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

Everett to consider allowing three more pot shops in city

After months of economic, planning and public safety review, the city council could vote next month.

Economic Alliance and Lynnwood offer new business grants

The grants are derived from the federal Coronavirus Assistance, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Paine Field gets $5M grant to remedy a CARES Act oversight

Shortchanged earlier, the Snohomish County airport is the recipient of a new federal grant.

Amazon’s buying spree of used planes goes against green pledge

Airlines are being spurred to hasten the retirement of their oldest, fuel-guzzling aircraft.

An update: We’re proud and humbled by our readers’ support

The Daily Herald investigative fund has grown, and now we’re working to expand environmental coverage.

Commentary: The 737 Max debacle won’t be the end of Boeing

The plane may actually be the bright spot in Boeing’s airliners business.

Panel blasts Boeing, FAA for ‘horrific culmination’ of failures

Investigators found that the company had a financial incentive to avoid more pilot training.

Marysville offers another round of CARES Act grants

Funds are available for those who need help paying for housing or business expenses amid COVID-19.

Port again wins millions in grant money for mill site revamp

The Port of Everett successfully reapplied for federal funding after losing $15.5 million last year.

‘Better with Boeing’ campaign aims to keep 787 assembly here

A new marketing effort hopes to persuade the company to keep Dreamliner work in Everett.

737 Max engineer didn’t know details of flight control system

The program’s leaders only assumed pilots would react differently to the triggering of the MCAS.

Everett company faces $230,000 fine for safety violations

State inspectors allege that Chilos Builders exposed workers to hazards at area construction sites.