Last September, Josh Le live-streamed a video of himself opening a package during his lunch break, from Montreal to his high school friend, Nik Sereditch, in Edmonton. The package was filled with samples of gloves that the two had designed, and then had manufactured in China.
It was to be the realization of an entrepreneurial dream born of out of a common need for the duo – stylish gloves that could withstand Canadian winters at a reasonable cost. Le opened the box, and examined the gloves. Made from shearling, they were to be like Uggs for the hands in terms of warmth, but sleek and stylish and well-fit. They were to be the launchpad for a new brand from the duo christened wool + suede (in a tip of the hat to the sheepskin gloves). But, as Le inspected his eagerly awaited merchandise, his face grew dour. The gloves were nothing like he imagined they would turn out. The craftsmanship was substandard.
Le told Sereditch, who was watching from his phone in an Edmonton parking lot, that wool + suede “is dead.”
“It was the most disappointing time in my life,” says Le. “The samples were so bad. We knew what we wanted and these weren’t it.”
Undeterred, Sereditch went to searching out other factories online, while Le made the trip back to Edmonton to get to work on sketching designs by hand. The duo then sent their designs to a manufacturer in Romania that could hand-stitch the gloves at a higher standard.
Today, wool + suede is anything but dead. Fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign where the duo’s brand of gloves was named a “Projects We Love” by the crowdfunding site, the glove makers are kicking into high gear, filling orders and garnering attention worldwide. The 20-day Kickstarter campaign, which started in mid November, surpassed the duo’s modest goal of $10,000 in orders in less than 24 hours and ended with nearly $50,000 to fund their enterprise.
Le, who previously worked in the denim industry at Naked + Famous Denim, has since left his job to pursue wool + suede, while Sereditch spends his evenings outside of his finance career filling orders and communicating with clients and partners. It’s a far cry from the initial disaster, which, at the beginning, was simply an attempt to sell a few gloves while supplying the duo with something they desperately wanted – warm hands.
“We joke but it’s true,” laughs Sereditch. “This really all started because Josh could only find shearling gloves that were something like $250 to $800. We thought if we designed some, and we liked them, we could at least warm our hands.”
The wool + suede gloves now being sold by the duo are a thick shearling with decorative stitching. Form-fitted fingers made from one piece of shearling offer a more elegant look. The price point is currently at $95. The brand is set to expand its manufacturing by partnering with renowned glovemakers in Austria and Italy for more elegantly designed gloves set at a higher price point (“but still well below $800” says Sereditch).
And, looking ahead, the duo says that, with the support of the crowdfunding community which contributed to their success, a launch of designer wool dress socks will soon be on its way.
“With the power of the internet and crowd funding,” says Le, “anything is possible.”
This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton.
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