Maine might not be Canadian technically speaking, but sat just the other side of the border and known for its rugged landscape, sweet maple syrup and black bears, it’s about as close as you will get. And now this stunning USA province shares another common element with us, L.L. Bean. Yes, L.L. Bean opened their first Canadian flagship store in Oakville, Ontario, last week, a store that will hopefully be the first of many
Stick to your guns – the revolutionary hunting boot
First established 1912 in Freeport, Maine U.S.A. L.L. Bean began as a single line retailer, specializing in a unique boot design that Bean primarily sold to hunters. Combining a rubber foot with a lightweight leather upper, Leon Lyonwood Bean who, for no obvious reason, later changed his name to Leon Leonwood Bean, revolutionized leather footwear within the Outdoor Market. Up until then, boot-makers typically used leather for both the upper and lower parts, and as a result, the final product often leaked thus became uncomfortable for hunters to use day after day. It wasn’t all plain sailing however and 90% of L.L. Bean’s revolutionary boots were returned within the first year of retail, albeit, with surprisingly good feedback. Well, that is to say, the boots were fantastic, until they fell apart.
With this, one of LL Bean’s main principles arose, and sticking to his initial design, he set out to develop and produce sustainable products of the highest quality and good value. The development phase obviously needed a little more work on this occasion, but with a few tweaks LL Bean launched a boot that was fondly known as the duck boot. Recognized as the best of its kind, arguably it continues to be hailed as such.
The Best of Bean
L.L. Bean have curated an assortment of products for their Canadian store/s specifically, the Best of Bean you might say. A selection that was relatively easy to make given the similarities between Ontario and their hometown of Freeport, Maine, U.S.A. With over 23000 skews to choose from, L.L.Bean have bought their home and hard-goods into the spotlight and will, no doubt, continue to expand as they become more familiar with the Canadian market.
With plenty of signage from The Q.E.W, the Flagship Canadian store is easy find, and just as easy to navigate once you are welcomed inside. One side of the store is dedicated to the women’s clothing and footwear for both genders, and the kids clothing and school essentials are nestled in with the men’s clothing opposite.
Get the Look
The male and female ranges are further filtered into 3 main looks; Classic, Rugged, and the L.L. Bean signature line, which sits somewhere between the two, a finer rugged look with elevated fabrics and style, you might say.
Standing out from the ‘Rugged’ line are the soft materials and beautiful tartan designs of L.L. Bean’s flannel shirts. Traditionally tartans were worn by the highlanders to represent clans and their septs and were often used to define a clan’s political position or class as those could afford brighter fabrics and imported dyes boasted more elaborate colours and designs. More in the interest of fashion than any political agenda, L.L Bean have registered their plaid with the Scottish Register of Tartans and have even added a few of their own, L.L.Bean tartans.
In comparison, the Signature line offers a more modern, finer look but still somewhat rugged and so bridges the rugged and classic ranges. The slimmest fit of all three lines, the Signature range is still generous in size and offers a comfortable but classic look.
Sat within the signature range are the ever popular ultra-light down jackets. All produced from 100% recycled nylon, and packable for easy use, the jackets come in a range of sizes and densities. Already a big hit for L.L. Bean, the down in the jackets has been increased by a whopping 14% to offer the consumer a warmer jacket at the same price as the original lighter version.
The three main lines, Rugged, Classic and Signature, are complemented with the Archive range, my personal favourite. Here L.L. Bean have resurrected a few ‘vintage’ items, and in doing so have updated the fabric and or technology inline with today’s range whilst maintaining that retro feel. The pieces within the archive range can be recognised by the wonderful Katahdin logo that has been taken directly from the 80’s, as well as their distinctive vintage style, of course.
The range ties in very well with one of the feature walls within the flagship Canadian store. This feature depicts the history of the brand and showcases the True Wardens Coat and Continental rucksack, both of which have been updated with modern fabrics whilst maintaining the traditional vintage detail in the pockets and other features, as suggested.
Talking of bags, L.L. Bean have everything from college packs, and duffels to tote bags and an extended travel range. The tote bags, in particular, catch my eye and have a particularly compelling history. Made in Maine Brunswick the design popped up when the workers were changing the Factory belt and suggested they use the ‘waste’ material to produce a range of bags. These were later known as L.L. Bean’s Boat bags; strong, durable, stylish and beautifully made, they can apparently carry 500lbs or more.
Back to School
Sticking with bags but moving on to the kids range, the level detail within the design continues. Each bag boasts an array of organiser pockets to meet a school kids every whim and is complemented with reflective detail on the front of the pack to ensure they can be seen as the dark evenings draw in. The packs come in a range of sizes, to better protect kids’ backs as they grow.
L.L. Bean tend to focus on the ‘bigger kids’ between the ages of 8-16. That said, their footwear, including the signature L.L. Bean duck boots are available from toddler to teenager sizes, and everything between. The kids range includes a mix of fun colours and styles; some gender specific and other unisex pieces. L.L. Bean have extended Pimaloft fabric technology through the adult and kids ranges, including the footwear, which is relatively new to Primaloft itself.
A brand of choice for kids and adults alike, its no wonder the brand is a big hit with college students also. The bespoke lace options are increasingly popular for this age group in particular as many students match their design with their college colours. Another feature wall within the Canadian flagship store invites consumers, of all ages, to tailor their laces.
More than just a Clothing Brand
Scattered throughout the store, the feature walls showcase many themes, from gift ideas to the L.L. Bean brand and history. Here you will find a selection of cups, books and board games to include L.L. Beans own version of Monopoly and Clue. Representative of L.L. Bean’s character, these are perfect for the cottage and cosying down with a group of friends after a day out in the fresh air, exploring the outdoors.
L.L. Bean will continue to expand the selection within the Canadian Flagship store in Oakville, and plans are already underway within the Adventure series. True to their ethos, L.L. Bean encourages people to explore and enjoy the outdoors. From camping to snow-shoeing L.L. Bean will bring in new tents, fishing equipment and snow sliding options for families and friends to enjoy Canada’s great outdoors, and have fun with good quality products that aren’t off the scale expensive.
Gripped Publishing is very excited to work with L.L. Bean products moving forward. We will begin testing – shoes, tents, clothing and more here shortly and can’t wait to share with you our thoughts on Canada’s newest outdoor brand.