How did Canada Goose, at 60, suddenly become so popular?

NEW YORK — With the process for its IPO now set in motion, the New Yorker’s Rachel Syme asked — and then answered — an important question in a recent piece: just how did Canada Goose come to be so damn popular?

“[L]ook around any major city with a chilly climate, and you will see an army of crisp marshmallows, their left shoulders emblazoned with the embroidered “Arctic Program” slogan, shuffling through the slush. The jackets are unusually expensive—around a thousand dollars—and yet, unlike slipping on, say, an asymmetrical Comme des Garçons garment that also costs the equivalent of a week’s salary, the coat doesn’t aim to awaken one’s senses to new possibilities; rather, it exists as a kind of pillowy insurance against the outside environment.”

That last part is vital for our purposes here. Modern luxury shoppers today expect items at this price point (and certainly lower too) to provide serious performance benefits. Consumers are searching for products and brands that have guts. Charging a thousand dollars for the privilege of brand association doesn’t cut it with customers (as much) anymore.

As it turns out, Canada Goose, like the best modern luxury companies, has struck gold at just the right time on the back of three key strengths: First, a practical reason for existing; second, a specialized focus; and third, an upgrade in quality comparative to the rest of the market.

That said, there are three central talking points that stand out in the New Yorker piece:

  1. Canada Goose has serious, anti-fashion pedigree: This is a 60 years old brand that was started in 1957 making “heavy down parkas for workers whose jobs required them to brave rigid Canadian temperatures: park rangers, police officers, scientists exploring ice floes, snowmobile operators.”
  2. But it’s also smartly leveraged ‘Brand Canada’: “Canada, as an idea, has a cachet when it comes to outerwear: the country’s name conjures visions of grizzly bears, snowcaps, moose with antlers as big as tree trunks. When [CEO] Dani Reiss started mass-producing pricey coats, in the aughts, he kept all production in Winnipeg and Ontario, further building the brand’s national mystique. Europeans started buying them en masse. What’s a few thousand dollars when it comes with the promise of Klondike adventure?”
  3. Combined, it creates a potent mix of performance and branding: “Canada Goose coats do, in fact, provide maximal protection against the wintry mix, but—unlike less expensive models from L. L. Bean, or even mid-level ones from Patagonia—they don’t just make their wearers warm. Instead, they promise eternal warmth—a lifetime guarantee that you will never feel cold again. Even if the wearer is only walking from the subway to the office, she is ready for freezing conditions and treacherous mountain passes.”

Why this matters: As it edges closer to its IPO, Canada Goose’s boom shows that modern luxury shopping preferences and expectations are going mainstream. A decade ago, paying a grand for a down parka would’ve been a vanity purchase: perhaps that cost would’ve keep you cold in subzero temperatures, but maybe not. And besides that was besides the point — the logo was what you were paying for. A Canada goose purchase, on the other hand, is an altogether different proposition: you KNOW that if subjected to subzero temperatures the coat will play its part, and pass the test with flying colors.

In short: superficiality is out; genuine practicality is in.

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