Hot off the heels of its U.S. launch, Canadian outerwear brand Moose Knuckles is heading into the Sundance Film Festival aiming to become Millennials’ next status symbol in premium down-filled coats.
Already known in Europe and Asia — and with a growing roster of celebrity wearers including Kate Bosworth, Katie Holmes, Diplo and the Kardashians — the seven-year-old Montreal brand debuted in the U.S. at the end of 2015 in Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Revolve and Paragon.
The increased distribution for Moose Knuckles is partially a result of its $850 parkas, which feature ethically sourced fox-fur hoods, lightweight “Flex Core” outer shells that are waterproof and wind resistant and Ukrainian duck down used for insulation.
The brand’s satirical and sometimes controversial ads have also raised eyebrows, such as its 2012 effort depicting the fictional Quebec terrorist group FUQ and another lampooning Kate Upton’s flawless Sports Illustrated, which featured a woman sporting nothing but a bikini bottom, a voluminous white puffer coat and an extremely hairy bikini line.
“We offend everyone equally,” said Moose Knuckles’ chief executive officer Ayal Twik. “Fashion is sometimes way too serious and sometimes we do piss people off when we respond to that aspect of the business. But we like to do things our way.”
That includes a firm stance on where Moose Knuckles will be displayed in U.S. stores.
“We are a fashion brand, not an outwear exclusive brand. That is why every retailer we are involved with in the U.S. features our product on their contemporary floor,” Twik said. “Truthfully, I have said ‘no’ many more times than ‘yes’ to retailers over this issue. This is something I will continue to do to maintain the integrity of this boutique niche brand.”
While competitors regale consumers with details about the technical aspects of their products, Moose Knuckles uses humor to connect with consumers.
“What we’re doing is putting a new spin on the heritage brands that paved the way for us. But our approach is more tongue-in-cheek,” said Moose Knuckles’ new creative director Steph Hoff.
Despite the fact Moose Knuckles is made in Winnipeg — one of Canada’s coldest cities during the winter — using old-style sewing machines, top-notch fabrics, heavyweight zippers and sturdy hardware, “we never speak to customers in terms of technical details,” Hoff said. “Instead, we play to the lifestyle aspect of this brand, which is much more candid and raw than our competition. We’re going to refine and define that brand identity and strengthen its DNA as we move forward.”
The fall collection features a more mature and subdued color palette.
“We’re also playing with shearling and new luxury materials,” Hoff said. “The bottom line is that this company has become more strategic in what it does since it launched in 2007. That is why our goal now is to create a more organic level of engagement with our customers.”
Moose Knuckles is sold in 10 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Sweden and the U.K. The brand also launched in China and Japan in fall 2015.
According to Twik, Moose Knuckles has seen a “100 percent growth per year” since its inception. “We’re hoping to repeat that growth in 2016. But Moose Knuckles is still a small company by comparison. We’re not close to that $100 million mark yet,” he said.
Yet Moose Knuckles’ rise has been “interesting to watch,” according to Maureen Atkinson, a senior partner at J.C. Williams Consultants in Toronto. “In some ways Moose Knuckles’ growth fits in with this idea of what Canadiana credibility means, particularly to people outside of Canada looking at the products we produce.
“Originally my interpretation of this brand was that it was very much like Canada Goose. But Moose Knuckles has differentiated itself and not because the brand is cheaper,” she added. “Moose Knuckles is clearly moving towards fashion more and more. It’s very much its own brand.”