Innovation starts at the top at Canada Goose Holdings Inc.
The parka maker, which quietly set up an innovation lab on the manufacturing floor of its Toronto headquarters, has introduced the first fruits of its efforts — a program that lets consumers choose between four different brims for their hoods.
For now, customers at six of the brand’s stores as far afield as Montreal, Chicago and London can choose their own brims on five different parkas. The brim styles include thermal, reflective thermal, lightweight thermal and fur ruff, each focusing on a specific need, such as warmth, wind protection, visibility or comfort.
That’s a decidedly low-tech leap forward for an innovation lab, which are typically ultra-techie enclaves in fashion companies and working away on conversational commerce or virtual reality and the like.
But the brim program is classic Canada Goose — pragmatic, focused on the consumers needs and leaning in an important direction, in this case the broader trend toward more personalization and customization in fashion.
And it’s just the beginning.
Leading the program is Spencer Orr, who had been senior vice president of merchandising and product strategy and is now president of the innovation lab.
In addition to delving into new concepts, like the brim swap out, the lab will be working on long-lead projects and looking into fresh technologies and new methods of making fabrics and materials.
“Functional innovation has always been core to what we do,” Orr said, noting the new brim program “has been a child of that functional thought.”
And that functional thought has served Canada Goose well — keeping shoppers warm around the globe, helping it build the category of fashion outerwear and picking up a market capitalization of $4.3 billion.
The process at work is also important.
By testing new ideas with smaller subsets of customers, Orr and the brand can pick up feedback and iterate for the future, although the executive stressed that any new offering coming to market will first meet the brand’s high bar for functionality.
“The reaction thus far has been positive,” he said of the brim program. “Let’s see where they’re choosing, let’s see where they’re using it. I’m really curious to see what that end consumer is doing.”
Canada Goose’s new innovation push can also benefit from the brand’s Made-in-Canada stance.
“The advantage we have that a lot of other companies don’t have is that we can take concepts and prototypes to market much quicker,” Orr said. “We can go from testing to commercialization once we are satisfied and confident that this is a great innovation and extremely functional.”
Orr has a growing canvas to play with.
The company not only has its signature parkas, but has also been expanding in knits and last year acquired Canadian footwear company Baffin Inc. for 32.5 million Canadian dollars.
For now, he’s grappling with the big questions and peering far into the future.
“What does the future of Canada Goose look like? What does the future of the customer look like?” he said. “There are some great concepts that it’s going to take years to even get to the proof of principle.”