New Brunswick

Fredericton clothing designer wears his business on Dragons' Den

Jeff Alpaugh and partner Emilee Boychuk were featured on the Dragons' Den for their 'dangerous shirts'

Posted: November 10, 2017
Last Updated: November 10, 2017

Jeff Alpaugh and partner Emilee Boychuk talk about their shirts on Dragons' Den this week. (Dragons' Den)

He's Fredericton's very own fashionista, and this week, Jeff Alpaugh got his own catwalk onto the Canadian TV series Dragons' Den.

The Fredericton business owner was featured on Thursday night's episode for Jeff Alpaugh Custom, outfitted by his shop at 649 Queen St., which supplies custom-made shirts with wild patterns tailored in Vietnam. The product is known to consumers as "Dangerous Dress Shirts."

On Thursday, Alpaugh and partner Emilee Boychuk struck a deal with the CBC show.


They gave up a 30 per cent share in the start-up company for $100,000 in capital investment from Michele Romanow, a tech entrepreneur, and Mike Wekerle, investment banker.

Meanwhile, they also received a guaranteed order of $50,000 from Wekerle, just in time for the reopening of the El Mocambo nightclub in Toronto.

During the show, Alpaugh said, he was more starstruck than anything else and he's never missed an episode.

"I'm a massive fan of those six dragons," he said. "I mean that's better than meeting Brad Pitt or some big Hollywood star. I didn't even feel like they were judging me."

Jeff Alpaugh, centre, celebrates with friends, Mackenzie Story, left, and Nicholas Antworth, right, at the King Street Ale House in Fredericton, while watching his pitch on television. (James West Photography)

The company started in February 2016 and have sold more than 1,700 dress shirts to 555 people in eight countries. The shirts are made by young men in Vietnam, a tradition that's been passed down from generation to generation.


"It's a craft that's passed down," he said.

Alpaugh said the custom shirts are transformative, allowing a person to feel more confident.  In his shirts, his customers walk differently, stand differently and talk differently .

"People notice that about you," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton. "That's a dangerous dress shirt."

How it was sewn together

Alpaugh remembers being a poor dresser growing up, and it had a huge impact on both his personal life and the start of his professional one. Often, he said, he had a hard time landing a job from an interview.

"I looked like such an idiot," he said, laughing. 

"I was such a terrible dresser it actually caused me a lot of problems."


'Why am I wearing a shirt because Hugo Boss told me to wear that shirt?' -Jeff Alpaugh 

He went into Harry Rosen Inc. in Toronto, a men's clothing store similar to Robert Simmonds Clothing in Fredericton, and asked if he could get a job.

"They said, 'No, because you look terrible,'" he said.

He settled for a job at Moores Clothing for Men, where he was taught how to dress. Then he went back to Harry Rosen and eventually got a job there.

Alpaugh is a captain in the Canadian Army and started his own clothing business. (Submitted by Jeff Alpaugh)

Over time, the designer learned how to improve his wardrobe and gain his self-confidence. He eventually went back to Harry Rosen.  

"They said, 'We remember you and you start tomorrow,'" he said.

But over time, Alpaugh grew tired of wearing the same old button-up shirt and was looking for something more distinctive. He came up with the idea to design his own.


"You go to a lot of stores and there will be like a blue shirt on the shelf, you flip up the cuff and there's this pattern that's a bit crazy underneath," he said. "In my mind I want the whole shirt to be that crazy pattern … let's do it, why are we holding back?"   

Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, was happy with Thursday night's episode and is looking forward to seeing where business takes the duo in the next year.

Ross knew about the TV appearance months in advance and said the couple have been working hard to create both an interesting and unique product.

"It's a very visual product that was able to be highlighted in that type of opportunity," she said. "Even if they hadn't made a deal, the national exposure in participating is still beneficial." 

Over the next few months, he's hoping to sell at least 1,000 shirts and hire more employees, which shouldn't be a problem given his new claim to fame.  

"Why am I wearing a shirt because Hugo Boss told me to wear that shirt?"


Elizabeth Fraser

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Information Morning Fredericton