In a fashion landscape where the term heritage is constantly thrown around, the outerwear label Woolrich is its true embodiment. The purveyor, founded in Pennsylvania in 1830, has a storied history. Despite its rich past, Woolrich looks to the future to create the heritage of tomorrow with its designs. This past year alone, the label has partnered with brands like Aimé Leon Dore, Stüssy and N.HOOLYWOOD, and opened a new immersive flagship in New York City. To see how the brand is creating for a new generation, look no further than its latest selection of parkas, a series of cold weather garments that protect against the elements without skimping on style. A conversation with Woolrich’s creative director, Andrea Canè, reveals the deeper story behind the modern fashion house.
How would you describe the Woolrich ethos?
Our product philosophy is purposeful simplicity. Creating versatile products with purpose for the American outdoors has led to a “less is more” approach to design. This simplicity reflects the humble yet steadfast origins of our brand. Our position stems from the truth of our history and that history is centered on two primary components: our audience and their needs and the function of our products.
The heritage of a brand has the potential to change as it matures. How does Woolrich communicate its heritage to a younger generation without sacrificing the integrity of its roots?
As creative director of Woolrich, my goal is to create and convey a 360-degree experience. As America’s original outdoor clothing company, we have a rich and varied legacy that is constantly evolving to remain relevant: creating beauty through utility, and style through capability. Woolrich products are functional with an elevated sensibility. We make products that unlock the privilege of a life lived outdoors — in nature and urban environments — to enjoy the elements.
Our heritage is rooted in the optimism and unlimited potential within the dream of the American outdoors. We want to inspire our customers to see the world on their terms, with a brand and product that matches their ambitions.
Our heritage is rooted in the optimism and unlimited potential within the dream of the American outdoors.
What is the goal of Woolrich’s collaborations? For instance, why were the Aimé Leon Dore and Stüssy partnerships a fit with the brand?
Passion and energy is what drives us to create and it’s what we are looking for in our partners. Aimé Leon Dore and Stüssy often talk about America, but in different ways. The first is refreshing the 90s U.S. prep style with a low-profile amplification, letting the product talk for itself. With [Aimé Leon Dore founder and designer] Teddy Santis, it was simply a matter of a natural relationship that was born out of the similarities between my design point of view, his personal taste and company vision. With regards to Stüssy, this journey started with the iconic American wool as a blank canvas for the streetwear label. We share the starting point, developing garments with a purpose, from the workwear to the skateboard culture where the California-based brand has held its authority since 1980. At the heart of our product offering and design is stylish sensibility and durability.
How would you describe the audience that Woolrich designs for now?
Our audience is distinct: They are at the forefront of modern life. They are valued, principled, adventurous, ambitious and authentic. They are cultivated individuals with an artful sensibility and who possess optimistic integrity. They aim to be proficient and adept, and considered in everything they do including their approach to style and function.
The “American Soul Since 1830” campaign was a unique program in that Lauryn Hill became the first spokesperson for the imprint. Following this energy, in what ways is Woolrich considering the use of influencers and celebrities in the future?
Nowadays people need to be engaged: The consumers want to know more and more because they are aware and constantly targeted by lots of images. Woolrich has a history of almost 200 years and it has always been coherent with its soul — its American soul. That’s why we decided to have this special and extremely coherent testimonial, followed by emerging cinema stars Odessa Young and Hero-Fiennes Tiffin. Our tale is about integrity, purposefulness and individual expression, and we want to embrace a community of talented and energetic people.
Our tale is about integrity, purposefulness and individual expression, and we want to embrace a community of talented and energetic people.
Sustainability and pushing an eco-cognizant ethos in one’s own brand is becoming a hot topic amid contemporary culture. How is the brand integrating and pushing a sustainability focus in the future?
The world is going in a sustainable direction in order to help the environment as much as possible. Our major focus is to do products that “last forever” as our predecessor at Woolrich did it. When I go in our Woolrich archive and I see that there are 100 years old garments that could be still worn today, I think that this is the most sustainable act we have done.
This year we also developed a sustainable collection that is entirely focused on a circular economy which avoids wastefulness and supports sustainability, designed in collaboration with Griffin Studio, a UK-based experimentation hub part of the Loveland eco-retreat. It was created via a three-pronged approach: the application of a mix-and-match of dead stock fabrics on some articles, the development of a new fabric starting from recycled plastic bottles and a new dying technique without the use of water. During our last event in the new Soho flagship store, we brought an outdoor experience into an indoor space and then we kept all of the trees which we replanted close to NYC. On behalf of our attending guests, Woolrich has committed to plant 1,000+ tree seedlings throughout U.S. forests in need. Since we were born “into the wild,” we have a passionate duty to take care of surroundings, and we’ll act more and more to give to the planet a better tomorrow.
When I go in our Woolrich archive and I see that there are 100 years old garments that could be still worn today, I think that this is the most sustainable act we have done.
Woolrich’s SoHo store in many ways transcends the typical nature of retail. Why was it important to go beyond establishing just another retail space and offering an immersive experience?
The Soho store, designed by Andrea Caputo, shows both the Woolrich legacy and the modern proposition. This is entirely based on a modular concept where you can easily move displays and structures to transform the spaces, again focusing on the idea of adaptation. At the same time, it’s a warm and cozy boutique thanks to the use of wood elements and suggestive lighting. Versatility and flexibility play a primary role in the consumer experience, together with the Snow Room in which people can test the garments under extreme weather conditions and feel like they are in the middle of a real forest. And then, to complete the concept, a customization area for those who want to give personality to their items, and a restoring café area to give customers the chance to take a break. It’s definitely the materialization of a 5 senses stimulation and a habitat where we want to keep our consumers smiling.
In what ways is Woolrich looking to define itself in the coming years?
We believe in moving forward with purpose. When I met Woolrich in the early ‘80s the company was an “outerwear authority” for the industry, developing jackets and parkas for outdoor giants as L.L.Bean and Eddie Bauer. I think that we may play our role in the next future developing a full system of outerwear to serve today’s contemporary needs.
Head to the Woolrich website to shop this season’s assortment of parkas for men and women.