Canadian Fashion Connection – Penmans

Long John's advertisement from Penmans', 1902

Long John’s advertisement from Penmans’, 1902

The Ontario Knitting Mills in Paris, c. 1873

The Ontario Knitting Mills, c. 1873

The Ontario Knitting Mills (aka Paris Clay and McCosh Knitting Mills) was founded in 1868 in Paris, Ontario by Mr’s Clay and McCosh. In 1883 they were making, among their many products, knitted underwear. By 1890 the company had become known as Penman’s and was the largest supplier of cotton and woollen knit goods, especially hosiery and underwear, in Canada. From the turn of the century until the 1960s, Penmans’ was also Paris Ontario’s largest employer. In 1965 Penman’s was bought out by Dominion Textile Inc., a Montreal-based manufacturing conglomerate. Sales started sagging and by 1980 the company was no longer working in the black.

penmansIn 1984 the manufacturing operation was moved to Cambridge where production shifted from underwear to leisure wear and licensed brands were added, including Yves St. Laurent’s active wear line, which debuted in 1987. The company’s name was also changed to Dominion Fashion Group, and HQ was relocated in Toronto. The old Penmans company name was retained for a line of Canadian-made leisure wear – jogging suits, sweat pants, sweat shirts, and lycra active wear.

Walmart carried Penmans until 2010 when it was dropped in favour of its in-store brand George.

13 thoughts on “Canadian Fashion Connection – Penmans

  1. Dean Jonathan, I absolutely love the Penman t-shirts, they are the most comfortable t-shirts ever, but, I have been looking for them everywhere, since Walmart stopped selling them. Can you tell me where to find the best, most comfortable, regular, standard, run-of-the-mill t-shirts? Please help!!!

    • Sorry Rita, I wish I could help but I can’t. Its not my area of expertise! I only know about fashion once its no longer IN fashion!

    • try second hand stores, most of penmans clothes are all quite vintage now days anyways. you wont be able to find it in any store like walmart any more.

  2. Hello Jonathan

    I am looking for menswear manufacturers for a private label. With so many going out of business the past few years, I am at wits where to find one. Can you help?

  3. Hello!
    Thanks for the Penman’s info. I have a photo of my Great Grandmother sitting atop a large wooden crate with the Penman’s logo on the side. It was taken around
    1918 in Alberta Canada. I can send a copy if you’d like.

  4. I really miss the Penman’s Jeans that were sold at Walmart Canada. I’m a plus size and these were the only jeans that actually fit right looked good, were comfortable and a good price. They just seem to fit right. I haven’t a good replacement as of yet. I know all my plus size friends feel the same way. I am really not fussy on Walmart’s decision to go go with another brand. They are not the same so I don’t buy my jeans there any more.
    What retailers carry your jeans here in BC? I have searched online and couldn’t find any. Matter of fact this is the only place I came across.
    Maybe with a little luck and a bit of shoving, Walmart might go back… I hope so but it’s been a long time now.
    Please if you know some retailers out here in BC, I would appreciate it greatly.

    • I can’t help you Gail, but I will post your comment and maybe someone will see it and be able to help.

  5. Have been looking for Penmans sweatpants now for years for my husband. Most other brands are just a bad fit or cut. Can you recommend what brand to buy that was as good in BC. Thanks for your blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.