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How A Canadian Outerwear Brand Went Global While Staying True To Its Roots

Montreal is so integral to the mission and style of Mackage that it’s woven into the fabric of the company. Founder Eran Elfassy started the luxury outerwear brand at the age of 19 because he dared to ask why no brand had produced a fashionable and warm winter coat.

In Montreal’s bitter cold winter, shapeless jackets were the norm to keep warm. But the city is the fashion capital of Canada, so Eran had the idea to build a more flattering—yet functional—silhouette. “You don’t want to take it off,” Eran says. “It actually completes your outfit.”

Mackage became known for beautiful coats worn by celebrities like Meghan Markle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Madonna. More than 20 years after its launch, Mackage is still quintessentially Canadian while expanding into the global luxury fashion market. Ahead, Eran explains how the brand stays true to its roots.

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Embracing Montreal’s fashion style

Mackage’s first products were leather jackets, which is fitting since Canada has a long history of producing leather goods. In fact, Eran’s brothers ran a leather business before he started Mackage. 

And even as fashion trends come and go, Mackage still incorporates elements of what it does best. When leather was less popular, Mackage was one of the first outerwear companies to make jackets that combined both leather and wool.

A lot of people didn’t know what to make of Mackage’s designs early on. They’d never seen fabrics combined like that, and they couldn’t quite place where the designs came from. “What’s really interesting about Montreal is the fact that it’s probably one of the only cities in North America that still has a European look and taste to it,” Eran says. 

Innovating with fabrics

To make coats work for Montreal winters, Mackage had to invent new fabrics and techniques. When Eran was turned away from many factories that weren’t willing to try his ideas, he took matters into his own hands. “We built a little factory with just five people, two people specializing in leather, three people specializing in wool, and we started doing stuff that other people weren’t doing,” he says.

Eran found innovative uses for military-grade zippers for Mackage jackets. He figured out a way to make slim, tailored silhouettes with down insulation. “At Mackage, we invented so many things that people use today in the outerwear world that they don’t even know that they came from us. And I think it’s because we were daring to test stuff and to make mistakes,” Eran says.

Model wearing a long Mackage jacket
Mackage’s jackets accentuate the body, even when they incorporate bulkier fabrics for warmth. Mackage

Encouraging creativity

That culture of innovation was something Eran wanted to institute at every level of the company. He made transparency a priority and ensured everyone was involved in the creative process. 

For example, Eran had a wardrobe of jackets that anyone in the company could borrow from, as long as they replied to a survey. He even encouraged the staff to take the jackets on trips outside Canada and test them out in different climates. “From the accountant to legal to sales to shipping, everybody had the chance to test the jacket and give their feedback,” Eran says.

Making luxury affordable

The exterior of Mackage’s Paris retail location
Mackage has retail locations in some of the fashion capitals of the world, including Paris and New York. Mackage

“Our product was always luxury,” Eran says, citing the finishing, quality of materials, and research and development that goes into every piece. These days, the challenge is getting recognition for it, and getting a spot next to other luxury brands in retail stores.

One piece of that is pricing. “Coming from Montreal and being humble, I would say price point was very important for us,” Eran says. “We wanted to make sure people could afford it. So we said, ‘We’ll still make a luxury piece, but we’ll not necessarily charge the luxury price.’”

Even as Mackage expands internationally and becomes a globally recognized brand, Eran is committed to giving back to the customer and making a luxury jacket an experience that’s accessible to more people.

To learn more about Mackage’s plans to showcase Canadian designs to the rest of the world, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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