By Darren Lum
Published July 31 2018
Matt Duchene’s devotion to the Highlands is as deep as the woods and as clear as the lakes.
The hometown boy is putting this passion for Haliburton County toward a new business venture a clothing line with a logo that includes an outline of the graphical shape of Haliburton County and the word “hali.”
“I want people to be proud wearing it. People are so proud to be from here. People love it up here so much. As we speak my wife has six friends up from Colorado and they’re staying with us this week and they’re just buzzing about how beautiful it is here and excited to be here. We’re about to go out on the lake in a little bit. That’s what it’s all about – a piece of clothing that exemplifies that. It kind of makes you proud to wear because it represents sitting around the fire being on the boat fishing going wakesurfing and going wakeboarding. That’s what I want people thinking when they see that logo or those pieces of clothing” he said.
For the past few weeks he’s been working hard to get the hoodies T-shirts and hats ready for the exclusive release to the Haliburton retailer JoAnne Sharpley’s Source for Sports during Midnight Madness this Friday (not confirmed at press time). Source staff are expected to wear the clothing which is suitable for summer.
Duchene calls this a “passion project” and said being a creative person he’s wanted to do something on a larger scale like this for a while. He has customized clothing for his friends and family with Unsung Hero and with New Era to create personalized hats.
He has committed his portion of the proceeds from this run of sales to Food for Kids Haliburton a student nutrition program for students in Haliburton County. It’s a cause that he said is important to the community and its children who receive nutritious food helping them to learn and develop a knowledge of healthy eating options.
Food for Kids co-ordinator Aaron Walker is grateful to Duchene for this upcoming donation.
“I was elated to find out about his contribution because it’s not like we can rest on our laurels and just know [donations are] going to be rolling in all the time. We have to constantly seek ways to fund it. Every year is a new year” he said.
Whatever money is raised will be directed to food purchases he said.
Last year close to 1200 students had access to healthy and nutritious food through the program which runs for about 180 days. Expenditures at each school have gone up due to rising food costs. Walker said the upcoming year’s budget will be $80000 and this donation will help with that.
This clothing line’s initial release includes 90 black hoodies with white graphics and 70 grey T-shirts with black graphics both unisex – runs half size smaller – from small to double-x large supplied by Ottawa-based company Unsung Hero which has also been responsible for clothing made for the Ottawa Senators.
There will be 35 snapback black baseball hats (in the 9Fifty style) with an embroidered “hali.” in white on the front and the outline of the county on the right side produced by hat giant New Era which will be available in mid-August. Currently the clothing is not available online. Future online purchases may be possible if demand warrants it.
Duchene said the idea for lifestyle clothing is from seeing the clothing sold by Clayton Hodgson who was behind the “Hali” clothing sold in Haliburton Foodland earlier and also launched the clothing line CoHo – named for brother and retired NHLer Cody Hodgson. Duchene is grateful for Clayton’s help in the early going with this initiative.
The design was the result of a collaboration between Duchene and graphic designer Bre Creelman.
Creelman lives in Calgary and is the wife of former Haliburtonian and Duchene’s childhood friend Max Creelman.
“I had the elements kind of already there and she helped me place it and I liked what she came up with” he said.
From the collaborations and the immediate approval to carry the clothing from Sharpley Duchene called this a “Haliburton effort.”
When the clothing officially launches Duchene said he’ll be posting to Instagram and Twitter. He said he will not be at the Midnight Madness launch because of a wedding he’s attending.
Duchene said this is his first foray into the retail market. He didn’t do it alone and that he’s learned a lot from the experience which he hopes continues so he can improve.
“It’s a little bit of a learning curve but I’ve got a lot of people around me that can help me out. JoAnne Sharpley included” he said. “Anything that we miss out on this first time round we’ll hit on the second time.”
It was a conscious decision for the clothing to not have any connection to him.
“I didn’t want to sell myself. I wanted to sell our area. Our area is bigger than anybody who will be up here and it’s more important than any one individual is to our community as a whole. I didn’t want to sell anything to do with me personally” he said.
Duchene isn’t looking too far into the future with this endeavour and hasn’t ruled out a different line of clothing if this goes well.
“Maybe at some point if this goes a certain way I do my own side thing. For right now I felt like this was going to be the best thing for what I’m trying to accomplish which is having pride in Haliburton and creating a brand for it because there really isn’t anything out there” he said.