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.