Meet Michelle Shemilt: Founder of Sustainable Undergarment Brand NUMI
Before starting her fashion line, Michelle Shemilt was an equity trader at a global bank in Toronto. It was a job where she would wear professional work attire daily, but she was constantly frustrated by the high cost of her dry cleaning bills and always worried about getting embarrassing sweat stains on her clothes.
Desperate for a solution, Shemilt tried everything from stick-in armpit pads to wearing full-on T-shirts under her blouses, but nothing was comfortable or practical. With that, the concept of NUMI came to be.
Proudly made in Canada, NUMI is a line of sustainable, breathable undergarments for women that work to extend the life of clothing by keeping them cleaner for longer and protecting them from damaging perspiration and deodorant stains.
Established in 2013 and formerly called Nudy Patooty, the brand evolved into NUMI to better resonate with its customers.
“We started to really dig deep into our identity and during that process, the name NUMI just popped into my head… It feels like an evolution of the previous brand, and also has a lightness to it, which corresponds to our product,” said Shemilt.
The NUMI undershirts are made from an organic Sweat-Secret Technology fabric that absorbs and wicks moisture away from the body, preventing it from seeping through to outer clothes. NUMI comes in four different shades and styles providing an option for every woman, and also features a reversible neckline, ensuring it can work with any outfit.
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Keep swiping and find out what makes a NUMI so special! ✨ 1. Our undershirts have sweat-proof underarms. You can wear your most expensive silks and save the stain 2. We have 3 different nude shades that will blend right underneath any clothing 3. Along with laser cut sleeves, we have a reversible neckline to suit almost every outfit 4. We have a new Tencel Fabric along with our Sweat-Secret Technology ™. Soft and weightless, effortlessly.
“NUMI customers range from professional women to stay-at-home moms to retired women and girls in high school. The frustration of sweat stains is an issue that impacts all of us women in different ways at every stage of life,” said Shemilt. “NUMI attracts women who want to feel their best and feel confident in their clothes every day.”
Making women feel good in their clothes isn’t Shemilt’s only goal. She also places a high value on the sustainability of NUMI.
“I think business owners today really have an opportunity to add more value than just the product or service [they’re] creating, but also in the way [they] operate [their] business and the culture [they] create. For me, part of that means an ethical manufacturing process where I know exactly how and where our products are being made, and I know that everyone in our supply chain is paid a fair wage,” said Shemilt. “[Sustainability] is at the heart of our product development and manufacturing decisions.”
And in a world of fast fashion, Shemilt says maintaining clothes to wearable condition so consumers can keep them for longer could help to reduce North America’s waste output.
“Fast fashion has turned into disposable fashion and there is a real problem with the amount of clothing waste that we produce, especially in North America. On top of making our customers feel more confident in their clothes, NUMI also helps extend the life of your clothes. We hope that women will start investing in well-made garments that really will last forever when you are wearing a NUMI to protect them.”
Shemilt was selected from hundreds of entrepreneurs across the country to bring NUMI to the Joe Fresh Centre For Fashion Innovation at Ryerson University’s Fashion Zone. The Joe Fresh Centre works to accelerate Canadian startups in all fashion-related fields, including design, production, technology and professional services.
But Shemilt never expected to end up working in fashion.
“I’ve always loved fashion but [I] never thought I would work in the industry,” said Shemilt. “NUMI evolved from a frustration that I faced every day getting dressed and realizing there was no solution on the market. When I started NUMI, I didn’t even know anyone that worked in fashion, let alone manufacturing, so it has been an exciting learning curve for me.”
It may have been exciting, but Shemilt doesn’t deny that being a female entrepreneur comes with its own set of challenges.
“I think one of the biggest challenges in starting your own business is how you have to grow and develop as a person. By that I mean breaking through limiting beliefs, developing as a leader and getting clear on your vision for yourself and your company,” said Shemilt.
“From an operating perspective, one of the biggest challenges is connecting with your customer and introducing your product to the market. It’s very easy to start an e-commerce business today with platforms such as Shopify, but it takes a lot of effort to get your product in front of customers and start making sales because the online marketplace is very loud.”
Having rebranded this year and launched a new website, Shemilt says she’s confident with NUMI’s future position in the fashion market as she affixes to the feedback of her loyal customers.
“We believe in creating products that are solutions to improve the lives of our customers… I’ve really connected with our customers and learned how wearing NUMI impacts their lives and makes them feel more confident every day – that’s what really inspires me.”
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Brooklyn is a Toronto-based journalist and if she isn’t writing, you can find her enjoying a nice glass of merlot. She is a lover of good books, Sunday brunches and running around the city with her girl gang. She’s your basic Blair Waldorf in a world of Jenny Humphrey’s. You can follow her on Twitter @BNeustaeter.