But this all began further back, in January 2021. The Break's traffic was stagnant and, like many others trapped at home, Richtman was spending most of her time online. She's always been a fan of thongs: A proud, self-proclaimed exhibitionist and an admirer of sheer clothing, Richtman confessed to exclusively wearing them, even in her sleep. Still, she could never find the exact style she wanted.
"I was looking for a very hyper-specific silhouette," she tells Fashionista. "I wanted something that was very reminiscent of '80s bikinis, very dramatic and risqué — it's a shape that I've seen working in vintage for so many years. I posted to Instagram, and I got so many responses from people who told me that this [kind of silhouette] was exactly what they were looking for, but none of us had an idea where to get it."
This enthusiastic response was the spark of energy and inspiration Richtman needed to jumpstart the project. She began to investigate pattern makers and production facilities in the city, on top of receiving real-time peer reviews and suggestions from her audience through Instagram.
"It was the most fun thing ever to experience because it reminded me of the feeling I got at The Break," she says. "The Break is such an IRL community hub, too."
After developing and reworking the itty-bitty garment for two years, Richtman finally launched Gush on Oct. 6. Over 2,000 people signed up for the waitlist. Right before its release, the $42 thong — which is available in sizes XS-XL — was spotted on Julia Fox during Vogue's New York Fashion Week celebration in September.
It's made from an opaque fabric that's comfy and stretchy, and that also wicks away moisture, which is perfect for those days when you're... how do we say... gushing both metaphorically and literally.
Speaking of the word "gush," it appealed to Richtman as a name for many reasons, the first one being that it simply "rolls off the tongue but it also sounds a little muddy."
"There's this double meaning — it's very wet, and it's a very strong force of liquid, like water gushing," she adds. "It has this sexual undertone that I felt was really cheeky and fun. Most importantly, it's that feeling of euphoria, when you gush about something you're so excited about and you find other people that are so excited about that thing."
Thongs have been around for many, many years, but unlike other wardrobe staples that are constantly reimagined, it hasn't really changed, Richtman argues: "They go through trends, but I feel like we never really evolved from that typical straight-across fit."
Throughout the design process, Richtman used herself as a tester and model and distributed batches of samples to friends and followers. She brought the concept to life as an "it" thong that prioritizes comfort, as well as that sought-after silhouette inspired by the über-dramatic high waists of the '80s and '90s.
"I wanted a material that was very stretchy. I have curves, so I wanted to figure out a way to use a material that was incredibly forgiving and didn't show sweat stains," she says. "I also wanted this very deep-cut, dramatic shape while giving a little bit more coverage. I don't think I'll ever fully be satisfied, but I'm getting reviews in real-time, to continue to tweak it, so that it can be as good as it possibly can be for the people who want it. I'm very happy with where we landed."
For Richtman, that wouldn't have been possible with the digital and IRL community driving Gush.
"It was less about me being like, 'This absolutely doesn't exist,' and more about, 'I'm so excited to make my version with all of my new friends because it brings us joy.'" she says. "It wasn't really my intention to build a thong empire in any way — it was more of me feeling inspired to work on a product that I inherently love and want for myself."
After my conversation with Richtman, I put the thong to the test. Gush comes encased in a sleek blue box and sealed metallic package. After slipping into it, I immediately noticed how high it sits at my waist, just above the hip bone. It has scrunched seams, but barely showed underneath my bottom of choice. Each time I wore it, I was surprised at how comfy it actually was. (I mean, I know many of us are tired of suffocating underwear leaving elastic marks by the end of the day.) I even took my Gush to an intense pilates class and commuted in it throughout the day, with no leaks or sweat stains in sight.
As a more modest dresser, I'm not usually one to bare my underwear through sheer ensembles or low-rise pants, but Richtman assures that I can pair Gush with any outfit of my choosing. She also emphasized that I don't have to love wearing thongs or Gush — it's all about experimenting with different styles and brands.
"It's similar to a white T-shirt," she says. "Think about how many cuts there are and how some people look better in a little cropped tee or an oversized one. It's the same thing with a personal intimate experience: I find that this shape is most flattering on me, and I feel the most confident in it. I hope that other people feel the same when they put it on, but not everyone will — and that's okay. There are so many other thongs on the market."
Like many others, I'm a now-converted fan, and Gush is only at its very beginnings. Perhaps we'll get different silhouettes and colorways, or even matching bralettes, soon.
"I still want to continue this family affair, where we're all designing this thong together, because that was the best part," Richtman says. "That enthusiasm, that encouragement and that feedback — it feels like I'm working on this with a team. I didn't feel isolated in the whole process. And though I don't consider myself a designer, I do have a very specific idea of things that I love to wear. And if other people love them too, I'm happy to share that."