It may not have been the biggest project in Kickstarter history – that distinction goes to the Pebble E-Paper Watch , a smart watch that raised more than $10 million from backers on the crowd-funding website. But when Boston-based Ministry of Supply earned more than 12 times its $30,000 goal to launch a futuristic shirt called the Apollo, it signaled that the followers and backers of Kickstarter, which has funded start-up ventures and creative endeavors ranging from film to video games, were ready to back fashion as well.
Ministry of Supply broke records to become the most successful fashion project to date on Kickstarter, but there are other Boston-based fashion businesses that have found success on the site, too. Here’s an introduction to these stylish local entrepreneurs.
Bow & Drape
Location: Fan Pier
Founder: Aubrie Pagano, 26
Amount raised on Kickstarter: $32,243 ($2,243 over goal)
This is not the first time that Jamaica Plain resident Aubrie Pagano has started a website based on creating custom dresses. Her last venture, called Zoora, made dresses for women based on their measurements. But what Pagano quickly learned is that women aren’t necessarily keen on sending their measurements to complete strangers.
“I think there may have been some degree of denial with those measurements,” Pagano says.
Her new company, Bow & Drape, tries to simplify the process of sizing by eliminating the measuring tape. Women can try on three sizes, and ship back the two that don’t fit.
But the most innovative part of Bow & Drape’s approach is that it gives women the technology to design their own made-to-order dresses. The company’s website features six silhouettes, inspired by classic dresses. From those styles, women can choose sleeve length, hem length, color, and embellishments. Or, as the website touts, “Six Foundational Silhouettes, Over 30,000 Possibilities.”
The silhouettes, which feature everything from maxi-dresses to scarves, were designed by Sarah Parrott, who appeared on the reality show “Fashion Star.”
“She’s a really cool, authentic voice for the brand,” Pagano says. “She’s a 32-year-old mom with two kids, so I think she gets it. I think she knows what women go through and she gets real women’s bodies. She’s not just designing contemporary clothes, she’s designing for real women.”
The website takes women through a series of questions to help them determine their correct size. Currently, sizing is available in double zero through 14, but by the end of the year, Pagano says sizes will be extended up to 20. The company launched last week, and Pagano says of the 90 orders she’s received so far, no two dresses have been the same.
“I think that helps me validate what we’re doing in the sense that people really do have individual preferences,” she says.
Founders: Nathan Rothstein, 28, Ross Lohr, 27
Amount raised on Kickstarter: $7,875 ($2,875 over goal)
There are few start-ups that can point to a two-hour traffic jam caused by a rickshaw in Kenya as the basis of their business. But the idea for Project Repat came to Ross Lohr, CEO and founder, when he approached the vegetable-carrying rickshaw that tipped over and caused the traffic snarl.
“I saw the driver, and he was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘I Danced My Ass Off at Josh’s Bar Mitzvah.’ I just shook my head and laughed,” Lohr says. “When you’re in a place like Kenya, you see all of these second-hand American T-shirts that get dumped. They’re just all over the place.”
To keep the onslaught of T-shirts out of the landfills of developing nations, Lohr and business partner Nathan Rothstein first envisioned launching a company where the tees in Kenya would be sewn together into blankets in Africa, and then shipped and sold in the US.
It was only after they hit their Kickstarter goal that they came up with a more practical solution: Keep those T-shirts in the US, make the blankets here, and in the process, employ Massachusetts residents to do the sewing.
“We thought ‘Why not stop it in its tracks, and give people a meaningful way to preserve their T-shirt memories in the US.’ Now people send us their shirts, and we send them back a blanket.”
The resulting blanket is made entirely of old T-shirts. Concert tees, cheeky novelty shirts, or shirts commemorating high school graduations get a new life in blanket form. When an order is placed, Repat sends out what it calls a blanket box. Customers fill the box with the shirts that they’d like to have turned into their T-shirt quilt. Continued...