Redesigning our heritage pieces for a new world.
Particular clothing designers and high-end brands will forever be remembered for how they changed the game of style and influenced how we all dressed. Coco Chanel revolutionized the little black dress, and she stood out in history as a master of her craft and creativity. Not only do her designs stand the test of time, but they become part of the lexicon on what makes a piece genuinely iconic: Something that is not defined by of-the-moment trends but rather offers timeless versatility, the essential quality of design, and a harmonious balance of comfort, fit, and wearability. When we find that classic piece, we wear it over and over again.
While we’ve never defined ourselves as designers per se, we are a brand driven by design and function: two core competencies that are crucial in the products we create. And our pedigree is just as storied, too. Founded in a small warehouse in Toronto 63 years ago, we have grown into one of the world’s leading makers of luxury outdoor apparel. Inspired by some of the coldest places on earth, our parkas, bombers, and vests were developed to meet Arctic standards while also recognizing that winter can be just as unforgiving in city environments. The highest technical standards are our yardstick, but we don’t forget how vital the right style is in the development.
When we reflected on this brand heritage and catalogue of our seminal styles of outerwear, we decided to push our design process’s conventions for a new collection that banks on our iconic DNA while offering something new with modern, conceptual styles elevated for a new future.
THE ICONS is a recently-launched collection that reimagines our parkas, bombers, and vests—with a twist. A collection that is a nod to a time gone by while setting clear sights on what lays ahead. It’s that interplay of working in both dimensions that excites us as a brand.
“A key part in our design process is the product archive: This treasure trove dating 63 years, which gives us a holistic, historical perspective on where we started as a brand and how far we’ve come,” says Niamh McManus, Design Director at Canada Goose. “We go back to this archive as a critical reference point whenever we’re conceptualizing a new capsule or a new product, so we feel connected to the brand in a really authentic way.” For THE ICONS, this was paramount, she says, because the design must be influenced by the past, but also looking to the future: “We have these styles: The Snow Mantra, Chilliwack Bomber and Freestyle Vest that have been in our line for years. They earned their icon status not because we deemed them so internally, but because it has been proven by our consumers and the market over time. So, we decided to look at them through a future lens: What can we do that’s new and fresh that’s going to speak to our customer today?”
Although the design team workshopped multiple concepts, countless ideas and “worked their muscles” until everyone felt in unison with where they were going ultimately, they all agreed from the outset that inspiration started with our manufacturing floor. (Our global headquarters in Toronto includes a 9,600-square-foot factory.)
“Our design team is obsessed with our manufacturing,” says McManus. “The fact that we, as designers, can sit right above where our products are cut and sewn is incredible. It’s an amazing educational tool and a way to see our craftsmanship first-hand. In a way, THE ICONS came to life as a celebration of our manufacturing heritage.”
Also necessary was the physical experience of looking at the garments themselves. The Snow Mantra, for example, is made up of 247 pieces. A pinnacle of performance and function, and originally developed for industrial and commercial work in frigid regions, McManus and team had to make it work for THE ICONS: X-RAY, which showcase design intricacies with transparent fabric, by dissecting each element to better understand how to modify for more contemporary use, and that went for the Chilliwack Bomber and Freestyle Vest, too. “Our jackets are really complicated: the construction and the many layers of material that makes the composition,” she says. “We took that pattern and silhouette and reworked it for a more modern approach with a Cordura fabric that’s half the weight of our traditional fabrics. It’s also water-resistant, and so it worked better for an urban consumer—someone that commutes, moves in and out of different temperatures, and is out and about in their daily lives.”
The move towards Cordura, a yarn that comes in different weights and is typically used in military wear or performance apparel, was exciting, says McManus. “We used a really lightweight transparent version looks so delicate, but is actually quite durable.” Because of its transparent effect, it not only created that desired twenty-first-century look and feel, but it also gave plenty of potential for the team to express the brand’s manufacturing roots. “As a celebration of our manufacturing, we added graphic elements that expressed some of that storytelling in a way. We looked back at our manufacturing processes and the use of our pattern markers. Our cutting table operators use these markers as a guide to help identify each piece of a garment when it’s laid out to be made. We geeked out making these actually visible on the products themselves: Left Sleeve, cut 1; Right Sleeve, cut 2…all of these placement graphics and style numbers that we haven’t done before. It was really cool and further demonstrated our connection to the construction.”
These revamped versions also include brand-new trims, a side seam for a greater range of motion and venting, plus a backpack strap to carry over the shoulders when not in use. Product inclusions aside, perhaps the most forward-thinking move in our new Snow Mantra, Chilliwack Bomber, and Freestyle Vest is the fact they’re unisex—designed that way with purposeful intent. “We don’t always do unisex as a brand,” says McManus. “At once, we’re targeting a younger demographic with this capsule, sure, but part of this decision to go unisex is also because, in today’s zeitgeist, there’s a changing meaning of gender identity and a breaking down of stereotypes and preconceived roles. That attitude felt right for us with THE ICONS.” That’s a future we can get behind.
This Spring 2021, we’re growing THE ICONS portfolio with a new capsule that remains rooted in our heritage while offering something fresh and new. Titled Telemetry, it is inspired by our Resolute Parka and continues to champion our manufacturing design processes. Focusing attention on the iconic parka’s highly-functional design attributes, the design team redefined the style through the lens of algorithmic art. “We wanted to create a project that is distinctly modern,” says McManus, “so we pulled a data set based on the factory efficiencies of sewing the Resolute and then fed that data into an algorithm that evolved into an artwork.”
McManus cites our data-obsessed culture as a big point of inspiration and how all of us exist in a digital-first environment. For the design team, the challenge was turning that concept into something tangible and beautiful. The result is a revolutionized lightweight down, inspired by the inner construction and insulation of our Resolute Parka, along with a shell (offering the added benefit of coverage and elemental protection) with a transparent clear ID window, webbing and D-rings and both pieces veiled in algorithmic art. Crafted in two interlocking pieces that work together as a layering system, it offers a modular and customizable fit so the wearer can adapt it to our ever-changing spring conditions. “The Resolute Parka is a personal favourite from our archive because it has so many details pulled from our industrial heritage,” she says. “We first started creating this project back in 2019, so it’s amazing how the relevance of this concept has only grown since then, and we have been able to invent something contemporary for our consumer.”
For Fall 2021, THE ICONS portfolio is growing once again with a selection of capsule collections born from a desire to reconnect with nature. Up first is Glacial Haze, a collection that reimagines three iconic Canada Goose styles in a dramatic colour palette. “As a design team, we’re always drawn to the beauty and magnitude of the natural world around us,” says Niamh McManus, Design Director at Canada Goose. When the team started brainstorming what the collection would be, references quickly converged on a unanimous theme: dark, moody Arctic glaciers and icebergs partially covered by the drifting haze of inclement weather.
“We wanted to draw attention to glaciers—to highlight these beautiful, remote places that most people don’t generally have the chance to visit,” says McManus. “We’re always looking to the North. It’s who we are and it’s in our DNA.” In the collection, that translated into an all-new colour story that pulled inspiration from the from the palette of glaciers and their surrounding waters—anchored by all-white trim and an icy navy and light-blue print on the interior.
Functionally, the three Glacial Haze capsule styles—the Snow Mantra Parka, Freestyle Vest and Chilliwack—were updated on the exterior with the soft and durable Iso Peak 2L fabric. “It’s taking these iconic styles that our customer knows and loves and recontextualizing them through a new lens,” says McManus. “The Snow Mantra, for instance, was born in the North and it’s a rugged piece of equipment. This take on it for Glacial Haze is a little lighter and has water resistance—so when you’re in a more varied climate it will work better for you.”