We recently caught up with the owners of Urbancoolab, a Toronto urban streetwear company using A.I. to design and create a personalized style and look that is truly you and unique.
What is your business called and what does it do?
Our company is called Urbancoolab. Me and co-founder Javier Mootee founded this company in 2018 after I left Idea Couture (a global company that I co-founded in Toronto) and Javier returned to Canada from London, UK. It began with a conversation about a Supreme drop. We discovered we have two common interests: Artificial Intelligence and Streetwear. Our business leverages the power of Artificial Intelligence to carry out creative tasks, which took three years to build. Our resident robo-designer, STiCH, collaborates with influencers, musicians, hip-hop artists, fashion designers, sneakers brands and content creators to design and sell micro-capsules. The most recent collab was with Toronto rap legend Kardinal Offishall. It was amazing to see Kardinal working with artificial intelligence.
What made you want to do this work?
We want to accomplish three things:
01/ Prove that Creative Singularity is here or almost here (Machine creativity exceeds those of humans).
02/ Prove than human and machine can collaborate creatively. We want to show that machines do not eliminate creative work but can enhance it through work alongside humans.
03/ To aspire and open the doors for future creators and empower them to design fashion without formal fashion training.
What problem did you want to solve with the business?
There are three problems we are trying to solve:
01/ The End of Mass: Every brand is looking for cultural literacy. In a fast-moving consumer climate, brands find it difficult to catch up or stay relevant. Every capsule is unique unto itself—some as a visual protest to a social cause and others as a medium to share personal tales. Our tagline “Human Story. Machine Design.” reflects that.
02/ The End of Long Design and Development Cycle: Brand-owners must manage startup costs ranging from research, design, fabric, pattern-making, sampling, sewing, packaging, and shipping, amongst others. Starting a streetwear brand not only eats up valuable time (between 6-8 moths of planning) and can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000. Urbancoolab sees the future of fashion as a compressed cycle, and as a result, modifies the overall process into a fraction of both time and cost.
03/ End of Inventory: Brand-owners must balance avoiding stock-outs, while keeping carrying costs low. In 2019, A large retailer reported that they had an inventory buildup of US$4.3B in unsold merchandise (Business of Fashion). Urbancoolab’s on-demand model solves the inventory problem, while still being able to order small batched of cool, cutting-edge products.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
It is really for everyone. Well almost everyone. Anyone with a story. Currently we work with Influencers, rappers, stylists, tattoo artists, fitness trainers, visual artists, fashion designers and even virtual humans. We don’t have any Olympian, politicians or celebrity chefs yet. And people who buy are clothes are no different from anyone who shop from famous brands.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
We worked with our members like business partners. Once we validate that the person has an interesting idea or story and brings cultural capital to the table, our Ai will co-design a capsule with them and we will market it and share the profits. So they still own the brand and have control over it and not needing to invest massive money into starting and running it.
Where in Toronto can we find your profession?
We are not a sure because we don’t have a physical store. It lives online. URBANCOOLAB.
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.
Can the AI be more creative than the human designers offered by other studios. The answer is depending who is that other designer. We are better than 90% of human designers, but still a long way from Alessandro Michele (Gucci), Christopher Bailey (Burberry) and Virgil Abloh (Off White and LV).
What is the best part about what you do? What is the most challenging part?
The best part is we work with cool people that makes the world interesting. We constantly have to fight the byproducts of industrialization – mass. But as individuals there is never a more important time to celebrate the “me” in all of us. Toronto is a perfect reflection of diversity and that makes this city exciting and that’s why we started our company here. The most challenging part is also working some very different people. Sometimes it causes us headache but luckily our machines don’t get headache.
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
People ask when will humans be used to test against our latest creative AI program?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
There are lots of small stores in King Street and start-up companies in Toronto that I love. It is hard to name one. I want to see one day than I have a few ones that I can instantly recall and it is based on Toronto but known globally.