CHICAGO — The arctic has arrived with a vengeance in Chicago. Temperatures are hovering in the single digits. Space heaters are working overtime. Car batteries are dying. And the nostril hairs are freezing one by one inside of my nose.
Yet the city’s fashionistas — look at them! They’ve never looked warmer.
The reason? Canada Goose, of course. The brand continues its unabated climb to the summit of winter necessities. The company says it’s grown over 2,000 percent in the last decade, with revenues of approximately $300 million.
The 60-year-old “arctic luxury apparel” brand opened its first store on a tony stretch of Michigan Avenue this fall — one of seven global stores the retailer has opened this year.
Even TV stock prognosticator Jim Cramer remains bullish on the brand. “This company’s growing like a weed and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon,” he said in December
So who needs Bitcoin when you have a fur-lined parka with down stuffing?
Turns out, I’m not quite able to afford the snug-as-a-bug crowd. With prices that can reach up to $1,600 for a men’s jacket, Canada Goose remains out of my price range.
Yet, for such a pricey brand, it’s seemingly ubiquitous: from the valet at upscale restaurants to the Lincoln Park ladies who lunch at them. From strolling teenagers on a mall date at Water Tower Place to a pair of 60-somethings pushing grandkids with strollers, the Canada Goose brand is both trendy and workaday utilitarian.
How did we get here? Well, the brand started in 1957. It outfitted scientists of Antarctica’s McMurdo Station and Laurie Skresl, the first Canadian to summit Mount Everest. It was, in a word, warm.
Canada Goose started to be heavily adopted by Hollywood film crews on location. It was featured in “The Day After Tomorrow” and “National Treasure.” The company even has a parka named Mystique, after Rebecca Romijn’s icy-blue character in the “X-Men” movies — the actress asked the company to develop a coat that could keep her warm on set.
Model Kate Upton modeled one of the company’s bomber jackets on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2013. The company sponsors film fests, and its jackets were featured in the James Bond film “Spectre” and warmed crew members of “Game of Thrones.”
So from there, it wasn’t long until the trendy set latched on to them.
I asked Canada Goose CEO Dani Reiss about the phenomenon, but he bristles that Canada Goose is trendy. “We are a function-first brand, not a fashion brand. We are built on function — of course we want people to look good in our products … but that’s not the first consideration.”
And it’s true: it’s hard to argue a 60-year-old brand that is favored by champion Iditarod mushers is offering some sort of here-today, gone-tomorrow gimmick.
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“Consumers come to us because we are a real brand with real products that have an inherent and authentic story; our heritage, craftsmanship and product quality resonate. They know that we’ll protect them from the cold, especially those serious winds and winters in Chicago,” says Reiss.
But the question remains: how can people afford these jackets? On the Canada Goose website, you can’t touch a men’s jacket — a lightweight down one at that — for less than $400. The top-of-the line Canada Coat tops out at more than $1,600.
One clue: Maybe the people I see are wearing fakes, and maybe I shouldn’t feel jealous. According to the company’s media kit, it is one of the most counterfeited brands in the world. In 2015, the company claims it shut down more than 19,000 listings of fake Canada Goose products.
Yet if you’re waiting for a big after-Christmas sale at the flagship store, you might be waiting until hell freezes over. I asked a salesperson at the Chicago location if I could expect a discount when the shopping frenzy was over. “No, because we don’t do discounts. We’re like Louis Vuitton,” he quipped.
But how many mushers can say they wear Louis Vuitton?