You might not have heard of 66°North yet but the Icelandic outerwear brand, founded in 1926, is betting that you will within the next few years. After a small series of inroads intended to secure fashion credibility, 66°North has secured Kei Toyoshima as its new creative director.
Toyoshima joins 66°North after over a year and a half as Bottega Veneta's head designer of ready-to-wear menswear and two and a half years of the same at Haider Ackermann. Toyoshima joined Bottega when it was under Daniel Lee's direction and has since played a role in the early days of Mathieu Blazy's tenure.
Presumably, 66°North is angling to put Toyoshima's luxury credentials to use in building its brand up as the next big fancy thing in winterwear.
There's plenty of competition for the title: established outdoor brands like Canada Goose, The North Face, and Arc'teryx have secured eternal popularity and labels like Moncler currently represent the top tier of technical cold weather fashion brands.
But 66°North has its own foundational strengths.
It maintains a strong base of European manufacturers, including some factories owned by 66°North outright. There's also no questioning 66°North's technical specs: its gear is utilized by Iceland's search-and-rescue teams and it boasts plenty of proprietary fabrics.
66°North also has some deep pockets. It's backed by Mousse Partners, the enigmatic investment firm directed by Charles Heilbronn, the half-brother of Chanel owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer.
Mousse Partners's diverse holdings include made-to-order fast casual food chain Cava, AI Foundation, Ulta Beauty, and its rival Beautycounter.
66°North, meanwhile, has been pushing for increased inroads to fashion relevance. It recently hired an influential PR firm for US representation and previous collaborated with buzzy Danish fashion brand GANNI.
With the appointment of Kei Toyoshima, 66°North plans "to enhance the brand experience for a fashion customer," according to a press release announcing the hire.
"66°North has its sights on conquering the lucrative London market from a financial and marketing perspective," the release continued, pointing to a recent London pop-up as proof of 66°North's strengthening foothold.