TORONTO — COS operates under the same banner as H&M, but the newest player in Canada's retail market sees a clear distinction between its offerings and the fast-fashion sold by the Swedish chain. "We're very proud to be part of the H&M Group, of course.... But really, if you walked into a COS store, it's very much an individual COS boutique," said Atul Pathak, head of communications for COS, short for Collection of Style. COS recently launched its inaugural Canadian location in Toronto with a three-floor boutique and a Montreal store is slated to open on Oct. 9. COS, which debuted in 2007, currently has 131 stores, a small fraction of the approximately 3,700 H&M locations worldwide, including 75 in Canada. H&M has earned acclaim for its of-the-moment trend pieces and collaborative collections with luxury designers and labels. Meanwhile, COS offers a broader range of timeless, classic garments, which are more expensive than the fast-fashion brand. The company has previously stated "COS prices start where H&M's finish." Karin Gustafsson, the head of womenswear design for COS, said the brand likes the idea of offering up styles to suit every mood and occasion, striking the balance between fashion and function, showcasing both formal and laid-back styles. "I think that's how we live nowadays," Gustafsson said of the expansive array of fashion options COS offers. "You need those home-wear pieces that envelope you and you can relax when you're home. You need that casual-wear when you're having a day off — and you need to look good when you work." The contemporary clothing brand operates in 27 countries and offers items for men, women and children. In addition to apparel staples like blazers, tops, dresses, skirts and pants, the stores also stock accessories, footwear, swimwear, outerwear and underwear. Gustafsson said the latest COS collection was influenced by Japanese dress sense, with clean, understated garments featuring origami folds or pleats. Pathak said Toronto and Montreal were ideal Canadian launch sites given their "strong international standing" but he is "very certain" other areas in Canada will be potential options for future expansion. "The exciting thing for us is determining who that new customer is going to be, as well," said Pathak. "We're quite confident and proud that we can do it and be here." Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.
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