According to Will Poho, the meaning of life has 4 stages: 1) Learn something; 2) Apply what you learned; 3) Feel good about it; and 4) Repeat.
1) Learn: After working by selling fabric-cutting machines to fashion manufacturers, Will enrolled in a Master’s Degree program in fashion management at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He learned that the global perception of Canada was wildlife, the rural outdoors, and cold. Following that stereotype, countries such as Korea and China looked to Canada for how to dress for snow. As a result, Canadian jackets, specifically parkas, were thriving on the global scale.
2) Apply: Studying this trend, Will noticed a gap in the market. Nobody was selling Canadian parkas in Canada. After graduation, using his sense of humour as a marketing tool, he started the brand Moose Knuckles and designed parkas to be sold in Canada. But as a recent graduate with no experience, nobody would take a chance on him. To stay afloat, Will accepted other fashion contracts.
All the while, Moose Knuckles continued to design clothing. His plaid shirt design saw some success when he gave samples to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip and Dallas Green of City and Colour to wear in a music video. However, his central piece, the parka, was still having trouble finding a manufacturer to produce them and a store to sell them.
Eventually, Will found a mom-and-pop shop in Winnipeg willing that would make his jackets. He called department stores such as Holt Renfrew to sell them, but was met with rejection. He called again. Rejection. After a year, Will was still holding on to his parkas with no place to sell them.
3) Feel Good: Will got a call from Gord Downie’s manager saying that Gord’s favourite shirt is the Moose Knuckles plaid shirt that was given to him at the video shoot. He wears it on tour almost every night. We need more.
As a “thank you,” Gord asked Will if he could do anything for him, perhaps an autograph or a picture. Instead, Will asked Gord to call Holt Renfrew on his behalf. Begrudgingly, Gord called the VP of Sales at Holt’s. Unsurprisingly, they took his call, which got Moose Knuckles in the store.
After Moose Knuckles jackets hit the floor at Holt’s, Will went to check them out. To his dismay, they weren’t there. They weren’t in the back. They weren’t anywhere. Will called his contact and claimed that he was “out to get him.” A bit of research revealed that the jackets had sold out. Holt’s “re-upped” their order. They sold out again.
From there, stores accepted Will Poho and the Moose Knuckles brand with open arms. He partnered with the Levy Group, a leader in the fashion industry, and took the brand global. Moose Knuckles parkas are now sold in 30 countries worldwide. And in August 2013, they opened their first four independent stores, located in Korea.
4) Repeat: After creating the brand Moose Knuckles, seeing it through to success, and feeling good about it, Will Poho is stepping down as President in December 2013 and into the role of Founder Ad Creative Director. He is looking for his next project and learning to start again.
WORDS: BRIAN SWEIGMAN