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'I test product by sleeping on the ice at -40°C'

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As autumn product starts to arrive in stores, Drapers looks at a Canadian outerwear brand that is hoping to attract shoppers in the coming season.

Canadian outerwear brands are hot property in the premium and luxury world. As autumn collections start to arrive in stores, technical jackets and puffas are key buys for the coming season, and premium outerwear brand Nobis hopes to make an impact in the season ahead.

Former vice-president of Canada Goose Robin Yates founded Nobis in 2007, having left the previous year. With his new venture, he aimed to create functional, fashionable outerwear fusing technical investment and innovation with day-to-day wearability.

The brand has 1,000 stockists worldwide, 14 of which are in the UK, and include Harvey Nichols, Matchesfashion and Accent in Leeds.

“We really invest a great deal of time and effort into perfecting the foundation of the brand from a product perspective,” explains Yates. “Our point of difference is the level of investment in product quality, which we marry with a lifestyle feel.”

With all the products I’ve ever made, I’ve field tested them in the most critical environments to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do

Wholesale prices start at £125 for a women’s gilet and go up to £652 for a winter coat, and most of the core outerwear collection wholesales at between £306 and £548.

These premium prices are a reflection of the level of technical detail in the products. Yates highlights the brand’s use of 100% Canadian down, seam seal constructions to ensure complete waterproofing and breathable nylon linings as some of the key technical components.

“In Canada, we can experience four seasons in one day,” he says. “Nobis is constructed to adapt to that.”

He continues: “With all the products I’ve ever made, I’ve field tested them in the most critical environments to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do. I do crazy things in the outdoors: I go on snow mobiles at 200kmph and I test product by sleeping on the ice at -40°C.”

Easy clean

Alongside this extreme functionality, Nobis distinguishes itself with a focus on day-to-day practicality. Unlike the product of Nobis’s key competitors, Canada Goose and Moose Knuckles, the jackets can be washed at home.

“Home laundering is important to us,” says Yates. “Dry cleaning bills [for jackets] were excessive at my former brand, and I wanted to make sure the consumer didn’t have that. You save a couple of hundred dollars a season on the jacket.”

The collections are not trend led, but Yates says Nobis aims to create styles that are suitable for city wearing: “The same jacket that I snowmobile on – my Nobis Barry parka that has been washed about 50 times – I go shopping in it, I go out to dinner in it … it has appeal at that level, too.

“I really want people to say that they got great value in the product they purchase. The products have a solid life expectancy for quality and performance, and also from a fashion perspective.”

“We’re heritage driven, so we’re not super-risky in our trends. We have invested more in our fashion-forward lines because of consumer demand, but we expect those products to be wearable in two or three years and still be on point.”

Dale Allman, finance director of menswear independent Union 22, which is a stockist, says: “Nobis is a brand that is stepping above its competitors, and is at the forefront of this technical development producing jackets with high-performance fabrics and practical designs.

“We inform customers that Nobis jackets are waterproof. This may not seem like such a big selling point, but you would be surprised at the vast amount of fashion parkas that are only water resistant. The UK climate is a wet one and this is one thing when we tell customers that really takes them by surprise.” 

“As mobile technology advances, so do fashion and fabrics, Nobis is at the forefront of these advances which separates it from its competitors.”

Yates will not disclose turnover or profits, but says sales have grown by 40% over the past year.

The outerwear market is immensely crowded, and standing out is a tough task – especially in the face of big-budget brands with marketing money to splash. Nobis will have to rely on customers’ appreciation of its dedication to quality if it is to continue to gain ground in the sector.


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