Like many of us Jaclyn Patterson never envisioned the word “entrepreneur” would follow her name in any capacity when she was studying at Ryerson University. When we’re younger there’s a tendency to assume that our lives after college/university will consist of working for someone else. Grinding, hustling, working our buns off for someone else who gets their splashy name on the trophy at the year end gala. Maybe some recognition here or there, a promotion or the corner office, but always in the confines of someone else’s company. You’re there because of someone else’s act of entrepreneurialism. But now that she is 2 years out of school Jaclyn does have the word entrepreneur following her name and she is about to do some BIG things with it. Like…huge.
Along with partner Kim Kirton, Jaclyn is now hustling for her own project – her own someday business. UnCo. was created in 2017 with an urge to take Kirton’s then ethical t-shirt brand Balance Lifestyle & Co. and turn it into a business that not only remedies the fashion industry’s broader problems, but fixes them. “With UnCo. we are providing capsule wardrobes to women entrepreneurs and innovators in their fields – specifically focusing on women in tech – so those who have a really busy lifestyle, the “girl-bosses on the go” Jaclyn explained. “They have a lot going on and just need a really simple wardrobe. The idea for us is that if we teach someone how to do more with less, they’ll in turn buy less. Not only will they get more use from their wardrobe but they will actually reduce their amount of consumption in the process.”- Jaclyn Patterson
By modelling their business in this way – producing only collections of garments made by other brands on a per order basis – UnCo. is changing many of the industry’s traditional operational elements. They are doing something especially admirable given the price point. “Capsules exist in either 6, 8 or 12 items and we curate those piece based on the client’s survey results that tell us more about who they are and their wardrobe needs.”
UnCo. doesn’t produce any of their own garments and instead is a service that curates customized working wardrobes from 9 Canadian brands they’ve partnered with. “All 9 brands are Canadian and are businesses we can ethically and morally support.” By not creating any new channels for consumption to occur they are not only not producing any additional waste themselves, but they are also single-handedly promoting a local production model that supports emerging Canadian business.
So now you might ask: how did they meet and how did this come to be?
“I met my co-founder Kim last summer and we were connected through a mutual friend. At the time she was running a sustainable t-shirt company out of Ottawa and was then connecting with the fashion industry in Toronto in order to augment and grow her business. And so I started working with her last summer to help with her marketing growth and it was great! We started working together and eventually realized that the work we were doing wasn’t actually impacting the problem in the industry that we both wanted to solve: excessive consumption. We wanted to make sustainability more accessible and we realized that at the end of the day we weren’t really contributing to solving that problem. A sustainable t-shirt is great but at the end of the day we were still asking people to consume more.”
The Ryerson factor
As I write this, and even while I was talking to Jaclyn there are so many elements of this business and what she is talking about achieving with UnCo. that I can’t help but connect to Ryerson’s ideology of learning. As a fourth year student I have quite a few years within the university under my belt and year after year common themes in teaching seem to always emerge. Ryerson as an institution prides itself on diversity and innovation. As a student of this university – regardless of program – you are taught to be critical, speak out and take action when you feel compelled or inspired. Ryerson does not teach you to be a bystander; we are all leaders in the making.
And I couldn’t help but laugh as our interview progressed because, like some of my peers and I, Jaclyn glows of the Ryerson spirit: made aware of the world’s troubles and tribulations and not capable of idly standing by. I myself am experiencing the same revelations and “post-graduation thoughts” that Jaclyn is living out at this very moment. I too have been exposed to less than perfect truths in my respective industries of study and as I plan to graduate this spring, I too cannot help but feel compelled to do something impactful and positive with my career.
Like Jaclyn and Kim, I no longer feel like I am capable of being a bystander. UnCo. in this a way is a product of Jaclyn’s time at Ryerson, and no doubt a product of her partner Kim’s time at Ottawa U. And it’s wonderful to see the school’s spirit and teaching live on in its alumni and their endeavours.
What’s this about women in tech?
One of the things that instantly caught my attention when UnCo. was brought to my attention was the fact that their business model emphasizes a focus on catering to women in STEM and tech. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and tech is, well, tech. Now in recent months the relationship between fashion and technology has not become such a shocking thing to imagine as advances in technology has allowed designers and retailer to upend their traditional business models and connect with consumers in many new ways.
The technology industry has allowed fabrics to do more, be more and look more intriguing. It has allowed retailers to connect to consumers and fix problems in a matter of minutes. It has also allowed designers to expand their creative horizons through 3D printing and has made fashion a lot more fun than it has been in recent years. But despite all this advancement and collaboration, women working in these tech-related fields still struggle to get dressed in the morning. Jaclyn and Kim want to change that and give women in tech and STEM clothing they can be excited about. As well as put on in less that 10 minutes while emailing, drinking their coffee and programming the next greatest app.
“Part of the reason why we are focusing on women in tech is because it is still a predominantly male-dominated industry and women are still very much competing against majority men. We all know success stories like Mark Zuckerberg: he can pull off wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day, and wear the same t-shirt every day and no one questions it. But if a woman goes into the office in just a t-shirt and jeans they’re seen as unprofessional or not suited for the role. So part of our reason for the capsules is because a lot of the pieces we feature are very simple and minimal. They can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways depending on how many pieces you buy and they can take you all the way from 9am to 5pm and even drinks and meetings afterwards. You know Mark Zuckerberg has been called out for his t-shirts and he says “I’m busy running Facebook I don’t have to care how I dress” so why should women have to care?! We wanted to help women working in these fields defeat that idea.”- Jaclyn Patterson
Like what you’ve heard? Here’s how to get involved.
After these #realtalktopics our conversation went on for another 40 minutes and I fell more in love with this brand and what Jaclyn and Kim are doing with every minute. If you too are inspired and feel compelled to take action against the over consumption perpetuated by fast fashion, check out their Indiegogo page and support them in any way you can. Their website is www.uncoofficial.com
Also the brand has partnered with three Canadian influencers to test out their capsule wardrobes so follow them online to see how they make these pieces work for them while they #werk. Sheena Brady is the founder of Tease Tea, Kayley Reed co-founder & CEO of Wear Your Label and Ilana Ben-Ari Founder of 21 Toys.
UnCo. currently co-zones at the Ryerson Fashion Zone and The Social Venture’s Zone at Ryerson University.
Their Indiegogo campaign ends June 29th 2017 at 11:59pm. http://bit.ly/2rv2ERd