BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Each Monday, we highlight a City Shaper - someone making a positive change or building a business in Western New York. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik shows us how a brother and sister combined their skills to create a unique clothing company.
Coolture is headquartered on Kenmore Avenue in Buffalo. It’s a company that makes clothing that keeps you cool.
"My whole family, we're inspired by invention, and we have a passion for design," says Luanne DiBernardo
DiBernardo is Coolture's founding CEO. The North Tonawanda native moved back to Buffalo in 2000 after spending 15 years in Florida in marketing and film.
"My brother designed shoes in Manhattan before he came home, too, on a disability with Multiple Sclerosis. I came home the same year after living in Sarasota, Florida. I was in marketing and was a copywriter, and Van had become disabled by the heat. He was completely exacerbated by the warm weather, and he was wearing a very heavy cumbersome, ugly cooling vest designed for industrial reasons," says DiBernardo.
After watching Van struggle with the weight of the vest, Luanne decided to launch a new career.
"I said, you're a designer, design your own vest and let's get it made. And that one little idea, I started doing research on how many populations need cooling and the next thing you know, my idea turned into a company," says DiBernardo.
Luanne officially started Coolture in 2010.
"It was a real struggle in the beginning. We were using our own money, trying to by a thousand yards of materials for three different purposes, and it's expensive. Kind of like that ignorance is bliss. If I knew then what I know now. I'd be writing copy. But it's just amazing. The feedback we get from the people that we're making this for is, it's just unbelievable," she says.
The goal was to make a functional cooling vest that was also more stylish than what the competition had to offer. Now, the company makes everything from headbands to gloves for everyone from people with medical conditions to athletes and those who work outside.
The secret to keeping cool is found in the cooling packs.
"You put them in water and they become plump. And once they plump, you freeze them," says DiBernardo.
Always looking to create something new, Luanne and Van are now working on orthopedic cooling products.
"For me, anything is possible, or I wouldn't have done this. I wouldn't have made a film. Anything is possible. Somebody has to do it, why not me? And, so I just felt like, let's go. One foot in front of the other, let's go until we can't go. But, I just get more and more charged, and it's really been an incredible journey," says DiBernardo.
And, she couldn't imagine doing it anywhere else.
"With Buffalo, it's like an unforgettable living organism and we all move together and complain together, but it's a really, really strong knit community. Then, you add what's happening to it, it's economically, aesthetically, it's pretty great," she says.
The company also employs several Burmese refugees who are learning new skills in a new country.
If you'd like to nominate someone to be a City Shaper, just email Kelly.