Best in Class
Six emerging Canadian companies will join the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation this month. Meet the first class of Joe Fresh Innovators.
Have you ever wanted to know who designed the dress Marnie wore on that last episode of “Girls” and where you could buy it? It turns out there’s an app for that, called StyleID. Or have you ever felt frustrated when shopping for clothes online, trying to figure out what will fit and what won’t? Pretty soon, there’ll be an app for that, too. Get ready to download Klothed, which aims to personalize online shopping.
New apps like these can sound like no-brainers, but turning fresh ideas into successful, profitable businesses is an incredibly daunting task. Enter the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation, a business incubator at Toronto’s Ryerson University that will support and develop emerging Canadian start-ups with workspace, mentorship and potential funding.
This week, Joe Fresh announced the first six startups that will join the Centre. The businesses were chosen by an expert judging panel following a highly selective national competition.
During the 18-month program that kicks off this month, each business—StyleID, Klothed, Formen, Wear Your Label, Blanc de Noir and Love Winter—will receive a physical workspace in the Centre, access to Ryerson University’s equipment and facilities, professional guidance and a chance to receive up to $50,000 in funding.
From a cosmetics line specifically for men to a fashion brand that encourages conversations about mental health, read on to find out more about the creative thinkers behind each of these six promising businesses.
Who: Barry Fogarty, Bhupinder Randhawa, Paul Nykamp, Kimberley Kirby
What: Klothed is a personalized apparel shopping and style-planning mobile app and a social commerce platform. The app is currently in beta and gearing up for its official launch.
Light-bulb moment: Bhupinder noticed that his teenage daughters planned out their outfits with friends using their phones. It prompted him, Fogarty and Nykamp to explore how they could improve the fashion shopping experience, particularly for men like themselves who wanted to dress a bit better, but didn’t know where to begin.
How it works: The app enables users to quickly and easily create a personalized model that includes a selfie of their face, as well as a body shape and skin tone that resembles their own. They can then swipe to virtually try on clothes, share their outfits with their social networks for advice, plan what they’re going to wear and buy items.
Inspirations: Nature, kindness, simplicity, wisdom, travel.
On joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “We think being a part of the Joe Fresh Centre will help us to better understand where the fashion industry is now, and where it’s going in the future,” said Fogarty. “We’re looking forward to learning – from the staff and mentors from Joe Fresh, and from the other companies in the Centre.”
What: StyleID is a style identifier app that cross-references TV shows to help consumers identify on-screen fashions—essentially turning television programming into interactive marketing campaigns. It launched on Android in June 2014 and on iOS in January 2015.
Light-bulb moment: Juma watches a lot of TV and when she saw an actress on screen with great style, she wanted to know who designed the outfit—and where she could buy it.
How it works: Through partnerships with costume designers and brands, StyleID is able to create an ever-expanding database that becomes available to users once the television show airs.
Inspirations: “The more I get to engage with costume designers, the more they inspire me,” said Juma.
On Joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “The key benefit of being in the program is having access to the leadership and knowledge of Joe Fresh executives,” said Juma.
Who: Andrew Grella
What: Formen, launched in January of 2015, offers solution-based male cosmetics and natural skincare.
Light-bulb moment: When his mother told him to use her products for acne before his senior prom, Grella decided to create a line of skincare and and cosmetics for guys.
Why it’s necessary: “After visiting retail stores, I couldn’t find a male specific solution to my acne,” said Grella. “I succumbed to my mother’s makeup bag… and I wondered why there wasn’t a readily available product line for men.”
Inspirations: Sir Richard Branson, Michelle Phan, Martha Stewart, Tim Draper, Dubai, Toronto, London, coffee, aerospace.
On joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “My goals are to create a central command center and have a real working team,” said Grella.
Wear Your Label
What: Wear Your Label is a clothing line the uses fashion to create conversations about mental health, launched in August of 2014.
Light-bulb moment: The idea sparked over a dinner conversation. Both Reed and MacNevin were working with a local mental health organization—and dealing with personal struggles: Reed with anorexia nervosa and MacNevin with generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD. After opening up to each other about their personal experiences, there was a clear passion to do something more. The duo both loved fashion and were also frustrated with the stigma of mental illness.
Why it’s necessary: “Mental illness is a highly stigmatized topic,” said Reed. “It’s controversial, somewhat invisible, and yet—whether or not you experience mental illness—we all have mental health. Our clothing helps bring this issue to light and encourages positive conversations for a traditionally negative issue.”
What it provides: “We design pieces that not only act as tangible conversation starters, but as personal reminders to stay strong, no matter what struggle you may be going through,” said Reed. “Beyond clothing, it’s the little details that make up Wear Your Label—from the self-care tags sewn into every shirt and the mental health resources that go out with orders, to handwritten postcards from someone who’s been there.”
Inspirations: “As a company we really have been impacted by the social impact and enterprise models, specifically in the fashion world,” said Reed, listing TOMS, Sevenly and TenTree as examples. “Disruptive start-ups are really inspiring as well—the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world. Other artists and people that influence us are those outliers who do things a bit differently, courageously, but always stick to their guns: Banksy, Justin Bieber, Ellen Degeneres, Ronda Rousey.”
On joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “The most exciting part is to be surrounded in an environment by people who think alike and all have similar goals to help further themselves and their businesses,” said Reed.
Blanc de Noir
What: Blanc de Noir is a lifestyle brand launched in January of 2014 that produces gender-neutral shoes, bags, knitwear and accessories with a minimalist aesthetic.
Light-bulb moment: Both designers had been working independently on their own businesses—de Cardénas on shoes and Mills on leather bags—when a mutual friend introduced them in 2010. After comparing notebooks, they realized many of their designs were similar or compatible, and in September of 2013, they partnered to create Blanc de Noir.
Why it’s necessary: With a focus on functionality, Blanc de Noir designs are non-gendered, appealing to both men and women. Blanc de Noir sits at the intersection of fashion and function, blending understated elegance with practicality and usability.
On joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “We are looking forward to the mentorship opportunities and exposure that will help us grow our business,” said de Cardénas.
Who: Polina Roufanova
What: Launched in November 2013, Love Winter makes a line of winter boots that encourage people to optimistically embrace colder months with water repellant galoshes in different colours.
Light-bulb moment: Inspired by the Siberian Valenki boot, Roufanova decided to update them with a modern fit and look—making winter something to look forward to instead of dread.
What it provides: Style meets functionality for Love Winter by providing winter boots (and soon more) for those looking for style with functionality.
On joining the Joe Fresh Centre: “I look at this opportunity as a new stage to take Love Winter to the next level,” said Roudanova.
Do you have a business idea with high growth potential? Joe Fresh Centre wants to hear from compelling Canadian fashion-inspired startups. We are accepting submissions from January 15, 2016 – February 28, 2016 for our second class of Joe Fresh Innovators. For more information about application requirements and eligibility, please visit JoeFreshCentre.com.