The luxury parka company Canada Goose is doubling down on its U.S. expansion plans, with the launch of a knitwear line — the company’s first real stab at another category — geared toward the country’s warmer climes, and the impending debut of two new stores in Chicago and Boston.
“Knitwear was a natural next step for the brand,” Poriadjian-Asch told Glossy, citing “hoodie culture” and the damp weather of the West Coast as inspiration. “It was a three-year journey that led us to some of the most highly skilled craftsman and finest fabrics in the world. With this being our first apparel venture, we were not going to rush something that wasn’t going to raise the bar.“
The collection of mid- to heavyweight knits will retail from $295 to $650, significantly less than the brand’s jacket offerings, which start at around $700 and reach into the thousands. Like the jackets, the line features Canada Goose’s proprietary Thermal Mapping technology, a special form of weaving that creates airflow for breathability where the body requires it most. It will be sold at canadagoose.com and the company’s flagships in Toronto and New York, which opened last year to much fanfare.
Of the New York opening, writer Rachel Syme told the New Yorker that “the line to get in snaked around the block for weeks, and security guards enforced a strict one-in, one-out policy.”
Canada Goose’s new knitwear campaign
That level of stateside hype is helping to compensate for what some see as the brand’s dwindling star in its homeland of Canada. “It got to a point where everyone you saw on the street was wearing one, and then, with news of their treatment of animals, it became more of a ‘basic bitch’ piece to own,” said a Canadian fashion editor, noting that the coats used to be a status symbol. “The brand is losing momentum.”
Instead, she said, Canadians are moving either toward pricier brands like Moncler or those that are cruelty-free. Smaller local brands like Rudsak and Mackage have also grown in popularity.
None of the department stores planning to carry the new knitwear line — including Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Nordstrom in Chicago — are Canadian, and a buyer for Canadian department store Holt Renfrew, which carries the parkas, said they have seen less movement of the brand in the last year.
Charlotte Austin, a fashion editor for the marketplace Lyst, said the brand’s top-performing markets outside of the U.S. (which is currently its top market) are Australia and Great Britain. “We’re starting to see [Canada Goose] break away from their winter-only seasonal performance by stepping into the year-round arena, [with many people] buying their hats as a way to wear the brand in warmer weather,” she said.
That could bode well for the knitwear launch.
“It can be difficult for a one-category power player to achieve the same success in another area, however they’ve already turned a practical outdoors jacket into a luxury item, so, there’s no saying what else can be done,” Austin said.
But the launch is likely about more than just capturing greater wallet spend, said David Mitchell, the creative director of the digital agency Hungry. For Canada Goose, diversifying its product is also smart business in the wake of climate change. “What happens to an outerwear brand known for its incredibly warm jackets, as winter continues to grow shorter and milder?” he said. “I imagine the brand is having to reckon with that reality, and this is an obvious next step.”
Leah Kim, the executive vice president of merchandising at Barneys, said that — warmer winters aside — the retailer has seen “outstanding” sales performance with Canada Goose coats over the last few years, thanks to what she believes is its high quality and consistency.
Canada Goose’s new knitwear campaign
And the brand certainly isn’t struggling. After going public in March to the tune of $250 billion, it reported $22.2 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2017, a 44 percent increase over last year.
But replicating the success of its jackets with knitwear may not be a shoe-in. “They’ll not only have to bring the same durability and technicality they’re currently known for, but will also need to elevate messaging, awareness, fit, fabric and style in order to stay relevant in new, more crowded areas,” said Mitchell. Although the company would not confirm additional categories, they could eventually include footwear, travel gear and bedding, according to reports.
Canada Goose will also need to stem any feelings of oversaturation or brand outrage that may trickle down from their native country. “I dread having to wear my Canada Goose coat now, because I’m afraid I will get attacked by activists — plus, I no longer think it looks good,” said the Canadian fashion editor.