Henkaa’s fashion strategy a cut above the rest

joanna duongJoanna Duong (BMath ’04) took her passion for doing more with less and created the highly successful fashion company Henkaa, which produces convertible apparel and accessories for women.

Henkaa, which means “change” in Japanese, represents a woman’s ever-evolving life, and the ability of the company’s timeless pieces to be styled in limitless ways.

After graduating from the University of Waterloo in 2004, Duong went into the real estate business. She was recognized for excellence, receiving the Coldwell Banker Sterling Award in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

“The real estate business has slow times in the winter. After reading The 4-Hour Work Week, which is about starting your own company in your free time, I decided to try it out,” Duong says.

Not a fashion designer by trade, Duong says she “literally engineered the first convertible dress by merging different design elements and materials from pieces in my closet.

“I called it the Frankenstein dress.”

Duong debuted her convertible dress at a wedding, where she received a great deal of interest — especially after women saw her dress change in style twice in one night.

Based on that positive reception and feedback from friends, Duong took her design to tradeshows, where her dress generated even more buzz. So many orders poured in that she left real estate to launch Henkaa in 2010.

Henkaa has garnered much recognition and success, hitting 15th spot on PROFIT magazine’s 2013 HOT 50 ranking, which tracks Canada’s top young high-growth companies. Duong was recently ranked 82 in the PROFIT and Chatelaine magazine list of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.

Duong has embedded her love of frugality and her passion for technology into Henkaa’s vision and mission. She produces fashion pieces that do more with less. She helps women shift away from disposable goods, and provides best-in-class online tools to educate customers on the product.

“I love it when I see customers come up with new and creative ways of wearing our pieces,” says Duong. “It is inspiring and humbling to me because Henkaa started from such a little idea.”

text: Dana Ciak