Montreal stories, part two

by Karen Alberg Grossman

Kanuk: Streetwear-Inspired Chic

Very few brands can boast the dual distinction of having both an authentic half-century heritage and ultra-cool street cred. Kanuk has both, and is maximizing its reputation for outerwear that’s as fashionable as it is practical. Richard Laniel, owner of this family business, is most proud of the fact that their coats are 100 percent Canadian-crafted. “We have the most talented artisans,” he notes of the 130 craftspeople who work out of three factories between Montreal and Quebec City. “The fact that we’re a performance brand with an authentic 50-year heritage as well as a streetwear-inspired brand at the cutting edge of trend makes us interesting to millennials. Our coats are in the $600-$1200 retail range and our distribution ranges from Harrods in England to Simons in Canada to better specialty stores in the States to sporting goods stores everywhere.”

Also notable: Kanuk’s business has shifted to 60 percent vegan materials and 40 percent duck down (the finest Canadian-sourced down available). “We build our coats without fur trim to cater to the new consumer but fur collars are available as add-ons. The fur-trim business, however, is now only about 25 percent of our sales.” 

Clearly, the new consumer rules and Kanuk has perfectly captured this youthful energy.

Thomas de l’Île: Quiet Luxury

Luxury mavens understand that true luxury need not shout. Thomas Poitras, a veteran menswear exec who once launched a men’s boxer brand back in the 1980s (then got married and switched over to the tech industry), recently made his way back to fashion, founding a Montreal-based luxury brand focused on the finest cashmere sweaters with a decidedly pared down aesthetic. Featuring quilted lambskin elbow patches (referencing the interior of certain luxury cars and private jets), these sweaters are already a hit at Bergdorf Men’s, Syd Jerome, Stanley Korshak and other upscale stores. (A charcoal zip-front bomber jacket has also been a homerun!)

“I felt there was a void in the market for a great sweater brand,” says Poitras. “We use the best cashmere supplier in England, and the best artisans in Italy. It’s long-fiber cashmere with virtually no pilling; retails range from $1495 to $1995.”

At the moment, the collection is fall/winter only but a spring/summer line is currently gestating for 2020. Also in the works: some special motorsports-inspired in-store events with select retail partners.

Rudsak: A Rebellious Spirit

With 29 stores across Canada and a new store just opened in Hudson Yards, Rudsak is getting the word out about its Montreal-crafted moto-inspired jackets, cool leather pieces, RTW, footwear, bags and accessories. Famous for its “timeless iconic designs with a sophisticated edge,” the company was founded in 1994 by Evik Asatoorian and is now growing its direct-to-consumer business at a rapid pace, in addition to a small but growing wholesale business.

Known for its use of rich materials, simplicity of design, and attention to detail, price points for fall/winter outerwear ranges from $650-$3000; the spring/summer collection is in the $200-$600 range. With a design aesthetic based on the rebellious spirit of the classic motorcycle jacket, the company continues to evolve and innovate. “There is so much for us as Canadians to bring to the rest of the world; I find that’s what drives me the most,” Asatoorian has said.

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