Luxury outerwear brand Moose Knuckles, based in Montreal, has opened its first U.S. store in the heart of Soho in New York City as the retailer continues to experience tremendous growth in its brand internationally.
“In today’s retail landscape, it’s vital for us to have a direct connection with our consumers. We couldn’t have chosen a better space to open our first U.S. store. This city embodies what Moose Knuckles is about. It’s raw, it’s real and one of a kind. We’re thrilled to have consumers enjoy the Moose Knuckles universe in real life,” said Ayal Twik, the company’s co-CEO, about the 3,500- square-foot flagship store.
The store is located at 57 Greene Street.
“Canadian outerwear is doing really well internationally. We were really fortunate to hit this moment where outerwear – luxury outerwear – has become the new handbag. So it becomes a status symbol. Something you can wear every day. There’s a lot of use per wear,” added Twik. “Canadian outerwear is hot.
“We have a young demographic. We’ve always taken the approach that we never want to sell. We always just want to release fun and entertaining content, messages that resonate with our customer and if our customer wants to buy then great. If not, that’s okay too. Fashion, especially luxury fashion, can be a very pretentious, serious business and we always just wanted to have a good time, have fun, make fun of things, make fun of ourselves, and really just do things that made us happy as owners and as employees. I think that message really resonated.”
While the company’s product has a utilitarian function, Twik said one of the keys to the retailer’s success is spending time, effort and money being fashion forward – “taking a down filled coat, which is often not very flattering, and made it really sexy and flattering.”
The company opened a store two years ago in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. It also has two outlet locations – one at the Premium Outlets Montreal in Mirabel, and one at the Outlet Collections Niagara near Niagara Falls.
Twik said the New York store “is really unlike any store that anybody has ever seen. You have to see it to believe it.” The retailer said the store in New York will focus on the brand’s signature collections, but consumers will also be able to shop the complete range of products within the boutique’s unique and immersive retail space.
“Prominently located in the heart of Soho, the new boutique draws inspiration from the brand’s exuberant yet sophisticated aesthetic and blends distinguishable architecture into a surreal retail experience. Bespoke grain wood tiles, reclaimed cast-iron columns, and original and reproduced eye-popping installations including a two-storey Rube Goldberg-inspired kinetic-fixture—comprised of hockey sticks, Newton’s 8-ball cradle, and railcar tracks— characterize a mind-bending visual experience, transporting consumers into Moose Knuckles’ grandeur universe,” said the retailer.
“On the ground level, the boutique is fronted by custom gold glass, mirror polished stainless steel, a multi-level screen erected to the right of the store showcasing a live stream of the northern lights, and refurbished architectural elements bringing Architect Steve O’Neil of O’Neil Langan Architects, raw yet polish vision to life. The interior is defined by an intricate custom plaster displaying a birds-eye view of glaciers from above; epitomizing the brand’s view on the outdoors. Custom display vitrines throughout, house various product categories and create a story around every corner.
“The bold backdrop serves as a canvas to showcase the brand’s statement men’s, women’s and kid’s lifestyle collections including the mainline and fashion. In the cellar level, past heavy curtains in the vestibule, Moose’s invite only, VIP room is a sensual wonderland, a haven with red velvet walls, luxe fabrics and fine upholstery.”
Recently, Twik and co-CEO Noah Stern, were named this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Québec winners.
Since 1921, Stern’s well-known coat manufacturing family has been protecting Canadians from the cold — a relentless quest that inspired Noah to team up with Ayal to start their own company in 2007, said EY in a press release.
Moose Knuckles Canada was founded in 2009 in Montreal.
From a modest start of three employees and an order book of 350 coats for a single Canadian customer, Noah and Ayal now employ over 200 people spread between offices in Montréal, Toronto, New York and Milan, and are carried by luxury retailers in more than 25 countries, said EY.
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“Noah and Ayal paved their own way to the top of the outerwear market by never wavering on quality make and materials at a competitive price for their customers,” says Luc Charbonneau, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Québec Program Co-Director. “Their unique perspective and style has built a strong brand and international success. We’re proud to celebrate these two unstoppable entrepreneurs.”
Twik said what really propelled the company’s growth was when it started getting in organically with the Korean community in Toronto. Korean youth started wearing the Moose Knuckles jacket. Within a year or two, the company was getting many calls from stores in Korea trying to get access to the brand.
“We had no idea. We had no illusions of exploring outside of Canada. We didn’t know what we were doing at the time but that kind of motivated us to expand internationally. So we started to sell in Korea. Now we have 20 concessions inside Korea. Korea is one of our biggest markets and unbeknownst to us Korean celebrity culture is followed very closely by other Asian countries, especially China,” said Twik.
“So a lot of Korean celebrities were wearing our stuff, and then in China a lot of Chinese kids started wearing it and we got a lot of demand. A third of luxury products worldwide are purchased by Chinese either in China or outside of China. And so that really fuelled our growth, gave us the confidence and now we’re sold internationally on a wholesale model in all the best stores around the world including obviously Holt Renfrew in Canada and Sporting Life but also in the U.S. like Nieman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. In Europe at Selfridges, Harrods, Le Bon Marché and others.
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“Really all the top luxury stores worldwide. Only a few years ago did we expand into the U.S. We have an office now in New York. We have an office now in Milan that serves the European and Asian business. And we’re just growing very quickly. We’re growing at 70-80 per cent a year. It’s been really exciting. Trying to keep up with the growth has been our biggest challenge.”
Andrea Elliott, head of stores for the company, said the retailer will be looking at any of the major markets in Canada for future store expansion where the product will resonate.
“We don’t have a disclosed list at this moment, but we are looking at cities like Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver,” she said. “We’ll do the same in the United States and we will also do the same in Europe.”
Twik said there are many cities that want the Moose Knuckles product. There is a demand across Canada and it’s just a question of the company finding the right real estate and the timing to do it efficiently.
“We plan on it. We can’t open all the locations that everyone wants us to open. It’s just not physically possible at one time,” he said.