Karuna Scheinfeld has served as vice president of design at the Toronto-based outdoor brand Canada Goose since August 2017. Prior to her joining the famed outwear company, whose parkas are as popular on city streets as they are in rugged outdoor exploration, she designed for Woolrich and Woolrich Italy. Here, she discusses the latest outdoor trends and the beauty of anti-cool.
Outdoor-inspired clothing tends to be rather traditional and doesn't embrace trends as much as pure-play fashion brands. How do you address this "delicate balance" when designing for Canada Goose? In other words, how much of a role do trends play in the collection?
We are, and will always be a function first brand, but that has never excluded great style. When you look at the history of outdoor and functional clothing, you find so many style icons who look amazing. At Canada Goose, we love the challenge of meeting the highest expectations of function as well as aesthetic. As for trend, we have an amazing history and archive, which we often turn to for inspiration. We are always able to pull something from the archive that looks really fresh and fits with a style we are seeing on the street. We start with our brand DNA and choose what is relevant in the moment that connects with how trend is moving and evolving.
What would you say are the top three trends in the outdoor sector currently?
Hi-vis color and trim is huge at the moment, its everywhere. We’re seeing a lot of safety yellow and orange as well as reflective and neon. We are also seeing some new creativity in outdoor that is influenced by the shoe/sneaker world. There is a lot of new use of knitted materials, and engineered functional design that mixes materials. Lastly, ’90s throwback. We’re seeing the ’90s aesthetic, which was rejected for a long time, make a comeback in outdoor. Specifically, oversized shapes and colorblocking are feeling really relevant still.
Do you ever encounter times when functionality and fashion are at odds? How do you resolve that?
I am a believer in anti-cool when it comes to outdoor style. My favorite thing about how outdoor style evolves is that it is born in function. So, if you need to wear your socks over your pant leg and under your sandals because of the bugs on your hike/paddle? I think that looks cool. If you are wearing a crazy color combination because you modified your climbing jacket and that’s the only color you had, then that’s cool. If you added a crazy hi-vis safety patch or tape on your clothes to make sure you are safe while you’re out doing something extreme, then that is what outdoor style is all about. Function and fashion are not at odds in outdoor–the outdoor aesthetic is born of function and then adopted by fashion.
How do you discover new technologies, fabrics, etc.?
We’re always working with fabric and yarn mills to see what the latest ideas and developments are. These relationships are crucial, and materials innovation is fundamental. I am that annoying designer who always wants to change what they are doing, make something new, take it to the next level, though I think our partners also often like the challenge.
Who is your/the Canada Goose "muse"?
We get a lot of inspiration from our “Goose People”: explorers, artists and scientists who exemplify the values of the brand and are doing groundbreaking work. Our most iconic styles were born out of the specific needs of people going to extreme places to do things that have never been done before and we still work that way.
There is a huge crossover/blurring of boundaries between outdoor and urban wear these days. Do you think the trend will continue?
Canada Goose was founded in Toronto in 1957 and we are still based here today. That conversation has been happening for more than 60 years! The exponential growth of the brand over the past decade has been directly related to the relationship between outdoor and urban. We make authentic product for the harshest environments, but many years ago people began to adapt its use in urban environments. This process of authenticity and adaptation is at the root of how we think about designing product. I don’t see this as a trend, but rather an ongoing push and pull towards the function people need and the new solutions we continue to innovate for them.
What are some of your favorite pieces in the current collection?
We’ve just presented our spring ’19 collection and we are really excited about bringing it to market. Some of the most exciting styles are the Field Poncho and the Seawolf Jacket from our rainwear category. From a design perspective both products reflect the deeper DNA of Canada Goose, but interpret that tradition through our rainwear. We are using a really beautiful functional fabric that we call TriDurance which is completely waterproof, highly breathable and allows you to completely forget you are in the middle of a downpour.
What is your creative approach/process to creating a new collection each season?
We believe in a bit of magic when it comes to design. At Canada Goose the design team spend time between seasons constantly collecting: everything from ideas to images, phrases, moments and stories from our work and travels. We come together for an intensive few days of putting all those ideas on the table. No matter how strange or weird, if someone on the team is drawn to it, we explore it.
What are the top things that will influence outdoor design in the next ten years in your opinion?
I think the number one thing is that the lines between everyday product and specialized product will continue to blur and cross-influence. When a product works really well, people find other uses for it, they begin to wear it for different activities and functions, and the user actually redefines the function. Breaking down those boundaries will continue to challenge us to design for more general use, while still holding the standards of more specific activity based design.
Apart from current trends, is there anyone who you would name as your ‘outdoor icon’?
It’s almost impossible to choose an icon when there are so many amazing people doing incredible things outdoors. I just had the pleasure of meeting wildlife cinematographer Sophie Darlington, who we’ve been outfitting for years, and had a lovely conversation about all of our product, from the HyBridge Lite to the Snow Mantra, that she has used and abused for the past decade. Seeing her work in Africa, Antarctica and throughout Europe and the UK was so inspiring. Her feedback was priceless.