29 and 31 of the BSB Power 50: Fashion
The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays.
29. Jessica Mulroney: Stylist, Philanthropist
It’s hard to pin down exactly what Jessica Mulroney’s job title is these days, only for the simple reason that she commits herself to so many of her passions. Between her work as a philanthropist, stylist, editor and entrepreneur, it’s baffling how one person has the time to do it all with the effectiveness and speed at which she operates.
Take, for instance, her work in philanthropy. With strong ties in the creative circle, Mulroney recently spearheaded The Brain Project, a collaborative initiative between fifty prominent artists and Baycrest Health Sciences to raise awareness and funds for aging and brain health. That particular project saw fifty cerebral sculptures scattered throughout Toronto in a large-scale public art exhibition where visionaries from multiple industries came together to support a common goal.
It has been that uncanny ability to unite people with a shared vision that Mulroney has become so known for. Perhaps the reason why her name also rings a bell is her work with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. A longtime supporter of the Canadian fashion industry, Mulroney can largely be held responsible for shining an international spotlight on our homegrown designers as a stylist to Gregoire-Trudeau. And while Sophie may be recognized as a style icon in her own respect, it has been Mulroney’s careful and strategic vision behind-the-scenes that has given our fashion industry a voice and, most importantly, a much-needed opportunity to grow.
31. JJ Wilson: Co-Founder, Kit and Ace, Entrepreneur
JJ Wilson makes no apologies. The contemporary luxury streetwear brand Kit and Ace that Wilson co-founded just two years ago has expanded beyond estimates despite its unconventional brand strategy. In an astonishingly short amount of time, the brand has cropped up multiple retail locations in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, as well as an entirely successful e-commerce store that dictates where the brand will head to next. Kit and Ace’s success is based on the repurposing of conventionally athletic fabrics for transitional performance wear and all day functionality. For example, qemir, a technical cashmere-viscose blend developed by Shannon Wilson, the brand’s other co-founder and JJ’s stepmother, is low-maintenance and doesn’t require dry cleaning like other cashmere products.
While Kit and Ace has largely been the focus of JJ’s attention over the past few years, as a young entrepreneur he has understood the importance of a diverse business portfolio. Consequently, Wilson has slowly started to build his other businesses, Sorry Coffee Co. and Ride Cycle Club, all under his active lifestyle umbrella.
Sorry Coffee Co., a coffee shop within select Kit and Ace stores with an understated hint of satirical humour, is a smart decision for Kit and Ace as the two brands ideologically mesh well together. Both place a strong emphasis on good design, subtlety and innovative products. Sorry products feature a hidden electric blue accent in their otherwise gray-toned branding and stores, which encourages a relationship with regular customers who notice the brand’s small details. Additionally every quarter, Sorry collaborates with a different artist to reinvent their cup design.
Wilson started studying business at the University of Calgary before moving on to Ryerson University for a degree in commerce, entrepreneurship and retail management. However, he learned the most about the apparel industry at the dinner table listening in on conversations about his father’s company. Wilson is the son of Chip Wilson, founder of the highly successful Vancouver athletic apparel retailer, Lululemon Athletica, where his stepmother also worked as lead designer. “I see my whole life as a mini-MBA,” said in a past interview with us. “It was so specific in retail and fashion and technical apparel that I brought everything together and reinvented it for something that I wanted to do.”
Wilson then jumped around corporate internships at the Clinton Foundation in New York City and trend forecasting at Holt Renfrew before trying his hand at marketing with Wing + Horns. Following a stint at Lululemon, Wilson then went on to launch Kit and Ace. Shortly afterwards, both co-founders partnered up with spin instructor Ashley Amber on another project that would become Ride Cycle Club. Located in Vancouver with plans to expand into Toronto later this year, the spin club offers intensive 55-minute workouts in a room that can only be described as a gym and nightclub hybrid.
Wilson’s experimentation and openness to trying new things is partly what has guaranteed his continued success. “You don’t have to have all the answers — not everything has to be perfect. It’s actually the imperfections that make a brand cool on it’s own.” - RD