Update: Collection is live on the Canada Goose website. Shop now if you’re looking for the Expedition Parka ($1,795), Tundra Bib ($850), Signal Vest ($695), or Concord Fleece ($650). These collaborations tend to sell out quickly.
Before Salehe Bembury became one of the hottest names at the intersection of fashion, streetwear and footwear – hugely successful projects with brands ranging from Yeezy to Versace to New Balance will do – he was a fan of basketball. In fact, as Bembury explains via email, “the NBA has had a huge influence on my interest in design.” Listening during the still-experimental ’90s gave him an appreciation for exploration in all its forms. And this week, in collaboration with Canada Goose and the league that set him on the path he still follows to this day, Bembury releases a collection that pays homage to a golden age of NBA style while paying homage to getting out and looking for the new.
The collection, which debuts today and is available for purchase February 11, a week before the event it celebrates, All-Star Weekend, is the second installment of the NBA and Canada’s multi-year partnership. Goose, and includes four iconic Canada Goose pieces filtered through Bembury’s creative lens. The Expedition Parka, Concord Fleece, Signal Vest and Tundra Bib are all items that Bembury says “merge with Canada Goose DNA and embody the freedom of ’90s NBA style.”
I reached out to Bembury to get the full scoop on how the collab went, how he picked the styles he wanted to showcase, and what he plans to keep to himself.
Esquire: Why did you want to work with Canada Goose and the NBA on this project? How did you connect and what was the process of creating the collection like?
Salehe Bembury: Growing up in New York, there were always staple brands for specific items. It wasn’t always one brand, but a few brands that fell on a spectrum of value and prestige. Canada Goose has always been a staple brand that communicates quality and puts function first. Coming from an industrial design background and spending much of my time outdoors, it’s important that what I use and/or design performs to the highest standard.
The NBA has greatly influenced my interest in design. I grew up watching games with my dad and loved everything about ’90s basketball culture, from the Knicks ’94 to space jam and The Fresh Prince. The 90s was a time of fashion exploration, and that ethos is what I believe Canada Goose, the NBA and I captured with this collection.
I see these three brands – Canada Goose, the NBA and Salehe Bembury – intersecting because we all use “craft” to solve problems. I use my design ability to educate, give back and create products that bring joy to people. Canada Goose uses its long heritage of quality and function to solve all types of climates. The NBA uses the abilities of its athletes to give back and enrich communities around the world. None of these initiatives would be possible without the basis of each entity’s “business”.
I was very excited to reimagine some of Canada Goose’s iconic pieces through my lens while honoring the craftsmanship that made these styles so coveted. It’s always great to see conversations, ideas, and obstacles materialize into tangible product and content. The collaboration and the many hours spent working with the Canada Goose team have been very rewarding.
Esquire: How did you choose the four styles (parka, fleece, vest and bib) that you included in this collection? And how did you appropriate them, in terms of design?
SB: The collection was influenced by the bold and sometimes contrasting juxtapositions of patterns, silhouettes, materials and function embodied in ’90s NBA fashion. I scoured the Canada Goose archives to identify Canada Goose heritage styles to which I could apply iconic patterns and unexpected materials to merge with Canada Goose DNA and embody the freedom of 90s NBA style.
When selecting the pieces, I thought about style choices around the world; for example, the weather in Los Angeles may call for anything from a shirt to a hoodie or a heavy jacket. This change in temperature can occur from location or time of day. Often, one item of clothing is not enough for a full day in Los Angeles. The Expedition Parka’s removable vest and Tundra bib’s adjustable legs meet this need for customization for all-day wearability.
The Expedition Parka is a Canada Goose icon; I am extremely honored to be able to put my name on it. Style is reimagined with a removable vest for an expressive take on the icon. The decision to include a chenille collar on this style was to strike a balance between functionality and innovation. I spent a lot of time exploring which material would provide function and have a similar aesthetic that also embodies the theme of “play”.
Esquire: Speaking of “play,” the campaign theme for the collection is “Play Outdoors.” Can you tell me about this idea? How does this relate to the clothes themselves, as well as their presentation in pictures, and to All-Star Weekend?
SB: Canada Goose is a brand that empowers people to thrive and connect with the outside world, and “Play in the Open” is the invitation to explore, discover and play without judgement.
During a time when we were physically stagnant due to the pandemic, the outdoors has become a place of comfort for those near and far. Whether it’s hiking the Grand Canyon or simply taking a moment to breathe deeply at a local park, people are getting out. When a product can also motivate someone to do, go, or play, I believe said product achieves exponential value. It’s no different from a basketball sneaker that makes you feel like you can dive, or a designer heel that elevates your sense of femininity.
For me, “Play in the Open” is also a conversation of discovery through experience. With my design, I strive to create an experience. This is a constant variable that was initially unintended. The result of sharing my relationship with the outdoors, unknowingly began to create conversation and community.
We’ll physically bring the “Play in the Open” spirit to life at NBA Crossover in Cleveland during NBA All-Star 2022. Fans will have the chance to step into the limitless universe that Canada Goose and I have created through a recreation life-size of one of the scenes from the stop-motion animation “Play in the Open” [that’s part of the campaign]. They will be able to explore, discover and play through the experience.
Esquire: Is there anything from the collection that you plan to keep for yourself?
SB: I am very enthusiastic about the Expedition Parka. This is an iconic heritage style first developed for scientists working in extreme weather conditions, which has now been redesigned while respecting the original design but communicating it through a different lens.
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