The Dominion Textile Inc. or Domtex was a major Canadian textile manufacturer that was founded in 1905 and closed in 1998 when its remains were purchased by the American Polymer Group, at the time headed by Jerry Zucker.
The company was formed in 1905 from a merger of four major Canadian textile companies, and it quickly gained a near monopoly in the tariff protected Canadian market. Many of its products were once household names in Canada, such as the Wabasso bedding line, Caldwell towels, and Penman's underwear. Based in Montreal, it was one of Canada's leading companies and had close links to the government. Most of the company's production was based in small towns in Quebec and elsewhere across Canada, in most of these towns the mill was the primary employer. The company was much praised during the Great Depression for keeping employment levels high despite a collapse in prices. During the Second World War the company profited as a major supplier to the Allied war effort.
In 1948 the economic situation changed dramatically as tariffs between western nations were greatly reduced, and Dominion Textile was exposed to strong competition from the United States and Britain. Dominion Textiles' market share fell dramatically from nearly 100% of the Canadian market in 1947 to only 47% a decade later. The company almost collapsed, but eventually adapted to the new conditions. It was rebranded as Domtex and moved into new areas such as the production of polyester. In the same period it became seen by Quebec nationalists as a prime example of the anglophone businesses that controlled the province. In 1967 FLQ member Jean Corbo died when a bomb detonated prematurely in an attempted attack on a Dominion Textile plant in Montreal.
In the 1970s the company began to expand abroad, seeking to compete outside Canada. It purchased smaller companies in other nations and built new factories. At its peak in the 1980s it had 14,000 employees and factories in Canada, the United States, Ireland, France, Italy and Tunisia. A leader in a number of areas, it became the world's largest producer of denim.
In the 1980s the textile industry was again changing, as General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provisions came into effect that opened the business to competition from low wage developing economies. Domtex tried to adapt. It entered into a long battle to try to get concessions from its unions and closed half its Canadian factories. In 1987 it made a failed bid for American giant Burlington Industries, that would have made it a global textile leader. Over the course of the 1990s the company slowly collapsed, and by 1997 it was left with only two factories. The remnants were bought for some $600 million by the Polymer Group of South Carolina in 1998.
References in popular culture
The Dominion Textiles' buildings appeared once as a key feature in 1981 Frédéric Bach's short animated movie Crac!, relating the industrialization and urbanization of rural Quebec. The Montmorency's factory, near Quebec City, is shown as being built in front of the famous Montmorency Falls. This factory closed in 1987 and burned down twice in 1993 and 1994 after an unsuccessful condominiums project.