A Toronto software designer's seamless transition to clothing design is Canada Kickstarter's second most successful project in history.
Jamil Khan’s frustration over constantly forgetting his gloves and hat during the winter months — as well as what to do with them when he did remember them — led to the idea for the Smart Parka. He said he wanted to solve the problem of just shoving the gloves into the jacket.
“You become like this puffy dude. I wanted to change that. The gloves and scarf should be part of the coat,” he told National Observer on Monday.
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Khan's campaign to manufacture a “smart” winter jacket on Kickstarter has attracted nearly $2.5 million in funding on Kickstarter, resulting in the second largest crowdfunding campaign in Canada on the online platform.
The Smart Parka — “the world’s first complete winter coat” — has gained over 6,300 backers since it appeared on the crowdfunding website in late January.
The coat features a built-in scarf and gloves as well as customized pockets for cell phones, tablets, glasses and hats.
The jacket also offers an extendable length, a detachable hood and a removable lining.
It even has a tracker tag so if the coat is left behind, it can be located.
The technology of the latter hints at Khan's former background in software development.
Khan never envisioned himself in the fashion or clothing industries. Originally from Pakistan, Khan arrived in Toronto in 2010 to work on web applications for a number of start-up companies.
But Khan noticed that a lot of his friends, particularly women, also had two coats, one mid-length and one full-length. For Khan, it made sense to build in an extension into a single parka as well as to build in gloves and a hat.
“Parkas are expensive coats,” said Khan. “I had these ideas. I think I can make a better winter coat.”
Khan also wants people to share his passion for the cold weather, ice and snow. “I love winter,” Khan declares. “I just love the feel. I want everyone to love winter too.”
Khan left a six-figure-salary job as a senior developer in 2015 to form his current company, North Aware, and design the Smart Parka.
While several friends and contractors have helped in the design of the parka, Khan holds 100 per cent of the shares in the company.
To get the parka to the point where it’s now at, his team has had to overcome a lot of challenges.
For instance, they rejected several versions of the gloves because they bulged in the jacket or otherwise felt uncomfortable.
They ended up creating a light-weight weather glove that could also be used to operate touch screens on phones and tablets and that zips into a compartment in the parka's sleeve.
Then there was the fact that Khan didn’t know anything about the garment industry. But the entrepreneur wasn’t going to let that stop him.
Khan said while he faced a learning curve, his career as a software developer taught him to learn things quickly. “In software things change very quickly and we’re so used to learning new stuff; it’s not something that bothers me.”
Now as the Kickstarter campaign comes to an end, Khan faces more decisions and challenges.
Currently, he plans to outsource the manufacture of the jackets, but after the Kickstarter campaign is complete, he’ll crunch the numbers and see if it’s not more feasible to make them himself.
And while he’s had a number of retail distribution offers, he has yet to agree to any of them.
His most pressing concern is to expand to Europe as quickly as possible. “We don’t want someone else to fill the gap.”
So Khan is already looking at pre-orders from the Scandinavian countries, the U.K. and Germany.
As for the overwhelming success of the parka, Khan is as surprised as anyone else. He said they expected to raise between $300,000 and $400,000.
“This wasn’t what we were expecting at all.”