When it comes to Moose Knuckles, Victor Luis is all-in.
In June, the former chief executive officer of Tapestry Inc. made a significant investment in the Canadian outerwear brand and became executive chairman. But once he became entrenched in the business and saw firsthand its wide runway for growth, he decided to take on the role of chairman and CEO and invest more capital to help Moose Knuckles reach its potential.
After he left Tapestry, Luis said he started looking at several brands in which to invest. One was the high-end Italian bicycle brand Cinelli, and the other was Moose Knuckles, where he became an operating partner alongside the brand’s lead institutional investor, Cathay Capital, which bought a stake in 2019.
As CEO, Luis assumes a role previously held jointly by cofounders Noah Stern and Ayal Twik, who will now serve as chief product officer and chief marketing officer, respectively. Both will retain their board seats and maintain their respective shares of ownership in the company.
They pointed to Luis’ particular skill set as key to expanding the brand, pointing to his ability to have “a commercial view to business while maintaining and inspiring a deep respect and passion for the creative process.”
So even though Luis has other business interests, he said his plan is to “spend a significant amount of time at Moose Knuckles to drive it to the next stage of growth.”
Over the past five years, the privately held Moose Knuckles has posted significant double-digit, year-over-year growth. Last year alone, it experienced a nearly triple-digit increase in direct-to-consumer sales along with 12-times growth in China.
But for Luis, this is just the beginning. First off, he said he believes the luxury outerwear category as a whole offers prime opportunity for growth. Outside of the two major players — Canada Goose and Moncler — the market is highly fragmented and there is room for other brands to begin moving up the ladder. “It means number three, number four and number five will eventually be competing with number one and number two,” he said.
Beyond that, he pointed to Moose Knuckles’ technical expertise and its “unique positioning” of youthfulness and irreverence as attributes that set it apart. Without naming names, he said the European outerwear brand — Moncler — plays more in the fashion space while the Canadian competitor — Canada Goose — plays more on function.
“Moose Knuckles combines fashion and function, from the way we tailor our jackets to the way we add more fashion elements,” he said. “So that puts us in between the two since there’s no one luxury player that blends fashion and function.”
Luis also sees opportunities to expand the brand’s product range and geographic reach. Although it started as more of a men’s brand, women’s has been a significant driver of the business and now accounts for around 40 percent of overall sales, which are approaching $200 million. Joseph McGee, formerly of Tom Ford and Burberry, has joined the company as head of its women’s department and his first collection will hit stores this coming fall.
“We’re planning on offering a fuller fashion apparel offering,” Luis said.
The brand sells knitwear, graphic T-shirts, hoodies and cut-and-sewn shirts, but the intent is to expand its apparel options and move more toward becoming a multi-season brand.
“The key is to be thoughtful and not try to become a lifestyle brand overnight,” he said. “We know our number-one business is outerwear so we’ll be offering the same warmth and protection in our multi-season products.”
Eventually, the plan is to expand into accessories and leather goods and seek collaboration partners for other categories, such as sneakers.
Right now, sales are evenly split between direct-to-consumer and wholesale and within the d-to-c category, a “very large part is digital,” he said. But brick-and-mortar still plays a key role and by this fall-winter, he said the brand will have between 30 and 40 retail locations, a mix of permanent locations and pop-ups in winter destinations and shopping centers where they can be open for six to seven months.
Expanding Moose Knuckles’ reach around the world is also on the agenda, Luis said. The brand is carried in more than 30 countries.
“We have a very sizable business in Europe and that’s growing very well,” he said, pointing to key partners such as Selfridges and Harrods. But he’s “in the hunt for a flagship in London,” and will also work to significantly expand the company’s d-to-c reach on that continent.
“But the single most important geographical opportunity is China,” he said. The plan is to quickly open three permanent stores and three to five pop-ups there and also explore moving into Korea and Japan.
“There has never been a more exciting time for branded luxury outerwear and Moose Knuckles is poised to become the next big player in the global market,” Luis said. “My family’s increased equity investment is a reflection of our excitement over what we have learned during the last several months and the tremendous opportunity for growth ahead of us. Moose Knuckles’ recent organizational changes are built to capture and accelerate growth as we continue to recruit top talent and transform systems and processes to support the brand’s global expansion and elevate our capacity to execute at the highest levels.”
Its founders are on board.
“I am super excited to be able to focus full-time on what I love, which is driving culture,” said Twik. “I could not be more thrilled about our quickly increasing growth and scale and the strong teams we have in place to execute our strategies. This change in corporate structure will allow me to focus on areas I am passionate about.”
“I could not be more proud of the global luxury brand we have built and the exceptional products we continue to bring to market,” added Stern. “Our coats and parkas are rated as the world’s warmest, and as we expand our offering into other seasons, I am so charged to focus all my energies on continuing to break boundaries in creating killer fashion products of the highest quality. All of our teams are excited to bring innovative products and experiences to Moose Knuckles’ fans across the world.”