Mackage, the Canadian outerwear brand that now does much more, presented during Toronto Fashion Week in early March. I flew in JUST for the show! It was perhaps the biggest show of the event—so many coats, so many looks (including the debut of the company’s ready-to-wear line). The carnival-themed after party was fun (partially because we didn’t realize that the snow cones were spiked?), but even more enjoyable was sitting down for lunch the next day with the duo behind this outwear powerhouse, Eran Elfassy and (a very pregnant) Elisa Dahan.
These childhood friends could not be more charming. Eran is soft spoken and serious. Elisa is bubbly, carefree and can’t help but bring smiles to the entire lunch table (she has a heavy French accent that she can’t detect—how cute?). They claim to be opposites that bicker like a married couple, but it’s clear that they’ve stricken a perfect balance, giving the coat market something really great: The idea that outerwear shouldn’t be something you immediately want to "check."
They’ve forced the mass market coat industry to step it up—or get out of the game. Really!
Over Niçoise and some very lovely desserts, we chatted more about that.
I love the quilting on your men’s leather jacket. Is that style made for women?
Buyers were telling us that it didn’t sell. Whatever you see in magazines doesn’t really sell. That’s what they tell us. Even if we want to go wild, we can’t because they don’t sell. Sometimes we just do it for the fun of it. For the pleasure. One of the biggest challenges is doing what you want and catering to the buyers. We are known to say no.
What things do they ask you to do that you don’t want to do?
Department stores often want certain types of jackets that don’t fit with our line.
Who do you design your coats for?
A sexy lady that doesn’t care, but cares at the same time. She’s a powerful girl. She likes dressing, but not dressing up too much. It’s something that you throw on and it makes you look good. When we started, we thought, “What do you see first? Your coat, your bag, your shoes.” Back in the day, we didn’t like coats. It was always the same, classic, ugly coat. We wanted to make fashion coats that people would want to wear. Now people keep their coat on for the longest time. Before people were running to the coat check or even leaving them in their cars.
Is the unseasonably warm weather a concern for the coat industry?
A lot of companies are having trouble making coats for the masses. And they said the reason they’re closing is because of companies like Mackage. People don’t want to own coats just to throw on. We are making fashion coats—something that you need and want as much as you’d want a nice purse.
Was it hard to make the switch to ready-to-wear?
It’s a lot of learning all over again. Coats are one of the hardest things to design because there are so many elements. We know coats so well. Clothing is more difficult—not the design aspect—but the quantities. It’s so hard. We have a sample room, so we can do what we want for the fun of it. We don’t have the right quantities yet.
Going forward, where do you see the collection going?
We want to do accessories, handbags, shoes. We are only two people designing everything, so it’s hard. The ready-to-wear is already a lot of work, but we definitely want to make everything.
The pieces for fall look GREAT (peep it on their site), but until then you can buy the entire spring Mackage collection at their flagship store at 123 Mercer Street in SoHo! Shopping tip: the leather pants are as cool as the coats.
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