12.23.13 10:45 AM ET
The Cult of Canada Goose
Just before the holidays, Canada Goose, an outerwear brand based in—you guessed it—Canada, got the kind of early Christmas present most companies dream of. Bain Capital, the investment firm made famous by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, announced it had acquired a majority stake in the brand.
The influx of cash will position Canada Goose, already a favorite of Europeans and Canadians, to begin an aggressive expansion into the U.S. marketplace. But the brand, while unknown to many Americans, is already considered the cold-weather accessory of those in the know.
Of course, Canada Goose’s remarkable rise is like many “overnight” success stories—it didn’t happen overnight. Founded in 1957, the company got its first foot in the American door, so to speak, about two decades ago. “We’ve been fortunate to have an organic relationship with the film and entertainment industry for over 20 years—so much so that we’ve become the (un)official jacket of film crews everywhere it’s cold,” said Canada Goose president Dani Reiss, grandson of the brand’s founder, via email.
The company’s products really are ubiquitous on film sets, said actress Gabrielle Union. Canada Goose coats have “been around in cold weather for as long as I’ve been working [in film], since 1996,” said Union, who stars in the new BET series Being Mary Jane. “I’ve never been on a set that didn’t have a healthy supply of those coats.” Asked if she finds them useful on cold shoots, she replied, “They’re a godsend.”
“We don’t pay anyone to wear our products,” said Reiss. But because so many celebrities have gotten used to wearing them at work and find the products reliable, he said, many have taken to wearing them in their down time, so costume departments have begun incorporating them onscreen. They’ve appeared in blockbusters such as Man of Steel and World War Z, but perhaps the moment that Canada Goose officially arrived in the United States came when Kate Upton appeared earlier this year in a bikini and Canada Goose jacket on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Reiss called the Upton shot a “milestone,” though he noted the company has been fortunate to have more than one.
Bob Levy, a manager at Dave’s New York, which has carried Canada Goose products for six years, credited the entertainment industry with sparking interest in the brand in recent years. “We have increased our orders every single year since Day 1, and it’s still not enough,” he said. The impact is not limited to Hollywood, he added. According to reports from his salespeople, various Korean celebrities have been spotted in Canada Goose products in recent years. As a result, his store has been inundated with requests for the brand from Korean tourists, equaling the interest of Scandinavian tourists, who for years were those most likely to inquire about Canada Goose.
Another major turning point, Levy said, was the popularity of National Geographic and Discovery programming. Outdoor explorer shows featuring real-life people in extreme climates tend to feature Canada Goose coats, he noted. And Canada Goose products are regularly referenced online as worn by those doing official exploration at the North and South poles. (Reiss has even been photographed planting a Canada Goose flag at the South Pole while wearing the company’s protective gear.)
Asked if Canada Goose could officially be called the warmest coat in the world, Levy paused before replying: “For what we carry, it is by far the warmest. We tell people, ‘We promise you will not feel cold.’ In many cases for New York City, it’s overkill.”
The Bain investment is likely welcome news for retailers such as Levy. Because of the products’ limited supply, he said, getting replacement orders is difficult. Once a particular size or style of a coat runs out, retailers are often out of luck. Of course, that scarcity has probably only increased the brand’s attraction, particularly among those who pride themselves on owning and wearing products not everyone else can. With a starting price of about $500, Canada Goose products are already out of reach for many, a reality that will likely only increase their value and popularity among the status-conscious. The fact that they can be tough to acquire even if one has the cash no doubt adds to their allure.
Reiss, for his part, said he has high hopes for the Bain move. “With this investment, we’ll be able to amplify what has driven our success for the last 15-plus years: delivering the best and warmest jackets to the rest of the world—all proudly made in Canada.”