The whole lingerie and intimates market is changing thanks to an influx of new brands — often digitally savvy and sold directly to consumers — working to solve pain points, fill niches and target shoppers that mainstream companies (*cough* Victoria's Secret *cough*) were neglecting.
Broadly, there are a couple of different ways in which this seems to happening. There are brands like Savage X Fenty and Parade aiming to serve a wide breadth of shoppers with inclusive sizing and marketing as well as accessible price points. Then, there are the labels that start small and cater to a specific segment of consumers or set of needs. It makes sense: Lingerie is a crowded market, one that's still dominated by a handful of huge companies. New players need to offer something different if they want to succeed.
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How Today's Newest Underwear Brands Are Changing the Game by Focusing on Inclusivity
Do you have small breasts and feel like even bras that are "your size" don't quite fit correctly? There's a brand for that. Looking for comfortable maternity or postpartum lingerie that's also cute? There's a brand for that, too.
Below, we've highlighted four brands that are building businesses by serving the needs of consumers who were previously ignored by — or not satisfied with — the traditional lingerie market.
You might think that mainstream bra brands have AA, A and B cups covered, but Pepper's Kickstarter launch campaign — which was funded in only 10 hours — proved otherwise.
"Most bra companies try to sell to every size, but one design can't fit all," says Jaclyn Fu, who, alongside Lia Winograd, co-founded Pepper, a lingerie brand that serves shoppers with small busts. "We learned in the product development process that most companies design for a 'standard' size, and then use that same design across sizes. This leads to terrible fit for women who aren't the 'standard' size. By being really focused in who we design for, we're able to offer bras that finally fit."
The brand grew revenue eight times in 2019, has over 15,000 customers and recently launched with Urban Outfitters, complementing its online direct-to-consumer business.
Rather than focusing on one specific bodily concern, The KiT's bras and underwear are more about the clothes you put over them.
The brand was founded last year by celebrity stylists Jamie Mizrahi and Simone Harouche. Like any good stylists, they have always come to their clients equipped with the right undergarments to support and hide behind any given look. Now, with The KiT, they're offering their best-kept secrets to everyday consumers — think solution-based nipple covers, seamless bras and underwear, bodysuits and bra extenders.
"We have had to search high and low for the perfect undergarments and found ourselves creating things that didn't exist in the marketplace," explains Mizrahi. "We wanted every woman to have access to a 'stylist' — someone recommending the best products for underneath anything you may be wearing."
Kala was born out of a number of frustrations with the lingerie market identified by founder Rebecca Migirov — first, a lack of inclusively-sized options that were also made sustainably, and then, a lack of desirable, comfortable options for people to wear while pregnant and postpartum. The brand now addresses all of these desires: Its products are made with waste-reducing materials like organic cotton and Tencel™ in America by local artisans who are paid a fair wage.
"Women's needs during maternity and postpartum weren't being met and, as a mother myself who went through it during and after pregnancy, I knew we could do better," says Migirov.
While many brands have made so-called improvements to standard-issue underwear, few have revolutionized the way you put it on. Enter Slick Chicks, an adaptive intimates line made for people with limited mobility. With its pieces that fasten on the side — and thus can be put on while laying down, sitting or standing — the brand makes the process of putting on undergarments easier. Founder Helya Mohammadian actually started the company as a line for postpartum shoppers, later realizing it could also serve the disability community.
"One out of five people have a disability and one out of three people know someone with a disability," she told us last year. "It is time for companies to start addressing the needs of all people."