Mackage

Mackage is an outerwear company based in Montreal, Quebec. Founded in 1999 by designers Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan, the company has grown to become “one of the most prestigious contemporary outerwear brands in North America.” The founders say Mackage was created with the belief that outerwear is “an integral element of fashion. When the weather calls for layering, a coat isn’t just a part of an outfit — it becomes the outfit itself.”

Mackage coats are gorgeous, generally form-fitting, and have signature details such as big collars, leather belts, loops and epaulettes. They also have a distinctive fur #mackagecollar on the puffy winter coat collection they launched in 2006.

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Mackage Collar, courtesy mackage.com

What makes Mackage stand out?

Design and concept. The design of the coats and jackets includes fine tailoring, pleasing silhouettes, and stylish details. The coats and jackets fit beautifully.

Conceptually, they are the only Canadian brand that is well known in terms of stylish outerwear. Their philosophy that outerwear is “an integral element of fashion” sets them apart from other designers. As Canadians with four seasons and often harsh weather, we may think of coats and jackets as purely functional. But Mackage asks us to think differently. They combine function with fashion and they nail it. They focus mostly on leather and woollen coats, but they also manage to make puffy coats stylish. And that’s quite a feat.

Mackage also lends their coats to celebrities and influencers for special events. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, for example, was seen sporting a borrowed Mackage coat

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Sophie Gregoire Trudeau borrowed a Mackage coat for the funeral of Céline Dion’s husband René Angelil in 2016. Photo by Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

Unfortunately, while the company is Canadian and the designs are Canadian, Mackage coats are no longer manufactured in Canada. When I purchased my first Mackage coat in 2008, and my first sister-brand Soia and Kyo coat in 2007, they each proudly and prominently displayed tags which read “made in Canada.” When I purchased another Soia and Kyo coat in 2009 and another in 2013, the tags were more hidden and said “made in China.” The quality of the newer coats isn’t quite at the level of the older, Canadian coats, but they are still beautiful and a cut above most other outerwear options.

How do Mackage’s signature elements translate into their web and social media presence?

The title in the tab for the website is “luxury coats and jackets, outerwear.” It is a largely white website with black type and big photos. It is all about the clothing. Their menu items are atypical in that the winter coat section is called “Attack the Storm,” the current shop offerings are entitled “Fall/Winter’16” and the overall shop item is “Collections.” Words matter, and Mackage knows how to select the right messaging and framing to present their products as luxurious and fashionable.

Mackage’s Facebook account is “House of Mackage.” They are positioning themselves as much more than a coat designer/manufacturer; they are a design house. This positioning implies a level of prestige and fashionability. The photos on the page show us models in Mackage designs walking around Montreal or stomping across bridges or cobblestones in international locations. They are presenting themselves as designers on the international stage.

Their Twitter account is filled with images from Toronto’s fashion week, including high-end, custom-branded pastries and exquisite packaging. There are photos from happy customers at New York fashion week. This feed is all about fashion.

Mackage’s Instagram account includes many of the same photos found on the Facebook page, but also includes some “everything is hard before it becomes easy” type inspirational images. They are a design house as well as a “you go get it, girl” motivator. They are an example of what can be done when one thinks differently and pushes themselves outside of the ordinary.

What can we learn from Mackage?

The “why” behind a brand is imperative. The founders began their company with a clear concept based on the belief that outerwear should be a key component of fashion. They appealed to women who shared that philosophy and then grew to share that concept with men and women across the world. They developed designs that stand out and look luxurious – even if they cost less than $1,000. Affordable luxury is a growing market interest, and Mackage is at the forefront in Canada.

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Hudson’s Bay Company Collection

The Hudson’s Bay Company Collection is all about the stripes. The iconic green, red, gold and navy striped blanket is the timeless centrepiece of the HBC Collection. I can’t think of another homeware that is more Canadian. Can you?

The HBC Collection has grown from the high-quality woollen blankets (made in England – not in Canada, sadly) to include clothing, linens, home and outdoor accessories, and even furniture.

It takes serious restraint to refrain from decking out the entire cabin/cottage/camp with all of the HBC goodies. They are crisp, stylish Canadian classics.

What makes the HBC Collection stand out?

The iconic striped quartet is a signature element, of course. In terms of a recognizable Canadian design, there is nothing else quite like it.

Even though the majority of the HBC Collection goods are not made in Canada (ugh), there are some pieces that are made here, including the new line of furniture. Gorgeous. Want. Need. Despite the sweaters and blankets and other popular items being made in other parts of the world, we still perceive this brand as being quintessentially Canadian. That is a major achievement and is partially a result of the company’s long history and legacy in Canada. HBC began as a fur trading operation in 1670, and touts themselves as “Canada’s merchants since 1670.”

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HBC Collection Point Blanket, courtesy thebay.com

How do HBC’s signature elements translate into their web and social media presence?

The HBC website allows the products to speak for themselves. They use banners featuring new products or quotes from pleased customers to headline the web pages.

The cover photo for HBC’s Facebook page is the iconic stripes, and gorgeous photos of Canada are posted throughout their newsfeed. They are selling a crisp, clean, classic version of Canada, and it is very appealing.

On HBC’s Twitter feed, there are posts about Team Canada, snow days and the Trans-Canada Trail. Again, very Canadian.

Their Instagram account is more fashion driven than their other social channels, and they describe themselves as “Canada’s destination for fashion, beauty and home.” Many of the images are of models wearing HBC clothing in picturesque Canadian locales.

What can we learn from HBC?

In all of HBC’s web and social channels, it’s all about Canada. Their brand is Canada. They infuse that sense of national pride into their products and their promotion. They’ve identified essential elements of what it means to be Canadian – including geography, environment and culture – and translated those elements into their products, marketing and communications. They are branding Canada with their products.

Indigo

I love books and lattes. I love stationary and giftware. I love home decor and seasonal accoutrements. I love shopping at Indigo.

Where else can you sip on a hot beverage, stroll through aisles of magazines, books, toys, notebooks, greeting cards, cocktail accessories, fine chocolates, cozy blankets and throw pillows? Where else can you find a lovely, quality gift for a colleague or for your mom? And if you really want to, you can also smell delicious candles, peruse playful purses, and try on stylish cashmere-blend scarves. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?

Actually, I do want more. I want to shop for furniture and party supplies. Aside from clothing and shoes, they’re my favourite product categories. Indigo doesn’t carry these product categories in their stores, but they do offer limited furniture and partyware online. Naturally. Thankfully.

Indigo came into the Canadian marketplace in 1996, founded by Heather Reisman, chair and CEO. Coles, W.H. Smith and Smithbooks were its predecessors, with Chapters Inc. being born in 1995 and Indigo launching a year later.

Indigo is Canada’s largest book, gift and specialty toy retailer. According to the Indigo website, the company was “conceived as a booklover’s cultural department store and aims to consistently provide the most inspiring, richly stocked and inviting retail environment in the world.” I think they’ve nailed it.

What makes Indigo stand out?

Indigo carries an astounding collection of books and on-trend gift and homewares. They carry hot brands (e.g. Kate Spade New York, Sugar Paper, Rifle Paper Co., Umbra, Owen & Fred, etc.) that can’t be bought together anywhere else, and they have their own exclusive, in-house line of products that are contemporary, stylish and irresistible. For me anyway. Can’t get enough.

The in-store experience is relaxed and visually beautiful, and online shopping experience is easy, customizable (great wish lists and gift lists), and cost-saving. The online deals are fantastic, and orders over $25 have free shipping. The best.

How do Indigo’s signature elements translate into their web and social media presence?

Much like the physical store, the online shop has clearly demarcated product categories, and makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. You can look through the sale items, shop your favourite categories and brands, all the while collecting items in your virtual shopping cart or adding them to your wish list or gift lists. It’s easy, visually enticing, and hassle-free. Everything shopping should be.

Indigo’s website includes a great deal of white space. It is a design dream: clean, clear, allowing colours and designs to really pop. Everything is sorted into neat, tidy squares or rectangles. Indigo’s social media channels tie in nicely with the website experience, using the same iconography, fonts, colours and styling. Their Facebook page is great for following sales, special offers and new product releases. Their Instagram account gives us a glimpse into the sort of life we may wish to live. A woman in a cozy sweater is sipping hot tea from a lovely mug, eating fresh berries from a beautiful bowl, and reading the latest, hottest fiction in paperback. Looks and sounds like a great Sunday morning.

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Indigo’s Pinterest account separates those on your gift list into boards (i.e. Gifts for Her; Gifts for Him; For Baby; etc.), and includes boards for “The Foodie,” “The Romantic,” “The Globetrotter” and more. It’s all about the life one desires and the accessories one needs to make those dreams become – or , at least, seem – real.

What can we learn from Indigo?

Indigo knows their audience. They have honed in on their target markets and done everything in their power to anticipate their needs and cater to them. They have created a highly successful lifestyle brand and huge suite of products that appeal largely to women 25-55. I would image they have determined very specific details about their target markets and developed personae for them. They know who they are selling to and they are killing it.