A cup of coffee with Mr. Alex Tilley

Mr. Alex Tilley – A Living Legend

Tilley is a Canadian fashion brand, focusing on adventure clothing. Tilley is founded by Mr. Alex Tilley, born in 1938 in Mount Albert, Canada and Graduated from the University of British Columbia.

Mr. Alex Tilley was a self-employed art consultant. He was tired of hats that blew off his head, sank when they fell into the water or shrunk when they got wet so he decided to oversee the creation of his own ideal sailing hat. After several months of research and the assistance of a sail maker, he designed and made a hat for himself. When sailors asked for one, he made and sold hats as a hobby. That was the foundation of Tilley hats.


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Mr. Alex Tilley is actively involved with Street Kids International, Rotary Club of Bracebridge, South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge, Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation, and the support of projects by the archaeological branch of the Royal Ontario Museum among other charitable support efforts.


From a Start-up To a Globally Respected Brand

Tilley (www.tilley.com) is extremely popular with people who enjoy travelling. From the original hat line, Tilley expanded into a specialized clothing line for men and women with an emphasis on traveling. Following are the key strong points that I observed behind Tilley’s global recognition as a respected brand:

Strong Product Positioning

  • Quality, integrity and innovation are the cornerstone of how the Tilley hats and clothing are crafted.
  • Many Tilley products are guaranteed for life: if they ever wear out, you will receive a replacement for free.
  • Tilley has a Hat insurance policy, If your Tilley Hat or Cap has been irretrievably lost, stolen or destroyed, within two years of the purchase date, you may replace it with the exact same style for one-half the present catalogue price, plus taxes and shipping. (If you want another style, they will credit you 50% of the current catalogue price for the style you lost.)
  • Tilley hats have a secret pocket inside, giving them even a higher degree of practicality.
  • The fabrics used for Tilley crafting are wrinkle resistant, moisture resistant, stain and water repellent. Many of the Tilley garments are wash and wear items – machine wash and dry or hand wash in sink and dry overnight.

Tilley Endurables



Strong Distribution Channels

Tilley currently sells to thousands of retail stores internationally and the number is growing. Their retailers include ‘high end’ outdoor specialty shops, menswear shops, travel stores, hat boutiques, resorts, garden centers, birding stores, golf shops, dermatology clinics and women’s boutiques along with many of North American and The United Kingdom’s most recognized national retailers.

Worldwide Retail Channels

Tilley has stores selling Tilley Hats and other items of distinction across the world in 26 countries. Family owned retail stores are operating in Toronto, Mississauga, Montreal, Brossard, Victoria and Vancouver. While registered country offices are operating in USA, Canada and UK.

 Country wise Retail Stores




Active Change Agent

Product Positioning and Improving Marketing Collateral

The great success of the Tilley Hat led to the formation of Tilley Endurables, makers of Tilley Hats and travel clothing, designed and manufactured in Canada and enjoyed around the world. I can clearly see an active change agent inside Tilley right from its foundation. Strong product positioning and marketing are the forte of Tilley’s business planning and execution.

Lets have a look at the website as it looked in 2010 and then in 2013.

Their marketing strengths clearly depicts the innovation and creativity of their marketing personnels. They have an ever updating website according to the scenario and requirements. Whenever they include a product in their product line, they updated it on their website and subsequently to all the selected marketing channels. Their social networks are up to date which means they have a significant online presence.
All this needs a vigilant team and using virtual teams for marketing execution is a cost effective way of maintaining lead over competition.

Tilley’s Website in 2010



Tilley’s website in 2013



Not many fashion brands, Canadian or international, focus on adventure wear like Tilley Endurables do. People who wear Tilley are people who live the spirit of adventure, people who travel a lot, people who would prefer camping or a cottage to a stay in a 5 star hotel in a big city for vacationing. But at the same time, Tilley clothes are urban chic, very adaptable to different occasions, from adventure to travel to business to elegant.



Curiosity Goes On…

After going through all this inspirational history about Mr. Alex Tilley and his company, the curiosity to learn more has further increased.
I wonder how the family was taking this project? in the early days of the business. How did the company managed to expand the channels worldwide? and what are the current challenges Tilley’s might be facing? Above all, how does Mr. Alex Tilley feels about his company today? so on and so forth…

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