If Canadians understand one sartorial thing better than other nations, it’s how to dress for the weather. So it’s not surprising that the country’s designers have earned an international reputation for making the world’s best outerwear. Just in time for coat season, Jeremy Freed offers a coast-to-almost-coast guide to six labels that are sharing a knack for creating parkas, puffers and tailored jackets with the world.
Styling by Matthew Chow. Grooming by Claudine Baltazar for Plutino Group/Dermalogica. Model: Justin at Elite Model Management. Photo assistant: Kin Lon Ma. Photographed at the Andrews Building on the University of Toronto Scarborough campus (utsc.utoronto.ca).
Some things are popular because they are trendy and some things are popular simply because they work. Canada Goose’s line of down-filled parkas are the rare example of both. Field tested at the South Pole and adopted everywhere from the slopes of Aspen to the streets of Shanghai, this is the jacket that put Canadian outerwear on the map. Made in Canada and backed by an iron-clad lifetime guarantee, Canada Goose parkas are designed to outlast and outperform pretty much everything in your wardrobe. “They’re not cheap and they’re not meant to be,” says vice president of design Karuna Scheinfeld, describing the company’s commitment to creating the world’s best winter coats. As far as investments go, one that pays dividends every minus-20 January day certainly feels like a winner.
Cardinal Of Canada
This Montreal-based brand celebrates its city’s rich tailoring heritage. Started by a Russian immigrant in the 1930s, Cardinal of Canada earned a reputation for making luxurious cashmere topcoats. Today, under the stewardship of Chinese-born fashion entrepreneur Rocky Zhou, the brand’s trademark outerwear has been updated for modern tastes. Production now happens in Zhou’s hometown of Ningbo, China, a region known for its skilled tailors. “There isn’t another factory in China like ours,” says Zhou. “Many of our master tailors are second or third generation, drawing upon the rich tradition of the famed Hongbang Ningbo tailors, who have been known as the ‘Savile Row' of Asia for 150 years.” With raincoats and blazers added to the line last year, Zhou intends to grow Cardinal of Canada into an international brand with a distinctly Canadian story.
Muttonhead is what Patagonia might look like if it was started by a trio of city-dwelling Ryerson fashion grads, and not an outdoorsy hippie from California. While the brand’s clothes are all made in Canada and hearken to a love of classic outdoor pieces, everything is designed with a distinctly hip, relaxed sensibility. Fresh out of fashion-design school, sisters Meg and Mel Sinclair, along with pal Paige Cowan, launched Muttonhead in 2009. In the years since, they’ve opened a pair of Toronto retail stores and expanded their line to include a robust selection of overcoats, ponchos, insulated vests and other weather-friendly garb. Among their standout designs is the Waterproof Fishtail Parka, a cozy fleece-lined jacket available in a range of enticing hues like camel and rose, as well as classic black.
Available in over 40 countries, Nobis has established itself as one of Canada’s foremost outerwear ambassadors. The brand’s down-filled winter designs range from traditional fur-trimmed parkas to modern bomber jackets, while a line of rainwear and insulated vests offer protection from the elements for the rest of the year. Among the brand’s perennial bestsellers is the Yatesy parka (so-called for founder Robin Yates' old hockey nickname) that sports an impressive array of technical features designed with northern winters in mind. In addition to its lightweight fill of Canadian white duck down and breathable, waterproof outer shell, the Yatesy comes equipped with thumbholes in its ribbed cuffs, armpit ventilation zips and a wind flap with magnetic closures, the perfect accoutrements for sitting rinkside on a chilly morning.
Headquartered at the foot of the Coast mountains in North Vancouver, this Canadian outerwear label has earned a cult following among outdoor enthusiasts and streetwear dandies. “Most of our product is focused sharply on specific activities like climbing, skiing or mountain running, but we understand that our clients have more to their lives,” says Edita Hadravska, the brand’s manager of apparel design and a former competitive skier herself. With silhouettes designed for maximum range of motion and fully waterproof seams, the clothes accommodate any activity. “If you’re swinging an ice axe, your arms have to go all the way up,” she says. “That may not be what you’re doing in real life, but your arms still need to be of use. We have that knowledge that we can then apply to an everyday garment.”
“The coat isn’t just part of an outfit – it becomes the outfit itself,” says Eran Elfassy, who co-founded Mackage in Montreal with his childhood friend Elisa Dahan. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the company has diversified its product range while staying true to this ethos, and amassed a legion of loyal fans. Most noteworthy among these is the Duchess of Sussex, whose appreciation of Mackage coats has helped push the company into the global spotlight. “She has been spotted wearing a few of our coats in the past months, and the coats sold out in 24 hours,” says Elfassy. “That’s the best kind of publicity.” Mackage’s sizeable winter collection includes outerwear for women and men, ranging from shiny gold puffer coats to shearling biker jackets.
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