building the brand is through the culture of it. Not necessarily through the designs, but to connect with outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers.
Derek Virgo: We're trying to connect with the identity and we find Twitter to be a very good medium.
Derek Stryker: We've had great feedback so far. The first few shirts were purchased by family and friends, but it is neat in today's age when an order comes in and the notification comes right to your phone.
Trail Swag: So where did the idea of the Northern Park Apparel logo come from?
erek Stryker: The Evergreen tree is so iconic when driving through rural Canada, so I drew about twenty different kinds.
Derrick Virgo: That was one of the longest parts of getting the ball rolling, was the de-selection of the designs of the tees and the Northern Park Apparel logo. We wanted something timeless, identifiable and that would stand alone on any product we make.
Derek Stryker: Although the shirt may say "Made in Mexico", everything we buy from is Canadian made. A Canadian company manufactured the labels, the retail labels. We like to support local including even a store in Port Perry.
Trail Swag: So I already know you like running... what other things do you do?
Derrick Virgo: We're both pretty outdoorsy people. We love camping. Most weekends, if we can, we'll be North bound for more variable terrain, fresh air and less people. Both of us have got in to road cycling this year and coach a mountain bike team.
Trail Swag: Speaking of the students, how do you engage the youth so that they enjoy sports and fitness?
Derek Stryker: We're the people that aren't "the teachers" so kids come to us naturally. It was an easy sell when you get the kids outside.
Derrick Virgo: It's a good environment to get kids outside. When the rest of the school is so structured, kids will naturally share things like going rock climbing on the weekend because they enjoy it.
Trail Swag: I notice here and pretty much everywhere, that the area is exploding. Places that used to be farmland are now subdivisions.
Derrick Virgo: It's tough to watch. Take road cycling for example. This weekend I was up in the "Green Belt" and you when look left and you see Stouffville, and when you look right and you see Markham. You think, "Woah, I'm in a 3 kilometre zone here where there is nothing, but don't be fooled".
Derek Stryker: I was thinking about that the other day when I was driving to work. I was on Warden and there were beautiful coloured trees on one side and beautiful farm-style houses on the other and I'm stuck in traffic on this long street. I'm not really in the city, but I feel sorry for these country homes that now have a traffic jam in front of their house.
Trail Swag: Tell me more about your charity initiative.
Derek Stryker: For every item that we ever sell, $1 will go to a local charity. Presently it is going to the Project Canoe which engages the youth in outdoor projects. We've also expanded into what we call the ChariTEE Program, where we offer a branded t-shirt for your organization with the quality of a Northern Park Apparel shirt and a portion of the proceeds go straight to that charity.
Derrick Virgo: Whether it is a non-profit sport organization or a non-profit wilderness protection agency, it would be really fun to network with them. Either they can design it, or have us design their own product.