Popular Toronto-based outerwear brand nobis (Latin for "us", spelled with a lower-case “n”) has opened its first North American flagship in Toronto, and it has plans to further expand its already successful wholesale operations. We spoke with Vice President Robin Yates to learn more about the company's plans for Canada, as well as its intentions to open free-standing stores internationally.
Mr. Yates founded nobis in 2007, and it quickly grew to become a lifestyle brand. The company is primarily known for its technical, functional and fashionable outerwear as well as headwear, knitwear and footwear. Remarkably, unlike competitors, its down-filled jackets are machine-washable. The company says that it embraces "the conviction that trends may come and go, but style, function and quality remain timeless". The brand is carried in various retailers in Canada including Holt Renfrew, Sport Chek, Boys'Co and Mendocino. American luxury retailer Neiman Marcus recently picked up the line for its U.S. stores, and nobis is now carried in about 40 countries.
The company's first North American flagship just opened at 360 Queen Street West in Toronto's popular Queen Street West area. The 3,000 square foot retail space was formerly occupied by French Connection, which has closed most of its Canadian stores. Having a dedicated storefront is strategic for the brand, according to HRC Advisory President Farla Efros. She explained how dedicated mono-brand boutiques allow owner/operators to create a unique customer experience through a more ‘hands-on’ approach, while controlling the brand message. She explained these boutiques create a strong testing mechanism to help understand what works and what doesn’t, while allowing the brand to build ‘street credibility’ before moving into the mainstream, which requires more diligence.
Prior to its Toronto store opening, nobis' only free-standing location was in Paris, France. Mr. Yates explained the company's ambitious international expansion plans, including how the brand intends to open free-standing stores in Milan, New York City, and in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as replace its current Paris flagship. The company will also expand its collection of shops-in-stores as well as its international wholesale accounts, as nobis is now available in over 40 countries. Mr. Yates explained that at the moment, the Toronto store is its only planned location for Canada, as nobis continues to foster careful and meaningful relationships with its Canadian wholesale accounts.