Cold comforts

Shapeless, oversized coats are a thing of the past. Being warm no longer means sacrificing style.

It may be freezing outside but your fashion sense doesn’t have to plummet along with the temperature. You do your best in winter to kit yourself out in smart wool suits and boots that cleverly combine flair and tread, so top it off with the best winter coat possible.

By best we mean pretty darn pricey. “People are prepared to spend more than ever on something that’s warm but also fashion-forward,” says Marissa Freed, president of Freed & Freed, a coat design and manufacturing company in Winnipeg. “They’re looking at it more like an investment.”

Canada Goose red coat

With $1,000 the new price point for a toasty coat, the industry has become big business, and Canadian companies are taking the lead. Toronto-based Canada Goose opened a 96,000-sq.-ft. production facility in that city two years ago; last fall, Montreal-based Mackage opened two sizable stores in Toronto.

Demand for parkas drives this fashion category. “It’s become a trend, a staple,” says Mark Peros, owner and founder of Toronto- based CMFR Canada, which manufactures its parkas and leather coats in Winnipeg. “It’s become acceptable for a man in a suit to show up wearing a sleek-looking parka over it.”

The modern parka bears little resemblance to what Peros calls the “sleeping bag” shape of the outerwear of yesteryear. The Canada Goose look is bulky but fitted. CMFR and other brands use performance fabrics and minimal down filling for warmth with a trim silhouette.

To look fabulous arriving at a meeting or heading out at night, a parka will do — but a top-notch wool coat kills it. Canadian companies use performance fabric linings to make today’s dress coats not just pretty but warm. At Freed & Freed, removable inner vests offer extra insulation, so these investment coats can work for three seasons of the year.

When you shell out a grand for a coat, you’re not buying another one next year. Hence, fashion trends for coats move slowly. This year, fur (both faux and real) is huge, showing up in hood linings and on a sometimes dramatic lapel. Peros says coloured fur — including hot pink and blue — is a trend coming out of Europe you might see this winter.

For dressy coats, customers increasingly want interesting luxury fabrics, so expect alpaca-wool and wool-silk mixes, along with the usual wool-cashmere blends. Freed says coat lengths are dropping and her customers like a range of shapes, from the classic duffle with toggle buttons to oversized and shapely double-breasted coats.

Every year, coat manufacturers tempt customers with colour: you’ll see gray, red, olive and burgundy. “We make colours because you’re attracted to them on the rack,” says Peros. “But in the end people go with black, because it goes with everything.”