South van der Lee hopes shoppers feel like they’re being hugged while wearing a GOGO sweater.
“I want shoppers to get asked where they got their sweaters,” writes South van der Lee, president and designer of GOGO, over email. “But I also hope they feel like they are getting a big hug.”
Such is the ethos behind the Calgary-based brand that has become a social media darling. Known for pairing millennial-esque colours and graphics with luxury wool and hand-crafted designs, the Canadian label was first launched in the late seventies by van der Lee’s mother in Alberta. In 2010, South took over and temporarily moved the operation to Toronto.
“TO was very welcoming to new designers,” she shares. “I was, however, raised in the mountains and love to ski, so it was difficult not having access to the Rocky Mountains. I decided to move back out West after six years. Now I can hike and ski all the time, and the mountains are the foundation of the GOGO brand. That’s where my inspiration comes from.”
Below, FASHION spoke to van der Lee about her love for Western Canada, cozy knitwear’s eternal appeal, and why winter should be everyone’s favourite season.
How would you describe the style of your brand in three words?
Cozy. Impactful. Heirloom.
What do you think is the eternal appeal of handmade knitwear?
I think it’s the idea that someone spent hours making it. You can see the work and the time put into a hand-knit sweater, which translates to quality and value.
What’s one GOGO sweater that is especially meaningful to you?
The ‘No Waste’ sweater is a new piece I came up with that uses end pieces of wool balls too small to make an entire sweater, but when joined with 100s of other ends, it can make up a stunning, one-of-a-kind piece. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing out these beautiful ends, so I decided to make a sweater one day from them and wow! What a revelation!
What’s your favourite piece from your new collection?
I love the ‘Western Skies Jacket’ coming out for FW 22/23. Each season we add new representations of GOGO’s Western Canadian roots, and this one is just fabulous. Such a wearable statement piece.
What would you say makes your sweaters so unique?
I would say our colours, graphics and fit. It’s quite a process choosing the colours for GOGO, and we change them up each season, so each hue represents a moment in time. Also, the slogans and graphics are unique. I came out with the phrase “snow babe” right before I left for Toronto in 2010. I want GOGO to be a leader in the industry. I NEVER want to follow.
How does your brand approach sustainability?
Thanks to my mother, GOGO has been sustainable before sustainability was a thing. Our sweaters are made right here in Canada and provide jobs to people in Canada. GOGO is made with mostly wool that lasts for decades. We want people to buy our pieces knowing they will be special for years to come.
How would you describe Calgary’s style?
Calgary is known for people who, like me, want access to a city and the mountains. I would say the style of the city is hardcore, as in sporty snow gear from brands like Arc’teryx and Canada Goose. However, I break this mould wearing floral ski pants and pink puffers at the hill! I want to be core and cute.
What is your favourite season, based solely on wardrobe?
Winter obviously! I love layering, sweaters, hats and skiwear.