UnCo dreams of a sustainable clothing economy

Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University


The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.


UnCo

Who’s involved in this project? 

Kim Kirton (CEO) and Jaclyn Patterson (creative director).

What are your goals for this project? 

Kim Kirton: Our mission with UnCo is to change the way how people consume clothes and to empower individuals to do more with less and spend more time on what really matters. 

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

KK: Operations! Since we actually don’t manufacture the clothes in-house, it takes a lot conscious effort and coordination among the UnCo team and our brand partners to make it all happen. Despite the huge advantage that technology provides us, we still have a lot of challenges in regards to coordination and deliveries with our brand partners. Another challenge we are experiencing, as most start-ups do, is cash flow. Keeping the doors open and ensuring we are acquiring enough sales and funding to keep going but still maintaining our social mission as our main driver and purpose. 

Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)? 

KK: The mentorship process has been so crucial to UnCo’s success and all of the milestones we’ve achieved thus far. The SVZ team itself are so supportive and really go above and beyond to support the social innovators in the space every day. We have received such a diverse experience of mentors ranging from branding and marketing to accounting to personal mentoring, where it’s more about you as a person and your growth. 

The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?

KK: We intentionally decided to not produce an in-house brand – the world really doesn’t need another fashion company. What the world needs is education on why people buy things and how these products are made. The communities we work with are small, primarily female-led independent brands in the local economy. We provide them a community and a new channel for them to get their story out into a crowded world.

Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?

KK: We did a designer survey and all of our partners expressed deep gratitude in working with us and are super excited to see what’s next for UnCo. 

What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?

KK: We hope to create more partnerships with brands that align with our ethos from a growth standpoint, but most of all we are excited to be expanding our designer partnerships with brands in the US.

Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?

KK: The long-term vision for UnCo is a circular economic system where people can have access to their capsule wardrobes and give back pieces each season to receive a rebate on their next season’s wardrobe. Items would then be maintained within our supply chain or diverted to our alternative waste streams to keep textiles out of the landfills forever. 

Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?

KK: If not now, then when?


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