In 1904, twenty-one year old Moishe Halparin fled to Winnipeg with his father and younger brother from the pogroms of Russia. In 1909 he married Clara Fiskin and after his first business venture in wholesale meat failed, Halparin bought a small knitting company that had been established in 1923. Knowing nothing of the knitting business Halparin hired a Mr. Penny from Scotland to successfully manage the factory. By 1930 the Standard Knitting Company Limited was operating from a small factory next to Halparin’s house at 387 Dufferin street in Winnipeg. The company prospered and its sweaters were carried nationwide by the T. Eaton and Hudson’s Bay companies.
Moishe Halparin died in 1947 but the company continued to be operated by the family until 1967 when it was sold to partners Lou Kliman and Hugh Lowery who moved the factory to a modern plant on Inkster Blvd. Under the ownership of Kliman and Lowery Standard Knitting became famous for their Tundra line of sweaters. According to Halparin’s granddaughter, Morri Mostow, ‘Tundra’ was a brand name originally created by her father for a line of men’s sweaters in the 1950s.
By the late 1980s, Tundra sweaters were being made that resembled the colourful Coogi sweaters from Australia, Tundra sweaters used a bright array of colours in a patchwork of knitting techniques. Crazy patterned sweaters became an iconic style in the late 1980s and early 1990s due in part to their popularization by Bill Cosby’s character Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby show (1984-1992.) Early episodes featured Dr. Huxtable in tastefully patterned sweaters by Perry Ellis and Missoni, but then a Koos Van den Akker sweater debuted in the opening credits of season 3 (1986) and the sweaters became more colourful and featured various textures. Ironically, although the Cosby show fueled the crazy sweater craze, Coogi and Tundra sweaters were never worn by Bill Cosby because they were too busy on film.
With their growing popularity, a special division called ‘Tundra Knitwear’ was created in 1989 to handle production and distribution in the American market, however, despite the sweater’s popularity, Standard Knitting was in trouble due to competition from Asian manufacturers. Kliman and Lowery sold the company in the early 1990s but the new owners could not save the company. Tundra knitwear was closed in 2002 and Standard knitting went into receivership in 2006.