Take a look at the logo of any Canada Goose product, and you’ll see two words jump out: Arctic Program. More than just a nifty catch phrase, this motto goes to the core of what defines the brand—they make the best gear for the coldest environments on the planet. Period. And while that does cover your mid-January coffee run, it extends as far as outfitting the first Canadian to scale Mt. Everest, scientific research teams stationed in Antarctica, and dog-sled racers in the Iditarod. To learn how the proud-to-be-Canadian brand is able to pack so much warmth into outerwear that still manages to be sleek and stylish, we paid a visit to their Toronto factory to see the process for ourselves.
With deep roots in Canada—all of the brand’s iconic outerwear is handmade entirely within their home country and has been throughout Canada Goose’s 60-year history—it seems fitting that the focus has been on addressing some of the world’s coldest temperatures. “As our president Dani Reiss says, ‘no matter where you are, that can feel like the coldest place in the world.’ Whether it’s Winnipeg, downtown Toronto, or New York, to the person who lives there, it can feel as cold as at one of the poles,” says Spencer Orr, SVP of merchandising and product strategy, as we visit his Toronto office and he talks about the idea of ‘everyday adventures. “We have products that allow anyone to do what he or she needs to do, even on the coldest day.”
And when it comes to cold, extreme adventurer and athlete Ray Zahab knows a thing or two. One of the brand’s “Goose People”—a collection of Canadian athletes, explorers, and other intrepid spirits who serve as brand ambassadors—broke the record for fastest unsupported trek across Antarctica in 2009, traversing the continent on foot over the course of 33 days.
“I’ve run 4,500 miles across the Sahara, 800 miles across Chile’s Atacama Desert, 1,200 miles across Gobi desert,” Zahab tells us as we speak to him via phone, since he’s currently training for a run across Namibia, “but when you’re in the arctic, there’s an extra layer of difficulty to everything you do. Everything is infinitely more difficult when it’s -60 degrees Fahrenheit. The most basic tasks become so arduous. When you do what I do, you wear stuff to survive, not just to look cool. My life is in my hands on each of these expeditions.”
Because of that risk, Zahab depends entirely on the equipment he brings with him. And nearly every expedition begins with the same item at the top of his packing list: his Canada Goose HyBridge Light jacket. The versatile piece melds a slim, flexible fit with ultra-lightweight down for unbeatable insulation. “It’s a multi-purpose item for me,” he says. “When I’m in the Arctic, it is a base layer for me. It’s a pillow. It’s pajamas. It’s the most important item I have in my sled.” The jacket also accompanies him on his desert adventures, where nighttime temperatures often drop below freezing.
Zahab’s dedication to Canada Goose doesn’t stop there. The brand outfits him for all his expeditions, a challenge that Orr revels in, as it provides the perfect testing ground for existing or new products. “Working with the Goose People is one of the most fun parts of my job,” Orr gushes. “Ray is a great example of a person who has multiple expeditions in different climates, and therefore has multiple needs.” Both Orr and Zahab shared the story, for example, of custom-designing a pair of jogger-style pants made of the same lightweight, insulating materials as the HyBridage Light jacket for Zahab’s trek through uncharted portions of Canada’s Baffin Island in the dead of winter.
“I love a challenge. I love the sense of discovery and being in places that very few people have ever been before, but it’s not just the going and doing—it’s the sharing that’s so important to me,” Zahab tells us, mentioning his foundation, Impossible2Possible. “I love taking people, by virtue of technology, from a classroom or from their living room onto the expedition. They get an immersive experience of what it’s like to run across the Atacama Desert or to trek across Baffin Island. They can see it and almost feel it.”
That sense of discovery and adventure is also was continues to drive and inspire the vision behind Canada Goose. While this year marks the brand’s 60th anniversary and an opportunity to appreciate all they’ve accomplished, Orr gives every indication that their eyes are firmly fixed on the future. “If you think about where we’ve come from, all the way to becoming a true international Canadian icon, it’s something to be very proud of. It’s a sense of pride for us, and it’s a sense of pride for Canada,” he says. “Through all of it, we’ve stayed true to our roots of function first. What’s next is that we’ll continue to expand and improve our spring collections. While we’re known for our core winter product, we have an exceptional product line for spring. When you look another 60 years down the road, you’ll see us as a four-season brand where that trusted functionality extends across all seasons.”