Dani Reiss is the President & CEO of Canada Goose, a company that his grandfather started. A self-starter with an educational background in English literature from the University of Toronto, he always knew he wanted to be a storyteller. However, he never imagined he’d be writing new chapters in the history of the iconic Canadian outerwear brand. Reiss took the position as President & CEO at the age of 27. Here, he sheds some light on the importance of “Made in Canada” and why the definition of “branding” is embedded in the DNA of Canada Goose.
Life+Times: You’re the President and CEO of Canada Goose, a company that is a familial one. Tell me a little bit about how you got involved.
Dani Reiss: Truthfully, if you’d asked me 20 years ago, this was the last thing I thought I’d be doing. I couldn’t imagine getting excited about the parka business. And while it’s a family business, my parents didn’t want me to get involved either as they told me it’d be too hard and that I should be a doctor or lawyer instead. They agreed to let me work here for a summer to earn some money for traveling, but the intent was that it would be a short-term gig. That changed after I went to a tradeshow in Friedrichshafen, Germany. At the time, the company name was still Metro Sportswear Ltd., but I had an idea to go to Europe to build on a small part of business we already had in Europe, under the name, Canada Goose. What I learned there was that Europeans were hungry for an authentic, best in quality brand of Canadian-made outerwear. For them, the connection between outerwear designed for warmth and the Canadian climate was obvious and immediate. Then we saw the same thing in Canada. People understood how unique and amazing our products were and demand grew quickly.
L+T: For those who don’t know, can you shed some light on what Canada Goose means as a brand – what your mission is with each product you create?
DR: Brands are a funny thing. Today, everything is a “brand,” but to me, you can’t be a real brand without history and heritage; an authentic product. I believe brands have a soul and that they stand for something; it’s more than just a label on a given item. Our mission is to free people from the cold –no matter where they live – and empower them to experience more from life. To achieve that, we have to make the best products out there, and we do. From being made in Canada, to using the best proprietary down blends with the right fabrics, to having the best employees across the country, we don’t skip on any aspect of quality. Continuing to make an authentic product is what we’re focused on and what has driven our success around the world.
L+T: You’re a big advocate of the resurgence of how companies are “making their products where they should be made” and this is evident with Canada Goose. Why is this something that is important to you?
DR: Authenticity is everything. More than ever, people want real things, not a reasonable facsimile. I’ve been saying this for years, but it still holds true: You can’t make a Swiss watch in China, and you can’t make a Canada Goose coat in China either. Being made in Canada is one of the strongest pillars of our success. About ten years ago, other apparel manufacturers moved their business offshore to improve profit margins, but we stayed. For us to continue being an authentic brand with strong, iconic values, our jackets had to be manufactured in Canada. It wasn’t easy, but by making that decision and sticking to it, we became successful. The apparel business in Canada is growing again and we’ve led that. And if you look around the world at other prestige or luxury brands, they’re bringing back manufacturing to the point of origin too. We’re now recognized as “Made in Canada” champions and we’re proud of that. I know we wouldn’t be the success story we are today, if we hadn’t kept up our commitment to making our products on Canadian soil.
L+T: The notion of “Made in Canada” is also something that you strongly believe in. What is it about Canada that you find so inspiring?
DR: Canada is a special place for so many reasons. Despite having a small population relative to the size of the country, we’ve eagerly embraced people from around the world and built our country on that. In Canada, we grow up with the world right around us. That international perspective is unique and earns us a well-regarded place on the global stage.
L+T: You recently introduced a new collection called Branta this year – which looks a little bit more streamlined, refined yet still very “Canada Goose.” What was the idea behind this collection?
DR: That’s it exactly – Branta is a contemporary interpretation of our heritage. And it emanated from our collection in Japan which featured a black Canada Goose disc that’s been in that market for ten years, and then brought other pieces like our CG55 styles together under one collection which we could then offer to other fashion markets. With Branta, we’re offering the same functionality and performance that we’re known for in our Outdoor Performance products, in stylish silhouettes for a more urban aesthetic. Sold in only the best stores around the world, the Branta collection is made with premium features and materials including ultra-luxurious Loro Piana wool, Hutterite white goose and duck down, and leather trims. A lot of people also ask me about the name Branta which is a black-marked goose of the north – very distinct and rare, which inspires the collection’s intelligent design, unique styling and exclusivity.
L+T: Give me a little bit of insight as to why and how Canada Goose stands out from different brands?
DR: One of the aspects of our success is that we’ve always done things differently. From staying true to our Canadian manufacturing roots to outfitting bouncers and scalpers with our jackets instead of creating a big glossy ad campaign, we’ve been successful in doing things that nobody else has done. Because of that, we’ve also become a global leader. We continue to swim upstream and there is reward in that.