Most of the time, “comfort” and “sexy” don’t exactly go hand in hand. Are you comfortable in your sweats? yes, but are they sexy? Well, if you’re wearing JSUR then the answer is: abso-freakin-lutely. Phil has managed to make a simple t-shirt and sweat pants combo look ever so flattering. “Our apparel is tailored to the body in a way that, if you don’t really work out, it will make you look like you do. And if you do work out, it will make you look freaking amazing. It’s just fitted enough to give you shape, but still has enough give to work out in, and that was the whole point of this line – something that transitions effortlessly from the gym to the street.”
JSUR, an acronym for “Je Suis Un Roi”, is the brainchild of Hamilton native Phil Truong. “It means ‘I am King’,” Phil explains, “I think everyone should know they’re the Kings or Queens of their own lives, in the sense that they have the power to reign over their own destiny.”
The JSUR philosophy isn’t far fetched from Phil’s own outlook on life. Growing up around less than ideal influences, Phil had to fight to break out of his surroundings. “Most of the people I grew up with went down terrible paths – murder, drugs, you name it – and it really showed me how bad things can get if you let your environment control you. I had to make cautious decisions not to end up in a bad place, and those decisions were hard to make because they alienated me from everyone else.” Sure enough, the easy decision isn’t always the right one, but Phil’s determination to be different will later prove to be invaluable to his success.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in IT, Phil left Hamilton to pursue a career with Pepsi.Co in Toronto, a full time job he still works today. Outside of work, Phil competed as a member of the Canadian Body Building Federation. It was at the gym that the inspiration for the JSUR brand came to him
“I wanted to create an athleisure brand Toronto can call it’s own. Obviously athleisure is this huge trend, but I felt like we were constantly pulling from Europe or the U.S. because they have the more established brands. Toronto’s a large, modern, vibrant city, why shouldn’t we have our own athleisure line?” Phil ran with the idea of a line that was minimal, functional, and figure flattering in and out of the gym. As someone who knew nothing about fashion or design, he learned how to draw patterns, source fabrics…basically everything he needed to know to bring JSUR to life, he learned from scratch.
Each JSUR piece is released in limited quantities and never restocked. If you miss out, that’s it! You’ll never be able to get the same piece again. “We may reintroduce a variation of a piece, maybe in a different colour or with a different cut, but you will never see the same piece again. It keeps things interesting. It also forces me to be creative because I know I can’t just keep selling the same pieces over and over again.”
To drive sales, Phil built a team of brand ambassadors, a mixed group of various athletes and dancers who stand behind the Jsur vision. They also happen to represent his target market. “Before each piece is designed, I have a round table with my ambassadors to determine what exactly it is they’re looking for in that particular item. For example, we are launching the women’s leggings soon. When we were designing, I asked our female ambassadors what women hate the most about leggings, and it boiled down to 1. most leggings are see through when you bend over, 2. if they’re not see through, they’re too thick and too hot to work out in and 3. they don’t have functional pockets – ones big enough to fit an iPhone. We took these pain points and created an ultra functional and flattering legging that every woman will need in their arsenal. You’ll see when we launch.”
With a full time job, a career as a body builder, and a clothing company to run, Phil is hardly one to have time for, well, anything. When asked about the stresses of his busy lifestyle, Phil took a deep breath. “I sometimes wonder if I’m doing the ‘right’ thing. I see people in my social circle around my age, they go to their jobs during the day and hit the clubs on the weekends. To be honest it doesn’t seem like a terrible way to live…work hard play hard right? And here I am sacrificing my time, energy and money, and it could all be for nothing. I could end with with nothing to show for it. If I wanted to, I could easily just give this up, work my full time job and enjoy the rest of my time doing whatever I wanted. But I guess there’s a clear reason why I work myself so hard – I love what I’m doing and I know if I gave up I would forever wonder ‘what if’. I don’t want to live with that kind of regret – that’s way worse than not going clubbing,”
Want a taste of the JSUR lifestyle? Shop the limited edition pieces now at their online shop.
This interview has been edited and condensed