It seems almost impossible to imagine now, but it wasn’t long ago that tailored men’s clothing was difficult to buy off the rack in North America, a continent awash in three-button suits with boxy shoulders.
Canadians, however, caught an early break in 2009, when the European brand Tiger of Sweden expanded to Montreal, opening its first store on this side of the Atlantic. Offering slim-fitting, minimalist suits with a tinge of rock ’n’ roll flare, the Swedish brand was well ahead of the curve.
Although the skinny look has always been part of Tiger’s DNA, David Thunmarker, the brand’s chief executive officer, still can’t quite believe how quickly Canadians have embraced the European styling that his brand typifies – that is, the slimmer cuts, the use of high-quality materials and a deftness for mixing casual and dressy pieces.
Given the market, Tiger has doubled down on Canada, recently opening its second Canadian store on Ossington Street in Toronto. “We fell in love with Canada, and apparently Canada fell in love with us,” Thunmarker said. Last year alone, Canadian sales jumped 30 per cent.
The new Canadian rollout is just one phase of an international-expansion plan that has installed Tiger stores in 18 markets on three continents. Noticeably absent from that roster: the U.S.
The strategy seems to makes sense, given the timing of the brand’s expansion project. Coming out of the financial crisis, the Canadian economy was in much better shape than its neighbour’s. According to Thunmarker, however, this wasn’t a driving consideration. Rather, he opted for Canada as a launching point because its consumers are more receptive to European styling, particularly in Montreal.
In its early days in Canada, Tiger focused on promoting its men’s line in the Montreal store, but more recently, the label is getting behind its women’s line, as well as denim and accessories. The women’s and denim line each comprise roughly 20 per cent of the company’s total revenues, and shoes and accessories account for the final 10 to 15 per cent.
The question now is whether the fickle fashion market that was so quick to adopt Tiger’s signature slim aesthetic will abandon the look for the next craze. There are already signs of a shift: Alexander Wang and A.P.C. are releasing new tees with longer cuts, evoking memories of the bigger, baggier days.
For now, Tiger isn’t going there. “You’re always tempted to jump on every train,” Thunmarker said. “In the design process, you always try to think of other things, but once you get a bit into the line, you have to ask yourself. ‘Okay, this is really nice, but is it really Tiger of Sweden?’ ”