TORONTO — Toddlers have no respect for mittens.
They chuck them into snow banks as they are carried papoose-style. They toss them dispassionately from moving strollers as they reach out for a passing dog.
Parents, ever patient, grit their teeth and smile, frustrated at the loss of yet another pair of mittens.
For those parents and their frozen-fingered kids, a Toronto entrepreneur has created a new generation of childproof, stay-on mittens.
Anna-Maria Mountfort, 38, created a decorated mitt connected to a long, knit sleeve that runs up the child’s arm, almost to the elbow. It is virtually impossible to shake them off, says Mountfort, who got the idea in 2005, constructed a prototype the following year and began marketing the idea almost immediately. She calls her company MimiTENS, a play on the French mes mitaines, or my mittens.
Now, Mountfort says, the MimiTENS are in stores around the world and available at mimitens.com. In Canada, they sell for around $33.
The idea was inspired by Mountfort’s own mitten-losing daughter. “One day while I was changing her diaper I put her socks on her hands and noticed she couldn’t shake them off,” she says. Mountfort had always recoiled from the idea of attaching mittens with strings.
“I have absolutely no training as a designer,” says Mountfort, who borrowed a sewing machine, learned how to make a pattern and sourced eco-friendly fabrics on her own. It was also important that the bamboo fleece-lined mittens were made in Canada. “I do my own marketing and sales,” she says. “I’m a one-person operation.”
A knack for design and engineering is in the family. Mountfort is married to Ian Mountfort, a partner in Blackwell Bowick, the engineering firm that worked on Toronto’s Integral House, the home of mathematician and musician James Steward. The Mountforts have two daughters, ages 4 and 6.
Mountfort has also created a line of women’s mittens, and she’s considering expansion.
Mountfort credits her “double welt” construction of thermal insulation and waterproof nylon for the mittens’ stickability. “It allows for the mittens to be worn under a coat or over a coat,” she explains.
Building a company on the premise of unmovable mittens with no strings attached has kept Mountfort busy for more than five years. “It went global in the first year,” she says.
This winter, Mountfort campaigned to attract high-profile celebrity endorsements, courting big names like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Paltrow included the mittens in the most recent instalment of GOOP, the actor’s lifestyle newsletter that promotes her brand of the good life.