For our latest featured Homegrown Business we spoke with Gary Lenett who is the President/Co-Founder of Canadian denim brand DUER, a company that designs clothing for all the things you do in a day.
What is your business called and what does it do?
The company is called DUER. The origin of the name is related to the intent of the company — whether you’re cycling to work, running into an important meeting, out for an afternoon walk or transitioning from the office to dinner, we design clothing for all you can do in a day.
What made you want to do this work?
When I launched DUER, I had already been in apparel for more than two decades. At the time, I was tired of the race to the bottom, where labels buy the same trend reports and try to create the same products faster and cheaper than anyone else. At the same time, I started riding my bike everywhere, and realized there was nothing on the market that I would wear on my bike that I’d also wear to an important meeting. The thought of solving a real problem facing people and doing something to help people live happier, healthier lives drew me back in.
What problem does this solve?
We’ve developed a product line that’s comfortable and stylish, and fused it with technology to create a performance-driven and durable collection. Because we integrate technical components into all of our products, the brand straddles being a fashion brand and a technology company. At times, this makes our offering a challenge to communicate but a lot of fun to navigate.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
Our product speaks to men and women who lead healthy, active, adventurous lifestyles and need clothes that can keep up.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
We currently sell through our wholesale network of independent retailers in 22 different countries across the globe, with flagship stores in Vancouver and Toronto, as well as online to 52 countries worldwide.
Where in Toronto can we find your profession?
Our Toronto retail store is located at 491 Queen St. West. It opened in April 2019.
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services?
Q: Why hasn’t anyone else done this before DUER?
A: I believe the reason we were able to get style, comfort and technical in one is because we started with a different mindset than some of the other brands out there. What I mean by this is there are fashion brands but their products are generally not bringing anything special in terms of technology. And then there are the athletic and athleisure brands but they start with the gym or “apres gym”. We differ from tech clothing because we don’t start with athletic clothing. Rather, we put technical into real pants.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
I am a serial entrepreneur and I love brand building. It is like a big puzzle with no singular road map. I also love working with my dynamic young team that teaches me new things literally every day. I do not like the corporate finance part so much – the more we grow, the more money it takes to finance the growth. Sometimes (not often but sometimes) I wish that we were less dynamic because then we could just finance our growth through internal cash flow.
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
I think many people in the fashion industry take themselves and what we do too seriously, so much so that it is sort of funny. Our business used to be called the “Rags” business, which has an element of humility to it. I love what we do and consider clothing a cool way for personal expression, but we are not doctors or teachers. Ultimately I think our profession would be well served to remember that we do not add all that much to society — at least from an altruistic perspective.
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
I love all of the gritty little fashion startups coming out of Toronto. Toronto produces so many fashion graduates with small startups. These often begin as a side hustle, which really reflects the emerging Toronto fashion scene at its best. One example is Douglas Tynes with his brand Nightmare Vision.