Monarch is nothing short of an inspirational story.
Kristine Goulet’s journey toward creating Monarch, an innovative clothing solution specially designed for individuals who require assistance dressing, began with a desire to help her own mother. Kristine experienced the role of caregiver while tending to her mother who lived with Alzheimer’s disease over a period of five years in various long term care homes. Kristine witnessed firsthand the challenges and health risks (pressure sores, physical injury, etc.) associated with dressing someone with declining physical and cognitive abilities. Determined to find a better solution, she envisioned an easier to use, fashion-conscious adaptive clothing line; one that would provide comfort and dignity to her mother while being dressed and one that would also honour her mother’s love of fashion.
Just two weeks after the passing of Kristine’s beloved mother, the passion project that had commenced a year prior gained even more momentum and eventually became the company we now call Monarch.
As a Doctor of Chiropractic, Kristine, combined her knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics with the personal experience of a caregiver and became heavily invested in the design of a new dressing solution. During the first year of building the business, she reached out regularly to her long time friend, previous work colleague and successful entrepreneur Patricia Quinn to provide expertise pertaining to the development of a start-up business. The ladies laugh as Kristine recalls that conversation, “I remember telling Pat that I would have to eventually pay her for all that free consulting on Monarch and she responded saying that I could never afford her!” Patricia, with a solid background in business development and entrepreneurship knew that Kristine was onto something not only meaningful, but extremely important for the care industry. Pat also had a family member diagnosed with dementia in 2016, so she was personally motivated to join the cause. Pat and Kristine became business partners and have a great business relationship and drive to build something to help other families, caregivers and care recipients.
When it came to designing adaptive clothing for people with declining health or mobility issues, it first required an understanding the issue from all angles, which meant doing research, conducting interviews and focus groups with professional caregivers, families and care recipients. With current available clothing designs, they still require substantial physical effort and body manipulation to dress someone which causes a great amount of stress for everyone involved. Common issues encountered with current designs are such things as bulky fasteners like Velcro that are poorly positioned, excess fabric bunching in the back, bare skin being exposed, all of which can contribute to causing pressure injuries. In addition, the fashion designs and colours need refreshing.
Taking all of this into consideration, the ladies knew they had learn the complexities of the garment industry and connect with the right designers, suppliers and manufacturers to begin designing and creating clothing as a solution to address all of these current issues. That is where the Accelerator Centre provided immense value. Pat recalls, “The Accelerator Centre really helped us to gain access to the resources and support we needed to do our research and to start looking at things like our IP and the manufacturing process, while building our products to begin testing.” The conclusion of the Market Validation phase of the Accelerator Centre Program included a pitch contest where Monarch was proud to be presented with the “Most Innovative” award. The ladies have now created their first line of tops for women and are in design working on a line of pants. Men’s apparel is soon to follow.
Their clothing is styled in American Classic which is timeless, classy and very colourful (as research revealed that older generations are attracted to colours over the monochromatic trends as seen among younger generations and current fashion trends). The tops are a 2 piece garment with a technical base layer that is built for comfort, wicks away moisture and has 4-way stretch making it easy to maneuver. It has been engineered integrating “Poka Yoke” aka: mistake – proofing or making it impossible to put it on wrong. This is created with a system of fasteners that have been strategically placed. In addition, if a resident soils themselves or needs to change, the 2nd or top fashionable layer can be quickly and comfortably changed. This clothing system was engineered to be put on a care recipient lying in bed by rolling him/her on their side only once versus up to 4 times required to put current clothing on.
The current designs have been tested with families and care workers and have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. The benefits are clear and far reaching. The care recipient’s dressing experience is enhanced, family members are relieved knowing their loved one is comfortable and looks dignified, and the care workers feel more satisfaction knowing they are able to help their care recipient more easily and with less stress.
Kristine and Pat recognize that this idea came from the want to help those with Alzheimer’s, but recognize that it can help others who are living with many different health conditions and status such as MS, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, severe arthritis, post surgical, mobility issues and general declining health. They have found the community to be very supportive because there is an overwhelming amount of people who are directly affected by or know someone who is affected by the serious health condition of a loved one that wants and deserves to be dressed properly.
Today, Monarch is a team of 6 including two interns from Ryerson University. They are working hard on completing more prototypes, designing more styles of tops and pants, testing in long term care homes, and building out their social media content and contacts. They are excited to start selling the adaptive clothing designs early 2018.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more or would like to invest in this dressing solution for someone you love, feel free to reach out anytime at: https://monarchclothes.com/contact/