Last month came the announcement that American heritage brand Woolrich has finalised a majority investment agreement with Luxembourg investment firm, L-GAM, to accelerate Woolrich’s international expansion project.
It signals the end of Woolrich long-term partner and shareholder WP Lavori’s involvement with Woolrich. Andrea Cané, who has been with WP Lavori, working across Woolrich and other heritage brands under license and distribution agreements for some 36 years, will now be the creative director of Woolrich exclusively in the new agreement with L-GAM, and Japanese group Goldwin Inc., which has also increased its shareholding in Woolrich. This is how Cané sees the whole new set-up working.
Why have you decided to leave WP Lavori and work solely as the creative director for Woolrich now it has been taken over by L-GAM?
The new direction of Woolrich needs 100% of my time and attention. The new investor and my shares in the company have helped me make this decision after 36 years of my career at WP Lavori. I will be splitting my time between Italy and the US, as I have done in the past year. A percentage of the shareholders are still from the original families in the US, and we do still make some wool products and blankets in Pennsylvania.
What can L-GAM bring to the table to accelerate Woolrich’s international expansion project?
The company has grown organically until now and we need to speed up our organisation to become an international company. L-GAM will help us to do this. They are helping us to organise the company to accomplish this goal both from a management organisation and also financially speaking.
What are the new international expansion plans for Woolrich?
The company needs to return to being relevant in North American and Anglo-Saxon markets as well as connecting with the Asian consumers, the most powerful in today’s apparel environment.
Do you intend to open new Woolrich stores in different countries?
We will continue our retail business in the UK and grow from 32 to 50 international stores, opening concessions and shop in shops.
As creative director, what direction are you looking to take the brand in?
We want to be considered as ‘modern authentic’. We need to be contemporary using our authentic DNA to continue to make what we define as ‘garments with a purpose’. We are the oldest American outdoor company still in business, going since 1830.
What can we expect that will be brand new for Woolrich for AW19?
For AW19 we will see our new design team release their first collection. We have just rebranded our logo with the help of New York design consultancy, Pentagram, and have started a new communication process with PR consultancy, Black Frame. The aim is to reclaim our ‘American Soul’ attitude, which is the angle of our new campaign.
Will Woolrich still be showing at Pitti Uomo now the ties with WP Lavori are no more?
Yes, we will be at Pitti, in the ‘Sala Ottagonale’ area for the first time. We need a bigger space to show all our changes. We will also show our outdoor collection developed by our Japanese partner, Goldwin, in the Pitti ‘I Go Out’ pavilion.
As Japanese group Goldwin has also now increased its shareholding in Woolrich, what will be the benefits of that?
From my point of view, Goldwin is a world leader in outdoor wear and a perfect partner for us to work with in relaunching and repositioning the outdoor side of the brand. It is very important for our brand strategy to have an outdoor line especially for North America, and not to forget our DNA in developing a suitable business for new shareholders.
What is the new ‘American Soul’ campaign all about?
The ‘American Soul’ campaign is about American attitudes, from music and the arts to sport. We want to explore the American soul of our brand through different communities that represent diversity, and highlight how they have influenced the world. Singer, rapper and song writer Lauryn Hill features in the new campaign.
Are you intending to increase your lifestyle offer across all categories and not just the outerwear that Woolrich is most famous for?
Woolrich is not only famous for outerwear, even if this will remain our core business. In the US and Canada we are also very well known as outdoor players. Last year, at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) bi-annual show on fashion in Manhattan, New York, we were actually mentioned more for our flannel shirts and over-shirts.
How do you intend to increase your appeal to the millennial generation?
The appeal will be the mix between the collaborations and the evolution of the core collection. For example, this year we developed two main projects, one with Aimé Leon Dore, a young cool brand based out of New York, which has a very unique aesthetic close to the Woolrich authentic DNA. Our other collaboration was with UK designer Jeff Griffin, who is more of an outdoor driven innovator. With Jeff we have envisioned specific projects, and this year was based on oversized genderless garments. Next year there will be something different again. Our collaborations will always influence our main collection.
How are you going to attract new customers who aren’t familiar with the brand and its rich history?
We are working very hard to recover our digital gap. The story telling behind Woolrich is not complicated because we have strong contents from our past that we can reinterpret.
Are there going to be any re-issued of iconic Woolrich products from the past for AW19?
The majority of the new collection is based on our archive. We are pushing our archive driven strategy both in terms of design and pattern. There is an updated replica of one of our first wool parka’s made with a new material, Loro Piana’s ‘Storm System’. There will also be many shirts and over-shirts based on our historical designs.