A student startup from U of T has set out to turn boxy white lab coats into stylish jackets.
U of T PhD students Liu Zhang and Ondrej Halgas founded Modadoro — a company specializing in lab coat design — in 2013 as a student project for a year-long graduate course called “Creating Life Science Products.” After two of their product ideas had failed, Zhang and Halgas decided on a new idea involving lab coats. They collected responses from a primary customer validation survey, developed a business plan, and placed second in the final pitch competition.
Zhang and Halgas continued their project even after the course ended. Eventually, the company was picked up by Ryerson’s Fashion Zone, an incubator for fashion-inspired businesses and startups. There, they teamed up with Ryerson MBA student Alexandra Schmidt, who is now the company’s Chief Technical Officer. With Schmidt’s design work, the first prototype for the lab coat was created.
“Labs of today are filled with every nationality, gender, and creed imaginable. Yet, society and popular culture still try to force scientists into this old stereotype of an old white guy in a shapeless white lab coat. We believe that the time is more than ripe for a change,” Halgas told The Science Diaries.
The inspiration behind Modadoro’s name stems from the Italian words moda d’oro, meaning ‘fashion gold.’ The coats are made of 100 per cent cotton and come in a variety of colours, including light blue, navy, pink, and white. They have adjustable waists and snapped buttons that make them easy to take off in case of fire or chemical spill.
The three now wish to expand Modadoro’s distribution and product line.
In 2016, Modadoro sold a sample run of 120 lab coats for women at the U of T Bookstore, and are currently working on a men’s line of lab coats, hoping to have 2,000 coats for sale at multiple institutions.
“I never envisioned myself working in the fashion industry, but now our goal is to expand the idea and product line as far as possible,” said Zhang in a U of T News article. “We want to be the Canada Goose of lab coats.”