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Montreal-Based Fashion Brand Gorski Opens 1st Flagship Store with Plans for More: Interview/Photos

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After years of success following its inception in 1984, Montreal-based fashion brand Gorski has opened a new and its first flagship store in its hometown in the prestigious Westmount neighbourhood with plans to open more physical locations in the future.

The brand, established by Leonard Gorski and his wife Karin, designs, creates and distributes sustainable, natural fabrics focused on ethically-sourced luxury outerwear and accessories.

“Over the years we have built a significant business – most of it in the United States. We have presently over 30 shop-in-shops on the couture and designer floors of Nieman Marcus in the United States with a very substantial digital presence with Neiman Marcus also with Saks Fifth Avenue,” said Leonard Gorski.

Image: Gorski

The Nieman Marcus locations are on the same floor as such high profile brands as Chanel, Armani, Brunello Cucinelli.

“We are the only Canadian brand which has such a presence on the designer couture floor which is really reserved for what we call A-level brands – mostly European, a few American,” he said.

“Our headquarters have always been in Montreal even though my wife is American. My kids are American. We always felt as proud Canadians, proud Montrealers and we always made our styling design headquarters in Montreal even though 98 per cent of our business is outside of Canada.”

Gorski said the retailer has evolved from being simply an outerwear collection to today where it features a number of different collections which include apres-ski, cashmere and wool, shearling, fur, down-filled. The company began with a focus on the luxury fur fashion business which remains about 30 per cent of the overall business and a growing part of its business. 

The retailer also carries cool weather accessories and home decor selections.

Image: Gorski

The first flagship store in Montreal was opened last fall on 1355 Greene Avenue. 

“Retail is not dead. Actually retail is probably the most under focused. In other words, it’s an industry that probably is over-sold. So we decided to contribute to our community here. We decided to open our newer offices and headquarters on Greene Avenue, renovated an amazing building. After we started the revival, the revitalization, the street is coming back. We have an active merchants’ association which is being more active and more stores opening,” said Gorski.

“That’s our first store. With plans to expand to either purchase or merger and acquisition to Toronto, Vancouver in the next two to three years.”

The Montreal store and showroom is about 6,000 square feet.

Image: Gorski

“We see this as an evolution. We felt that we overlooked our own neighbourhood. We were extremely successful in the United States . . . So we always thought that somehow we wanted to look at our own neighbours . . . And we always thought that eventually we were going to open a flagship and when everybody thought that retail was dead forever we wanted to make a statement.”

With its presence in shop-in-shops the retailer is essentially in every important retail market in the United States. That concept is only with Nieman Marcus. But Gorski said the company also has a successful business relationship with Saks Fifth Avenue where it has produced for them certain collections.

Gorski is a strong supporter of the retail industry and optimistic of the future. Consumers like to have options today. The Gorski stores will be designed and built as part of the customer experience. They can shop in the stores or shop virtually. 

“The old term was online or e-commerce. The future of retail is the physical stores with v-commerce. V for virtual commerce. In other words, consumers in two, four or five years are not going to go with the static side which has a SKU with five pictures. There will be much more enriched visibility for the store with a virtual experience. We would like to be among the first ones in the world to employ the elevated customer service in the store with an elevated virtual experience if they do not want to or can’t come to the store so they can shop us virtually,” said Gorski.

Gorski has been featured over the years in fashion magazines such as Vogue, Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and W, Neiman Marcus legendary Christmas Book.

Gorski collections are now available at the new flagship on Greene Avenue in Westmount, Montreal, or online at  www.gorskimontreal.com – also the finest stores worldwide, including at Neiman Marcus stores across the United States, NeimanMarcus.com, BergdorfGoodman.com also a separate collection availed at Saks.com

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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