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Home / Interviews / Interview with Mary-Cathryn Kolb
Mary-Cathryn Kolb
Mary-Cathryn Kolb
Founder-CEO

Interview with Mary-Cathryn Kolb

Time for technology to disrupt textiles

Atlanta-based private start-up Brrr° was founded in 2014 to develop advanced fabrics with superior cooling performance. It is one of the 16 start-ups chosen to showcase its patented fabrics at the 10th annual Venture Atlanta investor conference and innovation showcase in October this year. The company uses a proprietary blend of natural cooling minerals embedded in yarn, superior moisture wicking and a patented knitting process that maximises airflow to create a 'triple chill effect'. Its Qmax fabrics cool 30-85 per cent better than comparable 'virgin' nylon, polyester or cotton. Founder-CEO, Mary-Cathryn Kolb, who earlier held senior positions at Spanx, Seven7 Jeans, TOMS Shoes and Von Dutch, speaks to Dipesh Satpathy about the company.

TT: Tell us briefly about your company and its evolution. What was the motivation behind starting it?

In 2014, Brrr° grew from the idea of "clothes that make you feel cooler, not warmer." The motivation behind the idea was asking how to disrupt the fashion industry with something new and cool. People wear clothing to wrap up and warm up, so the concept was doing just that, but with a cooling technology. Brrr° incorporates technologically-advanced fabrics with superior cooling performance that can enhance the comfort of bed sheets, apparel, denim, undergarments and other textiles.


TT: What is the significance of the name brrr with a degree symbol suffix?

Ours is a cooling fabric that wants to be recognised with a unique brand name. When you think of the word 'brrr', you instantly think of words like cold, cool or chill. The degree symbol represents that our fabrics will reduce your skin temperature by 2-3° Fahrenheit.


TT: How are you different from other players in the field? What is your USP?

Our technology has three unique cooling effects that combine to immediately and continually reduce skin temperature: embedded natural minerals that permanently draw heat away and bring an immediate cooling sensation, a special fibre core that enhances moisture wicking, and a proprietary fabric pattern to maximise airflow to boost cooling.


TT: What are some of the cutting-edge research efforts being undertaken and products developed by your company?

We recently produced the first known king-size, seamless sheets with our cooling technology. We are now working on denim and fabric for the automotive industry.


TT: Do you collaborate with government universities or private research institutions?

We have a partnership with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a non-profit institute with its headquarters near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). We also collaborate with the Hohenstein Institute in Boennigheim, Germany, an accredited test laboratory and research institute. We just sent fabric headers to be featured in New York-based Material ConneXion, which maintains the world's largest subscription-based materials library with thousands of innovative materials and processes. We have also sent fabric headers to be a part of the Penn Libraries' Fisher Fine Arts Library at University of Pennsylvania.


TT: Are there any patents that your company has been granted on technologies or processes related to fabrics and textiles?

We have four patents pending.


TT: Please tell us about your prominent research brains who help propel growth.

We have a brilliant material scientist, Apurba Banerjee. She is doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia in polymer, fibre and textile sciences. She received her Masters in textile science from Colorado State University and completed her Bachelor's degree from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai. Apurba focuses on driving new innovations and research and development of cooling technology for Brrr°. We also have garment industry expert Newbery Su running our Taiwan office. He coordinates design and manufacturing of Brrr° fabric for all licensing partners and development of new applications for the patented technology.


TT: What is the significance of your Taiwan office? And why Taiwan?

We wanted our presence in the hub of textile technology and engineering, which Taiwan is. Having a staff there allows for boots on the ground for daily quality control of current production and the execution of our research and development pipeline.


TT: What are your expansion plans?

We want to continue to innovate smart textiles and let Brrr° turn a leader in the textile revolution.


TT: How do you see the applications of advanced textiles growing in the next decade?

In the last decade, technology has exponentially improved our lives while our textiles remained virtually unchanged from the beginning of time. Cottons are still your cottons, linens are still your linens. It's now time for technology to disrupt our textiles by making fashion smart and functional.


Published on: 31/10/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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