Shopping for the perfect pair of jeans can often feel like a life-long search that’s doomed to be filled with frustration and despair. Sadly, these denim woes are shared by many women, and it even ignited what lead Jessica Shvili and Lindsay Fernlund to start designing their own jeans.
Today their brand, Iris Denim, has been operating since 2013 and they’ve been serving the women of Toronto (and Canada) some of the best denim cuts, quality and styles on the market. Did I mention they’re all made right here in Canada too?
As a huge fan of their brand and the jeans that they make, the duo behind Iris Denim were on the top of my list when I first started brainstorming who to feature in the new #FounderFiles series. Keep reading to get to know these 2 dope boss ladies and find out why I’m part of their growing ‘fan girl’ club.
Business Name: Iris Denim
Name & Title: Co-founders: Jessica Shvili & Lindsay Fernlund
Age: 35+ and that’s all we’re gonna say.
Education: School of Life
GC: Tell us about your brand, what do you do?
ID: We are the co-founders, CEO’s, and designers behind Iris Denim; a Toronto-based denim label that makes the best jeans you’ve ever tried on (or haven’t tried yet).
GC: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
ID: We started Iris Denim out of the sheer frustration of not being able to find a single pair of perfect skinny jeans. We were on a constant quest until one day we just said, “F*#k it, let’s just start designing our own.”
GC: Why do you love what you do?
ID: Seeing women lookin’ amazing and feelin’ confident about themselves in something we made is a pretty special feeling. We’ve received emails from women just wanting to thank us for making a great jean, and women who’ve told us they gave up on pants entirely until they discovered Iris Denim. That means a lot. Knowing that our jeans are making someone smile in a badly lit change room somewhere because they finally found what they were looking for… how could we not love what we do?!
GC: What makes your business special?
ID: We’re a self-financed, from zero-to-shero, ‘you better werk, bitch’, sisters-who-dun-it-for-themselves, success story. All our designs are named in honour of female musicians who’ve been influencing our style, attitudes, and confidence since we were kids.
We don’t just want you to put on a pair of jeans and feel like, “K, I look awesome!”, we want you to put on a pair of jeans called Bad Reputation and feel like, “K, I look awesome. Joan Jett – you better watch yourself!”
GC: What makes your product special?
ID: We are extreme perfectionists. We go through a pretty rigorous testing process to make sure that each style will look good on a variety of body types. Nothing gets put into production unless we’re sure that every person who tries them on has an Oprah ‘a-ha’ moment where they finally found what they’re looking for. In addition, we make everything right here in Canada, using environmentally safe methods throughout our manufacturing process.
GC: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
ID: That we couldn’t do it without one another! *cue sappy music*
GC: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Canada/Toronto?
ID: Honestly, we’ve received nothing but love and support from not just Toronto, but all of Canada, since day one. Like, not to make this all about Canada, but Canada is a place that supports its own. It’s ingrained in us. If you’re Canadian, you get what we’re saying (and) if you’re not, ask a Canadian who’s nearby.
GC: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
ID: In the words of the great Britney Spears, “You better work, bitch.”
GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
ID: Not a thing. Our mistakes have been just as valuable as our successes.
GC: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs in the denim and design business to prepare for?
ID: It’s harder than it looks!
GC: What has your experience as an entrepreneur in Canada been like?
GC: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
ID: We have each other! *cue sappy music, again* There’ve been times when one of us had to calm the other one down, or take them out of a negative headspace. They’re inevitable moments, but having someone pull you outta that mindset and light a fire under your ass is all you need.
GC: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
ID: Oof, there’s so many amazing women that we look up to and take inspiration from, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few names; Diane Von Furstenberg, Gloria Vanderbilt, Oprah, obviously every woman we’ve named a jean after, Patti Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Missy Elliot, we could go on…
GC: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
ID: We always take an hour for lunch to watch Catfish: The TV Show.
GC: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
ID: We haven’t had to ‘look’ yet, and I hope we never do!
GC: As a Canadian based company do you have international goals and if so why?
ID: ABSOLUTELY! We look ahead and we see the big picture. Setting goals is just creating stepping stones to keep going further and further. We reach a goal, we set a new one, and so on. Achieving what you set out to do is an incredible feeling, and in order to get there, you gotta keep challenging yourself. Us being nationwide is a stepping stone, to going into the US, to going into Europe, etc., you dig? We’ll even sell jeans on Mars if that’s ever an option. NO LIMITS.
GC: Who is the Iris denim client and where can IRIS denim be purchased?
ID: The Iris Denim client? ANYONE WHO DAMN WELL WISHES TO BE! Iris Denim is sold in stores across Canada, as well as online. Please visit irisdenim.com for details.