Let’s park our traditional modesty for a beat: Canada and its natural beauty are pretty much the gold standard the world over. In a country that spans more than half the northern hemisphere, our lakes and rivers furnish about 20 per cent of the planet’s fresh water supply, we have 46 national parks, vast swaths of remote wilderness, and beautiful animals roam this majestic patchwork.

No wonder Americans Michael Budman and Don Green heeded the True North Strong and Free siren call half a century ago. The Detroit-based pair had been trekking to Canada for years to savour our pristine parks—Algonquin Provincial Park being their main happy place. By 1972, they had both decided to settle permanently in Toronto rather than undertake the yearly 12-hour bus, train, and boat trek to Camp Tamakwa. A year later, they took the next natural step: they launched an athletic shoe company to evoke that Algonquin Park magic.

What started as a successful shoe brand turned into a clothing and lifestyle juggernaut that’s become Canada’s de facto house brand.

From the outset, homegrown Roots products were meant to be good for you and the planet (those first shoes were negative heel footwear for calf-stretching and calorie-burning—and made in Canada). The brand has long supported environmental causes and local businesses in pursuit of those efforts, and last year, Roots donated $500,000 in products to be repurposed as scrubs for front-line workers.

Fittingly, to celebrate its connection with nature—and in appreciation of the pandemic-weary everywhere—Roots debuts a capsule collection of organic- and botanical-dyed sweats just in time for Earth Day.

Red comes from the roots of Rubia cordifolia.

Made using natural vegetable dyes derived from plant sources such as roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood, the new Organics and Botanicals collection is a little different from your run-of-the-mill sweatpants uniform. Unlike synthetic dyes, natural dyes have colour variations so no two garments are exactly alike. And these come in pretty pastel shades and earth tones in lieu of the standard-issue grey that’s been our roomy WFH go-to uniform.

The lineup of colours includes Rennet, a natural dye extracted from the gallnuts of Quercus infectoria; Bio-Indigo, from the Indigofera tinctoria plant; Rubia Red from madder roots (which yield a  deep, bright red); Nimbus Pink, derived from processing Kerria lacca insects; and Leafy Green, which hails from the leaves of a type of mulberry tree. Due to the dyeing process, the colour might fade or transfer onto other clothes so it’s best to wash them separately.

Roots undyed and unbleached natural cotton

Undyed, unbleached cotton.

The Natural option is simply undyed and unbleached natural cotton but no less stylish: the Women’s Little Lake Cargo Shacket in Natural works as both structured jacket and loose sweatshirt.

The spring lineup ranges from an Organic Hoody in a relaxed fit to the Dockside Hooded dress in Pale Mauve Mix. There are comfy sweatpants and short shorts and roomy tees, all of which work well from desk to dinner patio—or, in a pinch, even a hike through Algonquin Park.

Available in-store and online at Roots.ca


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