In an age when we can explore virtual worlds and put robots on Mars, it seems odd that we’re still making clothes that get stinky. Fortunately, Canadian startups are looking to apply modern technology to both the production and sale of apparel that might ultimately fix that problem.
Michelle Shemilt was an equity trader at RBC in Toronto and, like many women in her position, often found herself in an, er, rank situation. The hot and humid summers, combined with the requirement to dress professionally, presented her with a challenge. She either couldn’t wear some of her favourite clothes for fear of damaging them with sweat stains, or she’d have to spend a lot of time and money cleaning them.
“I was constantly frustrated at the high cost of dry cleaning every month,” Shemilt says.
She looked into sweat- and odour-resistant clothing, but most of what she found was athletic wear that was too bulky or inappropriate for business settings.
Eventually, Shemilt discovered a relatively new fabric—organic bamboo—that seemed almost magical in its qualities. Lightweight, versatile and moisture-resistant, it was the perfect material with which to make women’s undergarments.
Shemilt found a producer in New York to run some prototypes, which she took to crowd-funding site IndieGogo in 2013. After attracting $35,000, she had enough for an initial production run. Her startup, Nudy Patooty, was off and running.
The off-kilter name was purposeful, inspired by the likes of fellow undergarment and lingerie makers Spanx and Hanky Panky.
“I wanted something to articulate a second skin, next to nothing, really lightweight,” she says. “I also wanted something fun and that would make people laugh.”
NudyPatooty.ca sells a range of undershirts online and is posting 20% revenue growth month over month, Shemilt says. The priority now is to expand the brand by getting into physical bricks-and-mortar stores.
To that end, Shemilt hired her first sales representative earlier this year. Nudy Patooty is now in 75 stores in Canada and the northeastern United States.
“Brand awareness is key to our growth because it’s a new product and a new concept,” she says. “It’s really important to have a physical location for our customers to be able to go in and try the product.”
Men’s options are in the pipeline, Shemilt adds, although any such clothing would likely have to come under a different, more masculine brand name.
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