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Haider Ackermann Is Canada Goose’s New Creative Director

Haider Ackermann won’t say who he’s dressing for the Cannes Film Festival, which opens this week, but whoever it is won’t be as much of a surprise as his other newsflash. On Wednesday, Canada Goose will announce that Ackermann is becoming the creative director of the luxury parka maker. It’s not a fashion collaboration, CEO Dani Reiss stresses. “We’ve done many of those over the years, but that time has come to an end and we’re moving into having one individual oversee the entire thing. I think that’s more authentic to who we are.”

Authenticity is the word that crops up a lot with Canada Goose. Its original down-filled parkas were developed for public sector workers braving the Canadian winter. It was Reiss, grandson of founder Sam Tick and CEO since 2001, who turned it into the ne plus ultra of forty-below outerwear. The company was making $3 million a year when he took over. Today, it’s a billion-dollar business. But as competition intensifies, Reiss has decided it’s the right time to elevate its image.

“I have always said to everybody in the company we’re not fashionable,” Reiss insists. “We understand that we sell products in the fashion marketplace, and our customers are fashionable people, but we ourselves aren’t a fashion brand. We’re the Land Rover of clothing.”

The humility of that idea is supported by Canada Goose’s emphasis on function and hard-wearing durability. Still, Reiss believes that function pushed far enough can become fashionable. Canada Goose’s past collaborations — with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Vetements, OVO, Opening Ceremony, Y/Project and Junya Watanabe — would certainly suggest as much. “And Haider sees it as well. He understands and embraces that we’re not a fashion brand, but we’re really connected about what Canada Goose can grow into.”

At which point, I might make my own suggestion: that Ackermann, with his track record of sumptuous fabrics, sensuous draping and razor-sharp silhouettes, presented in stately, emotion-drenched processions, is a choice so counterintuitive for a “Land Rover” brand that it borders on the perverse. My head swims with gorgeous visions of a sub-zero Scheherazade. Which would, of course, fit right in with the nature and trajectory of Ackermann’s career to date. But that assumption kind of short-changes Reiss’s own track record as a visionary of sorts.

“It took a long time to find the right person for this role,” he says. “To take something real and elevate it requires somebody who’s equally as authentic. And that’s what I saw: a shared passion for authenticity, for craftsmanship, for quality. Haider is uncompromising. He’s a perfectionist. He wants everything to be at the highest level, which is similar to us.”

Ackermann says he became aware of Canada Goose through Junya Watanabe’s collaborations, but he acknowledges that when he was first approached, he couldn’t see what his own fit with the brand might be. “Sometimes I like to go for the unexpected,” he says. “When I signed with Berluti, nobody would have expected me to touch classical menswear.” Likewise, his collaboration with athleisure giant Fila, which he now refers to as “a little appetiser” for his new gig. The haute couture collection he guest-designed for Jean Paul Gaultier was much more in character. But colour and cut were the threads that united all of Ackerman’s extra-curriculars, and there’s every reason to expect something similar at Canada Goose.

Deep dives in the brand archives have been a revelation for him. “The puffa coats back in the 60s were pink, orange, yellow, all kinds of colours. What’s in the shops now and what you had in the past, it’s just another world. And it was so technical.” The company was founded in 1957 as a supplier of winter workwear for the likes of policemen and park rangers, meaning there’s a wealth of utilitarian vintage waiting to be transfigured by a designer’s ingenious creativity. Ackermann says he’d like to bring a kind of beauty, a sense of elegance. And maybe some glamorous sportswear element? “No, no, no,” he counters. “I just want them to be desirable when you’re up Mount Everest.”

He hasn’t tried Everest yet, but he did experience another set of optimum conditions for Canada Goose when Reiss took him to sub-Arctic Churchill, Manitoba where Polar Bears International is headquartered. For 20 years, the NGO has fielded a roster of scientists, researchers and volunteers who are on the front line of the climate crisis. For 15 of those years, Canada Goose has been PBI’s biggest corporate supporter. The trip was another revelation for Ackermann. “Of course I knew all the environmental problems facing the planet, but I was busy with my little life. It was heartbreaking to see how much polar bears are the first ones to be affected by climate change, and what this means for us all.” He saw the bears, he met the scientists and the dog-mushers, and committed to being a part of a world that was new for him. On his next visit, he wants to go farther north, to Iqaluit, where he can meet with the Inuit. “They’re the people that I would like to listen to, to collaborate with, because they are the basis of this whole story. They know exactly which materials to use.”

Canada Goose is announcing Ackermann’s appointment with the launch of a special hoodie, the sales of which will raise money for PBI. (His first collection, at this point a capsule, will follow in the autumn). The designer was inspired by the success of the hoodie he created in 2021 with his friend Timothée Chalamet to raise money for Afghanistan Libre, an NGO which protects women’s and children’s rights. If PBI was an obvious choice of charity, his choice of spokesperson for the launch was less so. “Jane Fonda crossed my mind immediately. It was her and no one else. Who better than a woman arrested five times for her activism? She’s a true climate champion.” Ackermann didn’t know Fonda, but when they met up in LA, the time they spent together confirmed his decision. There’s something about Jane Fonda which makes the iconometer vibrate a little harder. “She resonates with people of all ages,” adds Reiss. “She likes things with purpose, and this will resonate around the world.”

Purpose resonates with Ackermann as well. “The world is so loud at the moment. Everybody’s screaming, not using their voices in a very good way. So to listen to those people who are very committed to confronting the problems is very helpful.” He imagines his own commitment adding something new to his life. “Now that I’m getting older, I need to breathe more than ever. I want to be more in nature than ever.”

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