For the first time in Roots’ 50 year history, the classic Canadian brand is turning to an outsider creative to steer the ship.
Mr. Saturday’s Joey Gollish is the company’s new creative director in residence. It’s not the beginning of a new partnership so much as the continuation of a growing one. Roots’ Toronto factory has produced leather goods for Mr. Saturday, and earlier this year, Gollish and Roots teamed up for a tribute to the 70s jet set with the Roots Saturday Airlines capsule.
Like most Canadians, Gollish grew up wearing Roots, and he’s excited to put his stamp on the brand, bringing a new language and dimension while also respecting tradition. It’s a quintessentially Canadian brand (started by Americans in Canada, oddly enough), but as Gollish has seen in his world travels, there’s a certain global aspect to being Canadian he’s eager to celebrate.
Complex Canada caught up with Gollish, with Roots CEO Meghan Roach, to talk about what this union means for the Canadian brand as it looks to the next 50 years.
Are you in Toronto today?
Yeah, I’m actually at the Roots office. I’m in my new digs here. I’m a big office guy. We’ve been in here for about a month now, Meghan offered us office space when our office lease came up.
I would imagine you joining Roots as creative director in residence came about because of more than just office space.
I think it’s just been a natural progression. We’ve been collaborating for almost 2 years now. We’ve done 3 or 4 runway collections together and we’re constantly planning our next runway collection, and Roots has been manufacturing so many of our leather products that we became intertwined with the team. After we did the Roots Saturday Airlines collaboration, things really started to click and the progression felt really natural for both of us. It’s also exciting for me, because growing up in Canada, obviously, everybody wears Roots. I grew up on Roots. As soon as this opportunity became a reality, to be part of something that I’ve been wearing my entire life, it was just too good to turn down.
You’re also the first creative director in residence to come from outside the company. What do you hope to bring to Roots?
I think what I’m really excited about is the opportunity to touch everything. And I know that sounds like a really broad answer, but from ideating products to helping create campaigns, and even before I have the opportunity to make products, helping with creative and helping to build a narrative that really tells the history and the values of the brand is something that I’m super passionate about. I think also, being a creative and being so close to a factory is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—it’s three blocks away. I think that’ll be probably where I end up spending a lot of my time. I’m really excited to help build the new visual language of Roots. Establishing that tradition but also paving away for the future.
We don’t think about this often as consumers, but what excites you about having a factory that’s accessible to you?
I think one of the most exciting things for me is getting to build a really strong visual language and really build on what Roots already has. I want people to look back and understand that a visual language was created during this period and hopefully that it’s still in use 50 years from now. I’ve travelled to factories around the world. I’ve seen where Louis Vuitton and Chanel bags are made, and we have a factory of that calibre around the corner. For me, it was kind of unfathomable the first time I walked in there.
Is leather goods going to be a huge part of your work with Roots going forward?
It’s such a big part of the Roots business, it’s their heritage. It’s something that I’ve already been focusing on in the business and something Roots is very focused on. You’ll definitely see some exciting products coming from that area.
We’ve already seen you and Roots team up for Roots Saturday Airlines. How did the idea for celebrating the 70s jet set and the old Roots Air come about?
My work’s all based on archives and usually my main collections are based on the history of nightlife, but I wanted to find an aspect of Roots history that connected with the narratives that we were telling in our main line collections. And I think jet setting is something obviously that has so much glamour and nostalgia attached to it. But it wasn’t even me, Lucas (Macrae) who works on our team came up with it. He learned about Roots Air in school. When I was at the leather factory, they showed me a bunch of pieces from the original airline—leather jackets and bags—and it was an instant connection. I just love that Catch Me If You Can energy.
Will you be mining more Canadian history for Roots?
I’ll be mining more history, for sure. Some of it will be Canadian. But I think one of the really exciting parts of this job is the opportunity to have Roots be presented on a global scale. And so with that, I want to create stories that everybody can connect with—partly Canadian and partly global. More than ever, the modern Canadian, or the modern young creative Canadian, is a global citizen and I think we as a country have so much to contribute. And there’s an appetite for it.
What’s coming up for you and Roots?
The 50th anniversary is coming up on Aug 15, so probably one of the first big contributions you’ll see to the brand will be my involvement with the anniversary. I think the biggest thing for me is I’m very excited for people to see the future of Roots.