This weekend we added to our ‘Parachute’ collection when we acquired this man’s jacket from the early 1980s by Parachute. Originally purchased and worn by James Fowler, a fashion designer working in Toronto in the 1980s. Parachute has been perhaps the most internationally recognized Canadian brand of clothing – ever.
In 1977 Harry Parnass, a Montreal born designer who had trained as an architect, was working for the Montreal clothier Le Chateau, a boutique type of trendy cheap chic clothing designed, manufactured and retailed by the Le Chateau company, when he met Nicola Pelly, an English born and educated fashion designer who had come to Canada in 1971 and had just started working at Le Chateau. The two joined up romantically and professionally, opening a boutique in Montreal to sell their own line of clothing in 1978 they called ‘Parachute’. Their line was a hit and by 1983 the brand was more available in the U.S. than Canada and was also being sold in Italy, the U.K., and Japan.
The clothes were ‘simple with swagger’ said one fashion article. In an interview with Montreal’s Gazette in 1979 Parnass said that “The liberation movement of women, gays, and ethnic groups, plus the forces working against cultural homogenization were giving us all a potential shot at individual heroism.” Big shouldered heroic-looking clothes were the result.
At the height of its popularity in the early-mid 1980s, ‘Parachute’ was appearing in music videos and was being worn by celebrities on and off stage, including Madonna, Mick Jagger, Peter Gabriel, George Michael, Duran Duran, and David Bowie. Parachute clothes were also in the wardrobe department of the 1980s iconic television show Miami Vice. The big shouldered look was waning in the early 1990s, leading Harry Parnass and Nicola Pelly to close down their Parachute brand in 1993.