The World's Most Innovative Companies 2016
Kit and Ace is a Canadian technical streetwear brand founded by Shannon and J.J. Wilson: the wife and son, respectively, of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson. When Kit and Ace launched in 2014, it would have been easy to assume the brand would become the little sibling to the already-cultish Lululemon athleisure and athletic wear mega-brand. Shannon Wilson was formerly Lululemon's head of design. But in just over a year, Kit and Ace has staked its claim solidly in the athleisure space. Instead of selling leggings and sweat-wicking tees to replace jeans and button-downs, Shannon and J.J. have created semi-athletic clothes that also work as bona fide outfits. The pair have developed their own line of "technical" fabrics that wash and wear with the ease of traditional athleisure but feel like cashmere and look appropriate in office settings. The athleisure iron was apparently hot: The Wilsons has opened more than 50 stores in locations stretching from Milwaukee to Melbourne. The company had originally piloted many of the locations as pop-ups but kept them open due to demand. The stores themselves are designed to foster a sense of community: A portion of each shop is designed by local artisans for a unique, non-chain-store feel. And most locations also have a dining room table used for invite-only quarterly supper clubs. Many even have a technical atelier where local emerging designers are invited to set up in the shop for eight-month residencies to experiment with Kit and Ace's fabrics, without restriction. That provides the company with testing ground for new designs, and those experimental designs are often integrated into the official collection and sold around the world.