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The Designer

Kim Smiley

If you’re wondering why Canadian entrepreneur Kim Smiley has been hailed as the “Queen of Empathy,” you’ve come to the right place.

Thirty years ago, on a voyage between Crete and Katmandu, the seeds of Kim’s social enterprise were planted. 

Although Kim was only a little girl, and the memories are like black and white reels from an old film, her family’s trip across 8 countries in Asia changed the trajectory of her life. 

As a child, Kim’s favorite pastime was playing dress-up with tribal necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings, collected from Israel, Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran.

A decade after she returned home to Montreal, she met a deep-souled boy who told her she would change the world. She didn’t believe him. But it didn’t matter. The dream his faith planted ignited a sense of unquenchable purpose. 

At twenty, Kim set her sights on becoming a professor. Never a master of moderation, she made the stacks of the library her second home, immersing herself in the study of Asian Religion, Anthropology, Compassion, Mysticism and the Goddess Tradition. She was seeking and finding. But she lonely.

After graduate school in the USA, a fellowship to complete an “undercover” ethnography in Japan, and an internship with one of America’s finest photojournalists, Kim switched gears, launching a career in the nonprofit world

For the first thirteen years of her career, Kim encountered countless people who, despite the pain and suffering that surrounds us, confirm her deepest belief to be true: People are pure.

In 2015, Kim left her career in philanthropy to chase her dream of being an artist and entrepreneur full time. Since then, Kim built her eponymous social enterprise, launched an Empathy Empire and gave birth to two beloved babies, a boy and a girl. 

Kim’s Empathy Empire began with a humble social experiment: The Empathy Effect, which marinated in Kim’s imagination for over 5 years. What began as an idealistic hypothesis snowballed into a social movement, combining prose, poetry, photography and above all the radical power of empathy.

The #EmpathyPledge is a promise to practice one act of empathy every day, symbolized by a lapel pin that captures our universal interconnection. Wearing the Empathy Pledge pin is not just a fashion statement. Like all of Kim’s creations, it’s a badge of honour. 

Today, Kim’s Empathy Empire inspires over 265, 000 people on social media.  



Kim Smiley is an artist, fashion designer and social entrepreneur. We won’t tell you about her academic and professional credentials, nor will we regale you with her awards and accolades. If you’re interested, please click here.

For the purposes of this biography, Kim would like you to know the following: Mean is out. Empathy is in. Good is the new glam.

Kim pursued advanced degrees at McGill and Harvard University, where she graduated first in her class. She later conducted a post-graduate fellowship in Japan. In Tokyo, Kim discovered the metallic lace that would become her eternal canvas. 

As women, Kim believes we apologize too much. So she unapologetically leaves you with this: Kim Smiley is building an Empathy Empire, marrying fashion and philanthropy, empathy and activism. She is employing newcomers in Toronto for a living wage, and has bold plans to expand to India and Israel, where she envisions Arab and Jewish women working shoulder to shoulder to create pathways for peace.

Whoever said beauty was skin deep has never met Kim Smiley.

Born in Montreal, Kim lives with her family in Toronto.  She loves making people feel beautiful, and believes the most gorgeous human beings radiate beauty from the inside out. Kim always carries a book of poems in her purse. If you see her, please make sure to say hi.