In the beginning, CYC Design Corporation was a small Canadian private label company, producing its high-quality garments for Japanese brands. But 19 years after its founding, it now boasts brands of its own and collaboration deals with giants such as Adidas, New Balance, Asics, Converse and Club Monaco. During that same time, the company grew from two employees, to 90.
The business, which now features the two highly sought-after brands, wings + horns and Reigning Champ, began as the brainchild of Craig Atkinson, a marketing graduate who dabbled in the fashion business before moving to Japan to study the language and culture and establish a business that catered to that market.
“Our focus was to produce high-quality garments for other brands,” explains Atkinson of the early days. “We targeted the Japanese market because I was based in Japan, their economy was thriving, and their consumers wanted our high-quality, Canadian-made garments.”
At the time, they also produced garments for Canadian legends such as Arc’teryx and Mountain Equipment Co-op, and others in the U.S., but it wasn’t until Atkinson and his partner and brother-in-law, Chris Nordee, established wings + horns, that they went global.
CYC’s brand recognition attracts partners
Today, wings + horns and Reigning Champ have brand recognition of their own, and the big guns, such as Adidas, want to partner with them.
Reigning Champ, more athletic leisure wear than performance wear, established in 2007 and has overtaken wings + horns, a more fashion-oriented brand, in terms of sales.
“There’s a pretty strong athletic movement happening in the fashion industry,” Atkinson said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down. That’s how Lululemon exploded. I hate the word athleisure, but that’s the movement; off-the-field athletics and it is growing like crazy.”
CYC has always produced menswear only, but it recently signed a deal with Adidas to release a men’s and women’s collection in the fall of 2016. CYC will design the collection, co-branded with Adidas.
Partnering is something CYC has done a lot of over the years. Atkinson particularly likes it when he can work with a company that has a specialty product outside of his company’s manufacturing mainstays. Sneakers and shoes, for example, are best done with a partner with that manufacturing expertise.
“We’ve worked with Asics to release a shoe and apparel for spring 2016,” he says. “We’ve done stuff with Converse. Last fall, we did a jacket with Canada Goose and wings + horns. We collaborate with partners from all over the world; those with whom our brand resonates.”
The beauty of these partnerships is their marketing potential.
“Partnering has been our single most effective reaching would-be customers who have a similar mindset to our existing customers. We know they will be interested, because the brands we’re working with share our ideals about quality being king.”
CYC’s double digit growth
Today, CYC is selling all over the world, including Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the U.K. and the U.S. Their latest foray is into the retail world with standalone stores. Direct-to-retail, as they call it, has been seeing triple-digit growth year over year, so it’s become more of a focus for them.
The company first reached out to Export Development Canada (EDC) in 2012 when it was looking for a guarantee on a larger line of credit. EDC recently increased that guarantee to $1.125 million through its Export Guarantee Program. The increase contributed towards building an allocation of inventory, specifically for the U.S. market.
Atkinson explained that when it was only producing garments for other brands, the company got deposits up front, but that changed when it started its own brand. Another recent $750,000 in pre-shipment financing from EDC came in handy there.
“We had to come up with some creative solutions and EDC certainly helped us make it through those tough times.”
For EDC, the company was a good fit.
“CYC Design had the support of the bank, but with their brand acquisitions and business shifts over the years, they needed extra capital to fuel their high-speed growth,” said Andrea Marino, EDC account manager. “EDC was pleased to provide that and see a unique company like this grow.”