Tyler Hayward / Senior Photo Editor
Tyler Hayward / Senior Photo Editor

Chris Erl

The Silhouette

They are everywhere. Flocks of them, shuffling along snow-laden sidewalks, seemingly impervious to the trials of winter.

They are Canada Goose jackets, proud owners buried somewhere underneath layers of protection. Bulky yet functional, these jackets are both an assault on style and a comfortable addition to the winter wardrobe of Canadians. But what’s really behind that puffy outer shell?

Canada Goose jackets are lined with real down. This soft, fluffy material comes from either geese or ducks, and the company assures consumers that it is all ethically harvested. Simultaneously, it notes how the down that lines its jackets is never procured through ‘live-plucking’.

That soft fur that lines their hoods? It’s coyote fur. Real coyote fur. Canada Goose – the company that makes them, not a group of real Canadian Geese – defends their decision to use real fur as environmentally sound, and even takes a swipe at animal rights activists who would rather a synthetic fur be used for not realizing the ecological benefits of the real thing.

What goes into these jackets is a source of constant controversy. Even Justin Trudeau, son of the former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and current Liberal MP for Papineau, faced serious criticism in 2010 when his annual Christmas card featured a photo of his family, bundled up in Canada Goose parkas.

If even MPs aren’t spared critique over their donning of such controversial garb, how do students feel about these jackets? Ryan Sparrow, a second-year Labour Studies major, owns just such a parka. When asked to discuss his coat, he commented on how his particular jacket, a typical black variation of the company’s signature line, fit his wardrobe. “It’s stylish, warm and functional,” he said.

There exist some aesthetic benefits to the jacket as well, including numerous pockets. “It’s got a pocket on the inside, and areas just to keep your hands warm,” Sparrow noted, demonstrating the purely utilitarian aspects of the coat.

To the average owner of a Canada Goose jacket, functionality trumps all. Who could blame them, really? These pieces have such patriotic names as the “Banff Parka” and the “Calgary Jacket,” and are spotted on every major celebrity when they venture north of the 49th Parallel. The product tries very hard to capture the very essence of what it means to bundle-up in the depths of a Canadian winter. One might even be surprised to find out where they are made.

Big-ticket goods like Canada Goose jackets are normally made overseas and shipped to North American markets. When asked where he thought his coat was made, Sparrow provided an understandable response. “They’re probably produced in an export processing zone,” he mentioned, making reference to special areas in the global south where companies can produce goods without dealing with customs regulations.

Interestingly, Canada Goose jackets are made in Canada by unionized workers with the Workers United Union, Local 437. In fact, the union and company have currently begun negotiations for a new contract for workers at the company’s Toronto plant.

So what about those jackets that say “Made in China” on their label? Chances are, they are one of the hundreds of knock-off Canada Goose jackets floating around the internet and markets around the world.

Canada Goose even has a section of its website dedicated to ‘counterfeiting’ of their product. The site is hardly modest and calls on diligent consumers to watch out for products made illegally in Asia, with instructions for upright citizens on how to contact the RCMP if they suspect a site or store is dealing in faux-Canada Goose material.

There is even a portion of the site dedicated to naming and shaming sites that have been caught with knock-offs of the real thing.

At the end of the day, they are ugly but functional, made with real animal products but produced by unionized workers and are the source of constant critique and debate. All this nonsense about coats almost makes flying south for the winter seem like the only rational option.

 

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