Traditional Canadian fashion staples include the plaid shirt, the toque, and the “Canadian tuxedo” (denim jacket with jeans). But it’s the parka that Canada Goose has brought to the world as a quintessential piece of our home and native land.
We Canadians like to think of ourselves as hardy folk. We’re ready to brave the cold and chase adventure. Canada Goose’s coats are like that too.
“People tell me that they’ve never truly felt warm before putting on a Canada Goose jacket,” says Dani Reiss. His grandfather founded the company in 1957, and Reiss is now president and CEO. He says his company’s coats embody “performance luxury.” They come with a hefty price tag because they perform the best.
These are the coats that have kept scientists warm as they explore Antarctica. These are the coats that have taken the chill out of filming in some of the world’s harshest climates (think Game of Thrones’ Winterfell scenes, filmed in Iceland).
Many actors and filmmakers who have worn the coats on set have worn them afterward, too, helping make Canada Goose’s red, white, and blue circular emblem a badge of fashion honour.
Laurie Skreslet wore a custom-made Canada Goose parka when he became the first Canadian to reach the summit of Mount Everest, in 1982. Lance Mackey wore Canada Goose parkas each time he crossed the Iditarod finish line. He is a four-time champion of the intense, 1,200-mile dog-sled race across Alaska.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the opening of Canada Goose’s seventh factory last year. He lauded the company for its expansion. It started as a small factory in Toronto and is now a major player in the industry — it employs about 20 percent of the cut-and-sew industry nationwide.
“Some of our longest-serving sewers have been working here since I was a child, and I’ve known them my entire life,” Reiss says. As other clothing manufacturers have moved their factories offshore, Reiss has decided to remain in Canada. That decision is a major part of his legacy within the family company.
“About 15 years ago, there was one day where I read in the news that two major companies were moving their manufacturing offshore to chase better margins,” Reiss says. “It was at that point
that I knew that if we stay, being made in Canada could become a competitive advantage.”
Reiss says authenticity and ethics earn customers. And it seems he’s right, since Canada Goose has earned a reputation for exceptional performance in the stock market. The company’s stock price has more than tripled since its IPO in March 2017.
Canada Goose invests a lot in training, establishing schools within its factories. “When we made the commitment to stay made-in-Canada, we were faced with the fact that we’d need to create our own workforce,” Reiss says.
With the demand for skilled cut-and-sew workers waning in Canada, the supply had also dwindled. “How do you rebuild an industry that’s been decimated by offshoring? That’s been our biggest challenge and success.”
Canada Goose’s schools have trained several hundred cut-and-sew workers since opening in 2015.
A parka made in Canada has a certain appeal to customers all over the world. If it comes from the land of the northern tundra, of igloos, ice-fishing, and pond hockey, it must be good.
“After going to a trade show in Europe, I realized the huge potential we had as a company that was making the parkas for the coldest places on Earth, made at home in Canada,” Reiss says. “Europeans understood that connection immediately, and that was a pivotal moment for me.”
Canada Goose’s sales are about evenly divided between Canada (39 percent), the United States (31 percent), and international sales (30 percent). The Chinese especially love Canada Goose, and there are two flagship stores in China.
“Growing up, I never expected to take over the family business or even work here. I didn’t want my parents to just ‘give’ me a job, and they didn’t want it for me either,” Reiss says. He originally wanted to be a short-story writer.
But he came to appreciate the quality and heritage of the brand, and he saw its potential to expand. Though his first love was the literary arts, he also had a head for business.
He’s the one who started getting the coats on celebrities by bringing them to film festivals and the like. Under Reiss, Canada Goose has opened its own retail stores; it previously sold to distributors.
His grandfather, a Polish immigrant and factory worker named Sam Tick, started the company as a manufacturer of woolen vests, raincoats, and snowmobile suits. Tick’s son-in-law, David Reiss, joined the business and invented a down-filling machine (people were stuffing down jackets by hand at the time).
Canada Goose now produces a wide variety of garments, but the coats remain its flagship product.
The sales of some of its coats help polar bears, too. Canada Goose has partnered with Polar Bears International (PBI), a nonprofit polar bear conservation organization, providing it with gear for out in the field.
And from every sale of a special PBI jacket, Canada Goose donates $50 to PBI.
The company also donates fabric and other sewing materials to remote communities in Northern Canada. “We provide these communities with free access to materials they might not otherwise be able to afford, helping them to continue their traditions, and their heritage of sewing,” Reiss says.
“As a company that was born in the North, we believe that we have a responsibility to protect it.”
Photos Courtesy of Canada Goose