Adrian Laprise (left), COO of Zentek Clothing, cuts clothing as Janice Kajanoff, CEO of Zentek Clothing, looks on at the company’s headquarters in Everett on Wednesday, Nov. 15. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Adrian Laprise (left), COO of Zentek Clothing, cuts clothing as Janice Kajanoff, CEO of Zentek Clothing, looks on at the company’s headquarters in Everett on Wednesday, Nov. 15. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Everett’s Zentek Clothing Company arose from a near-death experience.

Several years ago, Janice Kajanoff almost lost her pet bulldog, Butchie, to heat exhaustion. So when she learned of a space-age fabric that can control body temperature, her first thought was “Oh my God. Dogs!”

The fabric warms or cools its wearers via sewn-in phase-change materials, substances that store and release energy.

Developed by NASA to protect astronauts, phase-change materials play a key role in the construction, refrigeration, HVAC, textiles and electronics industries.

They are used, for example, to control the temperature of drug shipments to hospitals and to keep homes at comfortable temperatures.

But Kajanoff had a different vision. The former professional clothing designer devised a process that integrates phase-change materials into a growing line of clothing products — for both canines and humans.

She began with dog vests, for which she patented a design, then added mats and a cooling canine quick wrap.

Now there are vests for people, as well as bedding, shoe insoles and blankets.

“We started it kind of innocently. You can kind of say we tested it on dogs,” Kajanoff said. “We knew they needed it.”

Taking a page from Nike’s marketing book, Kajanoff targeted the four-legged superstars of agility trials, professional discus, fly ball, dog shows, and search-and-rescue missions to be her advertising models. She soon realized her creations had broader applications.

One night at a restaurant, Kajanoff fell into conversation with Adrian Laprise, a retired military engineer and mine operator, who would become her chief operating officer. Laprise urged her to expand into the medical and emergency management fields.

“When those women died in Florida, I was extremely upset,” Laprise said, referring to eight residents of a nursing home who perished from overheating in September when the home’s air conditioning failed. “If they had one of our vests or blankets, they’d be alive today.”

At a November dog show, Laprise sold a vest to a Monroe woman with multiple sclerosis. Since the vest moderates body temperature, he explained, it will lessen her chances of having tremors.

Phase-change materials essentially regulate heartbeat, Kajanoff said. Zentek products can warm and cool wearers in temperatures ranging from -30 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zentek is angling to negotiate contracts with FEMA and other government agencies. It has also sold vests to Boeing employees at Paine Field, who work in humid summer temperatures at the top of hangars, and has a few small wholesale accounts. Eventually, it might branch into retailing.

“No one else in the industry is using this in clothing. Nobody,” Laprise said. “Within a year from now, I guarantee you (Kanjanoff) will be so busy.”

Kajanoff, a widower who grew up in Okanagan and majored in clothing design at the University of Washington, started Zentek with private funding. In the company’s first year, 2007, it had revenues of $13,000. For 2018, Kajanoff is targeting $1.5 million to $2 million.

She moved the operation — herself, Laprise and eight contract sewers — from Seattle last year when Colleen Wyllis, founder of Emerald City Textiles, offered 1,000 square feet in her Everett warehouse. Zentek is currently hiring in-house sewers.

“It’s inspiring what she’s come up with, and how hard she works,” said Wyllis, a dog lover who does volunteer search and rescue. “She’s really pretty brilliant.”

Kajanoff, who has a new dog named Teddy Bear, imports phase-change fabric from Europe, adding insulation and waterproof fabric to fashion various Zentek products.

She’s developing new vests for hunting, fishing, and rowing, and experimenting with different materials such as Gore Tex and Mylar.

Meanwhile, she and Laprise rigorously travel the U.S. dog-show circuit to market their products.

“I don’t believe in retirement. My hands are always busy,” Kajanoff said. “I live from passion. I have always been lucky enough to do my passion.

“My husband died 12 years ago. When your partner dies, you realize you’re mortal. You ask, when you’re on your deathbed, will you be sorry you didn’t do this?

“My answer was yes.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing inks deal for up to 300 737 Max planes with Ryanair

At Boeing’s list prices, the deal would be worth more than $40 billion if Ryanair exercises all the options.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Four recognized for building a better community

Economic Alliance of Snohomish County hosts annual awards

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: Pandemic recovery aid and workforce support program

Snohomish County launches small business COVID recovery program, and is now accepting NOFA grant applications.

Elson S. Floyd Award winner NAACP President Janice Greene. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Janice Greene: An advocate for supplier diversity and BIPOC opportunities

The president of the Snohomish County NAACP since 2008 is the recipient of this year’s Elson S. Floyd Award.

Emerging Leader Rilee Louangphakdy (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Rilee Louangphakdy: A community volunteer since his teens

Volunteering lifted his spirits and connected him with others after the death of a family member.

Emerging Leader Alex McGinty (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Alex Zitnik-McGinty: Find a group you like and volunteer!

Her volunteer activities cover the spectrum. Fitting in “service work is important as we grow.”

Opportunity Lives Here award winner Workforce Snohomish and director, Joy Emory. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Workforce Snohomish receives Opportunity Lives Here Award

Workforce offers a suite of free services to job seekers and businesses in Snohomish County.

Henry M. Jackson award winner Tom Lane. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tom Lane: An advocate for small and local businesses

The CEO of Dwayne Lane’s Auto Family is a recipient of this year’s Henry M. Jackson Award.

John M. Fluke Sr. award winner Dom Amor. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dom Amor: Working behind the scenes to improve the region

Dom Amor is the recipient of this year’s John M. Fluke Sr. Award

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett nuclear fusion energy company nets first customer: Microsoft

The Everett company, on a quest to produce carbon-free electricity, agreed to provide power to the software giant by 2028.

Hunter Mattson, center, is guided by Blake Horton, right, on a virtual welding simulation during a trade fair at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Washington, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. High school kids learned about various trades at the event. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Trade fair gives Snohomish County kids glimpse of college alternatives

Showcasing the trades, the Trade Up event in Monroe drew hundreds of high school students from east Snohomish County.

A Tesla Model Y Long Range is displayed on Feb. 24, 2021, at the Tesla Gallery in Troy, Mich.  Opinion polls show that most Americans would consider an EV if it cost less, if more charging stations existed and if a wider variety of models were available. The models are coming, but they may roll out ahead of consumer tastes. And that could spell problems for the U.S. auto industry, which is sinking billions into the new technology with dozens of new vehicles on the way.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Tesla leases space at Marysville business park

Elon Musk’s electric car company reportedly leased a massive new building at the Cascade Business Park.