The Interview: Ed Jefferson, co-founder and Creative Director, Arctic Army
There’s a new outerwear brand in town called Arctic Army that’s a bit more bling and a bit more street than your average Canada Goose offer – influenced by 1990’s rap and R&B culture – and courtesy of its two founders, Ed Jefferson and Paul Waite, who come from a background in costume design and crystal sculpture. Jefferson tells us all about it.
When did you launch Arctic Army and what’s your background prior to starting it?
It was founded by Paul Waite and myself in 2016. With over 25 years of experience in design, both in costume and crystal sculpture, Paul and I began creating unique outerwear collections injected with bold colour and print. The team has grown considerably from a team of three to 15 in the last year.
Where are you based and where does the Arctic Army name originate from?
Our new HQ is based in Bristol and we are soon to be opening a London office. We spent last year investing in the company, building our dream head office, our own warehouse distribution as well as a luxury in-house studio where we create all our creative content. We wanted our HQ to reflect our brand and the extra level we go to with branding is significant, from our lavish neon art installations to our own branded water. We want every person who enters the building to appreciate the level of attention to detail we go to, and embrace who we are as a brand.
The name "Arctic Army" creates an institution where our customers feel a sense of belonging. They can “join the arctic army”. With our principal product being the highly influential flight jacket, and with the soldier beetle logo reminiscent of a uniform badge, our followers are instantly recognisable. “Our army”, as we call them, have the tenacity to be style leaders and stand out from the crowd.
Who is designing it and how would you best describe it?
It’s designed by Paul and myself. We are co-founders and both creative directors for the brand. Arctic Army is streetwear-infused outerwear. We wanted to create something fun and bold - something you would see in a music video or on the most fabulous ski slopes in the world, but also something that works on the streets of London. It’s for people who want to be noticed when they walk in the room.
Who is the real target market?
A luxe fashion forward consumer. Our products our available for both men and women with an emphasis on unisex style. We love adding a pink colourway for both men and women, as we both think the concept of colours and styles being gender specific is antiquated. Regarding sales, the divide is almost exactly 50/50 men’s to women’s.
What are the key pieces for this AW20 season and going in to SS21?
Our standout pieces are the iconic bomber and new puffer jacket, with oversized trims as well as the non-fur counterpart. Our arctic doe print was our signature fashion print of the season. We also love creating fur textured prints, as it’s like nature’s camouflage. We like to offer a new print every season. For SS21 we are presenting our first jersey collection, a range of T-shirts, sweaters and hoodies emblazoned with prints designed in-house, including our new puffer bear mascot.
What are the current best sellers?
After introducing the new high volume RDS down filled puffer for AW20, this has fast become the best seller across menswear and womenswear. Followed closely by our iconic bomber jacket.
What are the price points?
Our jackets range from £495 to £795. Even though we are luxury, we like to keep our prices accessible. For luxury outerwear we feel we are priced very well.
What’s the real appeal of the brand and the look?
Inspired by the glamorous muses of the 90’s rap and R&B culture, the brand focuses on statement pieces, attention to detail and tailoring and over-the-top silhouettes. Big fur trims, big logos and bold colours.
Is it just direct to consumer for the time being?
Currently we’re direct to consumer only, however we are beginning wholesale for AW21. We have some very exciting accounts already lined up that can’t be mentioned as yet. Keeping the exclusivity is key for us.
What brands does Arctic Army sit best with and who are your target wholesale accounts?
With a supercharged aesthetic and fresh energy towards the outerwear and street style categories, our ideal adjacencies would be brands like Palm Angels, DSquared2 and Moncler. For us, wholesale targets going forward include Harrods, Selfridges, Cricket, Flannels, 18 Montrose and End, hopefully by the end of 2021. Top accounts.
What business problems have you faced and overcome in 2020 given the coronavirus pandemic?
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for people which had a significant effect on all businesses. What it helped to underline for us as a brand and company, is the need to ensure we have stability and a sensible growth path for the future. It really highlights that you can never be certain of events and the economy, so we sought to ensure our business was well backed for the next stage of our journey. We have therefore not just sought to finance the business correctly, but selected a strategic partner that can help us to grow organically and expand our wholesale business rapidly within our core market.
How has the brand been performing this year?
We have had a good year considering the current climate. While we have traditionally been a winter brand, we have begun to increase our range to allow it to perform all year around, particularly expanding in to wholesale.
What’s your outlook for the future, heading in to 2021?
The brand is in a good position, especially now properly launching wholesale after having trialled it last year. We anticipate strong growth in customer recognition. We have also started working with a new PR agency, Present Agency, and have some really exciting prospects for the new year. For us, to be able to grow the product range is the most exciting element, and to see more and more customers become part of our Arctic Army.
What are new the luxury Swarovski crystal embellished products all about?
We wanted to create some totally bespoke creations as an homage to our costume design background. Each coat has been hand encrusted with over 90,000 Swarovski crystals and form part of our “Out-Couture” capsule collection. Currently not available for retail, the collection is intended for music videos, editorial shoots and celebrity events. But, if a customer did want a bespoke piece, then it’s something that could be arranged. However, the price is something we cannot discuss, but they can run up to five figures.
Do you have any plans to have your own retail store?
We fully plan to open a flagship store in London in the future, however, Covid has slowed things down for sure when it comes to that conversation. We intend to make this a global brand with stores worldwide.
What else can we expect that will be new from Arctic Army going forward?
At Arctic Army we are always looking to use the most innovative design techniques and interesting fabrics to create unique pieces that aren’t available from other brands. Even though we consciously use certificated SAGA fur, we understand the need to grow our non-fur category and we are looking to grow this to 40% of the collection by AW21. We will also be expanding our accessories and streetwear offering, including our luxury sports wear and jersey.
How big a part does social media play in getting your brand "out there"?
We started out selling our coats through Instagram, so we understand the huge importance of social media. Apart from staying relevant, it is a vital tool for remarketing and it allows us to showcase our highly creative campaigns and introduce new product to our almost 80k followers.
Do you use influencers?
We love working with influencers. It’s a great way to work with people who love the brand and share the same brand values as Arctic Army. It’s always nice to see our product used in more organic real-life situations. We work with some amazing influencers, such as @zoomthashit, @Dbzdutch and @jam_illa, all with significant followings.
What are the brand’s sustainability credentials?
We have a great social responsibility to use certificated resources. Using RDS down and SAGA fur we know that our trims and fillings come from animals whose health and welfare is of upmost importance. We have a policy of "no wild caught fur". We are also launching our new SS21 range of products, which include "earth positive" cottons and plastic free prints.