“I don’t have any desire to fight for the middle ground,” says Mike McGregor, photographer and founder of Janesi Comfort. “We’re really aiming for the fences here, so that is what we’ve produced so far.”
Last year, McGregor conceptualized and launched Janesi Comfort, a line of luxury robes, blankets and other items to bring a high-end touch to the hospital experience. The concept for the company was inspired by McGregor’s late wife, Jo, who passed more than a year and a half ago from a liver condition.
“My wife got sick and everything in the world kind of changed,” McGregor recalls. “I found myself in the hospital and realized, although I spent every waking day before this happened selling beautiful fashion stuff and luxury items, when I actually needed it the most, there was nothing I could actually provide to help the person that meant the most to me when they were their most vulnerable.”
McGregor recalls gowns that were rough to the touch and impersonal, a far cry from how Jo lived prior to her illness.
“We were sitting in multiple different hospitals for two months and it was the most impersonal, cold, hard thing,” McGregor says. During her illness, Jo received items from friends and family that, while thoughtful, were also impractical for the reality of her time in treatment. “I found that people who cared were sending flowers or sending chocolate and she didn’t like chocolate. Flowers don’t address your real, primal needs. There’s a couple of things that you could do in that situation that you can control and one of those is the gowns or the clothing that’s physically touching your skin.”
After Jo passed, McGregor (along with his two children) realized they needed something in their lives to help sustain her memory. Janesi Comfort was a natural step forward in securing her legacy while also helping others experience a piece of luxury while facing hospital stays and chronic illness. “We started talking about the things she valued and those were both a little bit of that luxury, but also having things that were really well engineered and well designed,” says McGregor.
Due to his extensive background in the fashion and luxury goods worlds, McGregor said it was not difficult to find other people to help him bring his vision to life. After reaching out to his circle, McGregor found a host of pattern makers and seamstresses who had worked for designers like Prada and Louis Vuitton and were capable of making prototypes for the brand. He also partnered with a small hospital near where he lives that was willing to co-design with him.
Janesi Comfort’s products are not only soft to touch; they are also completely sustainable. The company uses the best quality fabrics that are made without toxic chemicals to “make sure everything that you do is as natural as it can be for the body,” says McGregor. The fabrics are also compostable. The only plastic they use is a recyclable plastic on their products’ snap closures for X-ray purposes.
Creating a product that was both good for the body in the present as well as good for the environment in the future was a no-brainer for McGregor. “It’s one of those things where if you’re just trying to think about holistic health, I want every aspect of it to push toward betterment,” McGregor says. “The thing I wanted to do is make ‘right now’ and the future as good as possible for the people that are receiving these.”
The company has also partnered with Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit that donates professional portraits to children fighting cancer. McGregor and his team have often participated in these photo sessions, which he says look “real Hollywood.”
“All these kids are given something that’s a complete distraction from their day-to-day fight to make it through tomorrow,” says McGregor. “Hundreds of different hospitals go in and create these little freeze frames celebrating who these kids are and giving them the best little memory of where they were during a real terrible time.” A portion of proceeds from every Janesi Comfort robe purchased goes straight to Flashes of Hope.
As Janesi Comfort grows in the future, McGregor hopes to expand the company’s offerings by providing more specialized items for certain medical conditions. Most recently, the company partnered with the Alzheimer’s Foundation to figure out how to best support that community with custom pieces tailored to their needs. And plans to offer a design specifically for breast surgery patients is also underway. Jo had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery prior to her sudden illness. According to McGregor, a new design prototype will help with accommodation of drains, ports and other surgery-specific needs for patients during their reconstructive process.
“You’re sitting in that hospital room and you’ve got people surrounding you that are all talking in medical jargon. I want to have that fabric that just slightly rubs against your skin and you’re like, ‘Holy cow is that nice!’” says McGregor. “It reminds you that you’ve got a team fighting for you.”
To learn more about or purchase your own piece from Janesi Comfort, visit janesicomfort.com.