TORONTO — Since beginning in Montreal in 1970, winter coat maker Kanuk has become one of Canada’s most preferred outerwear brands — yet “it is virtually unknown for the U.S. consumer,” said chief creative officer Annie Horth.
That, however, is all about to change as Kanuk heads to New York in November with its first stand-alone boutique outside of Quebec in the heart of SoHo.
“We’ve been eyeballing different markets for the last few years. But when Kanuk turned 50 last year, we knew it was time to move out of Quebec and to New York, where it is an international window for our company,” president Richard Laniel told WWD.
The store emphasizes the brand’s heritage and evolution and was created in collaboration with architectural studio Atelier Barda, James Clotfelter Lighting Design and New York-based Derek Porter studio.
Indeed, as SoHo shoppers will see, what began as an experiment for Montreal’s Louis Grenier to create the perfect protective cold weather garment and morphed into classic luxury streetwear will be highlighted in a white-domed space that will give the illusion of Kanuk’s coats floating about the perimeter thanks to novel lighting.
“The environment is utopian yet nostalgic,” said Horth. “This aligns with our values in that each piece is timeless due to its quality and durability while still being modern and edgy.”
That mix is hard to miss in the exclusive styles offered at the store, such as a puffer in micro-floral print, said Horth, as well as the introduction of new tech fabrics to Kanuk staples like the Cavale.
As for other new entries, “I love the Gustav, a military-inspired parka in shape memory fabric with classic aviator bomber details. It’s ultra-warm and incredibly light. It’s a knockout,” said Horth, the fashion and creative director at Elle Canada and Elle Quebec.
Other new styles include the extra-light Mayfair for women, a longer, lean-fitted puffer done in a matte, soft-touch fabric, as well as the Brooklyn, a shorter, more cocoon-shaped puffer in rich colors with a shiny nylon surface.
SoHo shoppers can also test Kanuk +0, the brand’s first transitional collection designed for milder fall weather.
“This is midseason streetwear,” said Laniel of the collection, which features two men’s and two women’s outerwear pieces, three unisex styles and select seasonal accessories including an umbrella, cotton beanie, quilted scarf and technical utility bag. Kanuk +0 starts at $500. “Prices go up to $1,500 to $2,000 depending on the garment,” said Laniel.
The brand’s unique fabric technology is also showcased at the store, including weather-protective synthetic insulators such as Climashield Thermo+ and Climashield Comfort+, plus a natural insulator called ThinDown. Referred to as down fabric, it is the only one of its kind that needs no piercing, is uniform and prevents down escaping from the seams.
Kanuk is now entirely fur-free, which is just one of the brand’s many commitments to function more sustainably. Fifty percent of its current collections are made with recycled fabrics — a figure that will increase annually, according to Horth, so that in the near future every item produced will be made with recycled or organic materials.
In addition, Kanuk uses 100 percent renewable hydro-electricity to power its head office and factories and aims to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2025, Horth, added.
“Educating New Yorkers about this brand, the down it sources, its sustainability and craftsmanship is our priority,” said Laniel, whose brand, which has significant sales in South Korea, has recently garnered interest from major retailers such as Ssense, United Arrows and Holt Renfrew as the luxury outerwear market continues to boom with the likes of Moncler, Canada Goose and Moose Knuckles.
“More store launches will come,” he said, adding that Kanuk’s next opening set for 2022 “will be international.”