Hospital visits are not a fun thing.
Even during standard checkups, trips to the doctor’s office are often filled with anxiety about needles and test results. For those undergoing treatment for more life-threatening maladies, however, medical visits are often a tumultuous mix of fear and stress. Yes, there may be a silver lining or a whisper of hope on the horizon. Yet in the moment, those positive feelings are easily clouded by discomfort and uncertainty about the future.
For Hudson Valleyite Mike McGregor, those mixed emotions combined with the lack of comfort available at hospitals, has been more than a little troubling. As he watched his late wife and high school sweetheart, Jo, suffer through an accelerated liver condition in 2018, he couldn’t help but notice the sterile, impersonal settings in which she was often placed. He stood by as she was issued standard hospital gowns that were functional, but far from comfortable, and wished there was some way to make her battle even a little easier.
Jo passed away in February 2019. While it was the end of a journey for her and McGregor, it was also the start of Janesi Comfort, the idea McGregor first brainstormed while sitting alongside his wife at the hospital.
“I wanted to solve the problem as to why, when you’re struggling for your life, you’re put into the most awful clothing you can find,” he explains. Over the course of the next nine months, McGregor, a leading New York City photographer by trade, worked to conceptualize and develop a concept gown and blanket brand that caters to hospitalized, chronically ill, and long-term care patients. He did so while coping with his loss and caring for his young children in New Paltz, but he found that his dedication to his idea served as a way for him to channel his pain and ease the burden for others.
Launched right around the start of the COVID-19 crisis in the Hudson Valley, Janesi Comfort is an eco-conscious blanket and gown brand designed to make hospital stays a little more comfortable. A patient-first company, its name “Janesi” comes from Jo, McGregor’s wife, and “anesi,” the Greek word for comfort.
And comfortable the gowns and blankets most certainly are. To design them, McGregor called upon designers at reputable fashion houses like Prada and Louis Vuitton, brands he’s photographed for in the past. He wanted to create the most innovative, stylish, and functional products available, and he knew he needed the best design team to do it.
“It’s luxe recovery wear,” he explains. “It’s antimicrobial, good for the environment and the skin, and it performs in a way that helps you get to the point where you can be where you want to be.”
To ensure both comfort and elegance, he opted for gowns made of 100-percent Tencel, a beechwood-derived material that’s naturally antimicrobial and that helps to regulate temperature and reduce sweating. Then, to make sure his designs were suitable for hospital use, he consulted with hospital staff to confirm that the products follow standards while facilitating medical attention and access.
The resulting gowns are not only stylish and sustainable, but they’re also reversible and full coverage, with both chest and waist pockets. The Tencel material is moisture-wicking and heat- and odor-regulating, which means its optimal for patient use.
Currently, Janesi Comfort markets directly to consumers, with products available for sale directly on its website. Yet it’s also attracted the attention of local hospitals and senior centers looking to provide an element of everyday luxury and comfort to their patients. Most recently, the brand established a partnership with Ellenville Regional Hospital for a year’s worth of gowns for patients returning for physical therapy. Looking ahead, it hopes to establish itself within hospital gift shops throughout the region and partner with senior centers on welcome packages for new residents.
“Our products make such a difference in patient lives,” McGregor enthuses, recalling his own personal struggle with his wife’s industry-approved hospital gown as he assisted with administering treatments. “What this is about isn’t a clothing experience; it’s patient wellness.”
To further this notion, he and Janesi Comfort partner with Flashes of Hope, a free and monthly professional photo shoot service that gives families lasting memories of their children’s courage in the face of illness. Using his photography expertise, he and his team visit the organization’s partner hospitals to stage full-scale photo shoots that give patients confidence and distraction while brightening their days.
“We give them the full treatment, with a makeup artist, stylist, and full portrait session,” he reveals. “It’s nice to have something to make them feel special.”
Indeed, that special feeling, even if it’s just for a moment, is precisely what Janesi Comfort is all about. As McGregor sees it, if he can elevate the patient experience even a little, he’s more than happy to do it.
“We want to be a resource to give agency and make being a patient a little more human,” he says.