People in Parksville may be used to seeing Westcoastees vending their Vancouver Island-inspired T-shirts out of a colourful, octopus-adorned van at the Summer by the Sea Street Market. But now, the artist-run company’s apparel and goods are available all year round for locals and tourists alike.
Bolstered by their success on Craig Street, the Cowichan Valley-based designers and screen printers opened a permanent, brick-and-mortar store about three months ago at Corfield Plaza.
“We developed quite a following in Parksville,” said creative director Marija Midgley. “People would line up at the van and wait for a very long time to buy a shirt.
“A customer suggested that we open a store in Parksville so, encouraged by our success, we decided to go for it.”
Midgley and her business partner Jayson Ward have grown to three stores since they started five years ago. In addition to the newest Parksville location, they have stores in Campbell River and Duncan.
At each store, Midgley and Ward only sell their own affordable, high quality merchandise that has been silk screened in the Cowichan Valley, or goods made exclusively for them, such as an island-inspired sweater developed in collaboration with Stanfield’s.
Their T-shirt and sweater designs feature images related to fishing, camping, wildlife and nature. Some are fun-loving, like their holiday series of apparel celebrating an island favourite, Lucky Lager.
Other designs are more personal, like their Cowichan bear T-shirts and sweaters. They feature a bear wearing a distinctly-patterned, heavy-knit sweater that originated among the Cowichan, a Coast Salish people who live in the Cowichan Valley. The sweater in the Westcosatees design is based on one knit by Ward’s own grandmother.
Overall, Westcoastees T-shirts and sweaters embrace the local mentality and lifestyle.
“It’s all about island living,” she said. “Our fans find our shirts very relatable, and people love buying them as gifts for their family and friends as well as for themselves, and wearing them with pride.”
Some people even buy matching T-shirts for babies, toddlers and adults.
“For example, momma and daughter can wear matching ‘Island Girl’ hoodies.”
Westcoastees will soon be launching another exclusive collaboration for the holidays — a series of driftwood art-inspired Christmas sweaters and T-shirts — that will be available online and in stores.
The series is designed in collaboration with well-known, Campbell River-based Drifted Creations artist Alex Witcombe, who has made driftwood critters like Peabody the Raccoon, Mayhew the Sasquatch and Fergus the Fox famous.
To shop more designs, or learn about the generous Westcoastees return and exchange policy or Loyaltee Club, visit www.westcoastees.com. You can also visit their new Parksville location at #5 – 160 Corfield St., open seven days a week.