When the Nation first spoke with Bruno Pereira of Tawich Clothing in January 2015 he was selling safety clothing to Goldcorp and making plans to expand the Tawich apparel line based out of Wemindji. Fast-forward to February 2017 and now he is showcasing a full line-up of top quality hunting and fishing gear.
The Nation caught up with Pereira February 3 at the Quebec Outfitters Hunting and Fishing Show in Laval, where he was displaying camo jackets and pants, compression shirts, boots and a brand new line of women’s gear, all designed to meet the rigours of life in the north.
Pereira (President and CEO) and his colleague Jeremy Brown (director of operations) brought the Nation up to speed on how the Tawich product line has evolved the company’s plans for the near future.
“Safety gear was the big thing in 2015,” said Pereira. “Then we ventured into the distribution of industrial and automotive parts. We became the exclusive distributors of CCM and Reebok in the James Bay and also of Acacia Sports for broomball equipment. We really tried to facilitate the supply of those key items that everybody wants on the territory.”
The company works out of the new Tawich office building in Wemindji and also has a 25,000 square-foot warehouse near La Grande airport outside Radisson. Securing a license from Realtree camo for their hunting gear instantly put Tawich Clothing on par with major companies like Browning, Cabela’s, Under Armour and Easton.
“We had good factories and good products but we needed licenses,” said Pereira. “The key element of the hunting clothing line was the Realtree camo. It’s easily the top industry standard for camo patterns.”
When Pereira first contacted the Realtree office in Georgia to pitch Tawich for a license, he was shut down immediately. The American company said it already had enough licensed companies and to license any more would hurt the other brands. But Pereira wasn’t ready to give up.
“I decided to prepare a nice PowerPoint, explaining the uniqueness of Wemindji and the community, what we’re trying to do [at Tawich] and why we deserve a license,” he said. “I sent the PowerPoint, had a couple of conference calls with them and then there was a waiting game for about three months.”
Realtree eventually called him back. “They said, ‘Bruno, you convinced us. We’re giving you the license Canada-wide for stores and worldwide for online.’ That was a big day of celebration at the office!”
After securing the Realtree license Tawich was also able to get a license for Primaloft, the “buzzword” for water resistant, synthetic insulation that was originally developed for the U.S. Army.
“We want the best in every aspect of our garments so we went for Primaloft as well,” Pereira explained. “The fact that we already had the blessing of Realtree gave us some leverage and once we had all the supply elements settled we launched our first [hunting and fishing] production.”
Pereira and Brown emphasized that their main goal is to bring high quality hunting and fishing gear to those in the James Bay who need it the most. They worked hand in hand with the Cree Trappers Association when designing their hunting and fishing products.
“We want to be able to supply and guarantee a top-quality product and gear up authentic hunters and fishers,” said Pereira.
“We got feedback and input from Cree hunters and trappers and basically created our products for them according to their specifications,” noted Brown.
Stephanie Jonah was onsite working the Tawich booth. She gave specific examples of how Tawich clothing is perfect for life in the bush: quiet material that won’t scare away prey, pants that allow for full mobility when working low to the ground, rubber boots that open from the side and are reinforced around the ankles and other areas that often crack due to wear and tear.
“We always try to get the best quality and if we can, improve on it, bring it back to the way it was done before,” Pereira said. “Because we have direct access to our factories we don’t mind investing a little bit more. We can guarantee our product quality and in the end we know the customer will always be satisfied.”
As Tawich Clothing starts to garner attention outside of the James Bay region, they insist that equipping the hunters and trappers of Eeyou Istchee is still their primary focus. They hope to be a model for a sustainable Cree economy, equipping their employees with universal skills.
Currently Tawich is looking at giving exclusivity of their products to potential retailers in Cree communities and working with non-profit organizations like the Cree Trappers Association to equip Crees at wholesale prices.
“One of the key elements of building the company the way we have is to make sure that we can be competitive in a way that allows us to help other associations,” said Pereira. “The Trappers Association is a non-profit organization that gets grants to help their members buy their equipment. We work closely with them to have a target price that’s affordable and ensures their members are well equipped.”
“We are definitely looking to distribute and we would like already established retailers to be buying from us,” Brown added. “But the root of the company is bring high-quality products to hunters and trappers in the James Bay and to have a sharing of knowledge and job creation in the region.”
Pereira and Brown shared plans for a new store in Wemindji and said the company is looking to hire an additional three employees in the coming months after already expanding from three to 10 employees in the past year. Check out Tawich’s full line of hunting and fishing gear at tawichclothing.com