You know the soothing sensation of flipping over a clammy pillow to rest your cheek on the fresh, cool side? That’s the feeling Tosha Hays and Mary-Cathryn Kolb hope to bottle up with their new Atlanta-based fashion-tech company, Brrr.
The two Georgia natives and former Spanx execs have developed a patent-pending textile that they claim is the first truly cooling fabric. Similar-sounding textiles for athletic performance wear are focused on moisture-wicking, but the flowy garments Hays and Kolb have created actually cool as they move through the air. (The exact science is proprietary, but it involves the size of the yarn and the way the fabric is knit.)
So far Brrr includes a small women’s ready-to-wear collection, a lower-priced line (pullovers, joggers, and tees) called Brrr Basics, scarves dubbed CoolWraps, and accessories. Their target customers are busy women like themselves (they both have three children, including a set of twins each) who need to transition seamlessly from work to play to events. One of the standout pieces is a sleek but comfy column maxi dress (on Hays, at right) that’s as fit for lounging as for evening.
A dress from a line named Brrr may not sound like something appropriate for your January wardrobe. But Hays and Kolb claim Brrr is more comfortable and more “thoughtful to the body” than traditional cottons (it does feel refreshing to the touch). They insist Brrr is a year-round fabric that could line the insides of coats and the underarms of cardigans, and, yes, even be stitched into a pillowcase.
The pair also emphasize that, unlike other cooling garments on the market, Brrr is first and foremost a style-driven product. “We’re fashion girls,” says Kolb at her Buckhead office, looking much the part in a Brrr maxi dress and a blowout.
Hays, 41, the company’s chief innovation officer, has been immersed in textiles her entire life. She grew up the daughter of a cotton fiber exec in tiny Musella (population 1,304), 32 miles from Macon and home to one of the state’s few remaining cotton gins, owned by her father. After studying fashion merchandising at UGA, Hays began her career in New York at Tommy Hilfiger. In 2006 she joined Spanx and moved swiftly up the ladder to director of design, becoming intimately familiar with yarns, fibers, and technology, and traveling the world to meet with mills, factories, and textile innovators.
Kolb, 36, Brrr’s CEO, also has roots in small-town Georgia. A Thomasville native, she studied communications at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she met Blake Mycoskie, who went on to found Toms Shoes and hired her as his first employee. After years in sales positions in L.A. and New York, she started at Spanx in 2007 and soon became sales director.
In 2014 the pair left Spanx, launching Brrr with a fall collection the following year at a Neiman Marcus trunk show. They also released Brrr Basics in five Dillard’s stores across the country, including the Perimeter Mall location.
This spring Hays and Kolb will reveal the company’s second collection. While the fall release was full of slinky and stretchy dresses, colorful scarves, and silky pants, the spring line showcases a more structured woven fabric (think creamy oxford shirts and shirtdresses).
Still, “our product isn’t this shirt or that dress,” says Hays, pointing at a rack of clothing. “It’s the technology. Fashion is just the vehicle for it.” Ultimately they hope to license their textile to other fashion brands (imagine a Brrr by Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress) and soft goods manufacturers—even the military.
“Our goal is to lead the fashion-tech revolution,” says Hays. They’ve already garnered significant industry recognition, most recently at a global fashion-tech summit called Decoded in Milan. Hays is a charter member of national nonprofit (and MIT partner) Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, and they have even received seed funding from Silicon Valley. “We want people to think of us as technology that solves problems,” says Hays.
One concept solves a problem we never knew we had. Brrr-lined clutches— or “mobile igloos”—come with a freezer gel pack to keep lipstick, iPhones, even water bottles and snacks cool all day.
This article originally appeared in our January 2016 issue under the headline “Chill Out.”