Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 6 – Jantzen Factory

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Jantzen Canada Inc. – 1927-1996 – 196 Kingsway. Photo: NMAH Archives Center Jantzen Knitting Mills Collection.

Jantzen: the suit that changed bathing into swimming

For most of the 20th century, Jantzen was the name in swimwear. Jantzen operated their Vancouver factory from the same Kingsway location from 1927 until 1996. Jantzen Canada was the largest clothing manufacturer in the city. 

Jantzen swimsuits, knit sportswear, and sweaters were first made in B.C. in 1924, when local company Universal Knitting Mills obtained the Canadian license to manufacture the Jantzen line from the parent Jantzen Knitting Mills of Portland, Oregon.  

Designed by Robert Wilson, the factory at 196 Kingsway opened in 1927 and was added onto several times during its near-70 year existence.  The iconic Jantzen red diving-girl logo—a capped swimmer diving into the water— stood proudly above the Kingsway entrance.  

In the 1980’s and 1990’s savvy shoppers would hit up Jantzen’s Factory Outlet for bargains.

At the time of its closure in 1996, the Vancouver plant was Janzten’s most profitable division.  Nevertheless the company decided to move production to a lower-wage location in Central America—a direct outcome of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 285 garment workers lost their jobs.

2009 Google Street view of the Jantzen building at E.10th and Kingsway.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

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