Inspired by the Great White North’s extreme weather, sisters Ashley McDonald and Jennifer Lancefield recognized a gap in the outerwear market: a lack of waterproof apparel that was both fashionable and functional. They launched Trout Rainwear in 2013 with a spring/summer collection that featured playful women’s jackets named after sub-species of trout: the Gila, a single-breasted, knee-length trench coat; the Humboldt, a nautical double-zip raincoat; and the Biwa, an oversized, reversible, double-breasted jacket, all designed in Toronto and manufactured in Vancouver. “We love the whole aspect of keeping it within Canada” says McDonald. “And our jackets are so easy to throw on top of anything and walk out of the house and feel good in.”
McDonald drew from her previous experience in the men’s buying departments at Selfridges and Holt Renfrew when creating Trout, taking inspiration from the small, lesser-known brands that lined each store’s shelves. She oversees operations, while Lancefield utilizes her experience in the music business to handle finance, sales, and marketing. The duo recruited long-time friend Sarah Hopgood, a graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, to be Trout’s head designer. Hopgood brings experience and expertise from Ports 1961, Hudson’s Bay, and Theory, so developing flattering cuts for Trout went swimmingly. Her penchant for oversized (and concealable) hoods, bulky collars, and long, slimming arms have now become part and parcel of the label’s persona. The team heat-seals the seams of their outerwear using waterproof polyurethane tape, and the jackets are made of a hydrophobic 60/40 double-faced cotton and Italian polyurethane blend, ensuring breathability.
Looking ahead to the spring and summer seasons, the team is casting a wider net with their first-ever menswear jacket, the Bull. The new style debuted in January and was accompanied by the child-sized Minnow, a reimagining of Trout’s best-selling Humboldt jacket, fit for a guppy. “We’re testing [the new lines] this year to see how it goes,” says McDonald. “We didn’t really want to start with a huge line of a million different pieces, we just wanted to simplify it, and see which direction we’d like to take it in.”
That slow, steady approach to growth has paid off. Trout has already developed a following in Asia, and McDonald is looking to partner with a major retailer in the United Kingdom and United States, and then tackle the European market too. At this rate, Trout Rainwear will soon outgrow its Canadian pond.