Dan Demsky got the idea for Unbound Merino while he was on a trip to Greece with his wife. On a day trip to a small town outside of Athens, they found themselves at the bottom of a huge hill – their hotel, naturally, was at the top.
Laden with luggage, the couple schlepped it up. An exhausting and sweaty climb later, Demsky decided he’d had enough. It was the last time he’d lug clothing-packed bags around on a trip.
“I don’t know how we were going to figure this out, but never again,” he says. “That was it.”
Upon getting home, Demsky dove into researching lightweight and odour-resistant clothing. Like Nudy Patooty founder Michelle Shemilt, he was frustrated by what he found. The only available options were athletic wear, which was fine for working out, but not necessarily for travelling. He sensed an opportunity.
The secret, he discovered, is merino wool, a fabric that has great wicking properties. Rather than trapping moisture against the body, merino allows it to pass through, which allows the wearer to stay dry and odour-free.
The fabric is primarily used in outdoor wear and sweaters, but Demsky figured out that it can be fashioned into common T-shirts, underwear and socks. He also found that such clothing can be worn seemingly endlessly without needing to be washed.
Along with friends Andrew Cariboni and Dima Zelikman, he formed Unbound Merino and produced some prototypes. Last month, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo with a goal of raising $30,000 (U.S.).
As of this writing, with a few days left in the campaign, they’ve raised more than $150,000, clearly striking a chord with funders.
In the campaign video, Demsky explains the seemingly magical abilities of merino wool and how it holds the promise of dramatically cutting down the luggage that travellers need to take with them:
Demsky isn’t new to startups or clothing. He also previously founded video production company BizMedia and artistic sock retailer Hitsu, both based in Toronto. Both are going concerns – Demsky’s business partners Cariboni and Justin Smith run most of BizMedia’s day-to-day operations, while Demsky himself focuses mostly on Hitsu.
The sock company “does okay” in online sales but is proving popular in the physical world. Demsky says new retailers typically jump on board after seeing hot sales through one or two rounds of consignment. Hitsu is on pace to be in 100 stores this year, he adds.
Unbound Merino’s unexpected crowdfunding popularity means the company is going to be realized faster than its founders expected. The trio plan to ship initial orders in September and then continue selling through IndieGoGo until they get their website set up, which Demsky expects will take a few months.
The big funding windfall also means the founders will be able to spend more on quality control with their suppliers in China and accelerate plans for a women’s line.
“My wife is very excited about it, she’s been in this with me from the beginning,” Demsky says.
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