Underwear most likely isn’t anywhere near the top ten in most people’s list of things that first come to mind when they think of innovation, but Australian entrepreneur Kristy Chong thinks it should be.
Chong created a new line of underwear that begs women to ask of their old stuff, “what has my underwear done for me lately?” The answer, she believes, is simply “not much.” Until now.
The NSW-based entrepreneur launched ModiBodi in 2013 to combat some everyday problems facing women. Though it may not be the sexiest issue, light bladder leakage affects one in three women every day. Meanwhile, menstrual overflow affects one in two. ModiBodi underwear, which has a built-in panty liner, aims to help with both.
“My ‘aha’ moment came about while I was out running. I realised my underwear was failing to protect me from those annoying but common unmentionables women face – sweat, periods, and light bladder weakness. I thought to myself, surely women deserved underwear that not only looked good and was comfortable, but could protect us when we needed it most,” Chong said.
Chong discussed the idea with her husband, a researcher in cardiac therapy, and they began developing the technology.
The process, which was self funded, took 18 months, with the pair consulting with over 100 design and textile firms across the US and Australia and conducting almost 1,000 tests.
They created two technologies: the Modifier Air uses a one-way moisture-wicking gusset that moves moisture away from skin to keep you dry and eliminate odour, while the Modifier also has a panty liner built in. All the fabrics used are anti-bacterial and stain resistant.
Unlike US-based competitor Thinx, which sells ‘period panties’ that can effectively be used to replace pads or tampons on lighter flow days, ModiBodi’s underwear is purely for light bladder leakage or menstrual overflow.
Chong is in a tough market: the lack of competition in the space means women are pretty set with their regular underwear, and some who regularly use panty liners may find the concept of going without and relying solely on their underwear itself to protect them strange.
Disrupting both big underwear brands and feminine hygiene brands will be tough, but Chong believes there is increasing demand for innovation.
“We are challenging the notion that regular underwear is as good as it can be…market reports show that women are crying out for more premium, real-fit offerings in the feminine hygiene space and Modibodi has come along at the perfect time to fulfil an unmet need. There is an increasing demand by women for better health, more premium hygiene products, and for more eco-friendly brands,” Chong said.
Chong said that the company has achieved month on month growth in sales since launching in late 2013, with this growth increasing significantly since February this year. The majority of sales are coming from Australia, with 5 percent coming from the UK, US, and New Zealand.
The company is already looking to diversify, producing a maternity singlet, which replaces the need for nursing pads for breastfeeding mothers, and sports bras.
Chong said the goal over the next few months is to expand ModiBodi’s offering.
“We are currently in the growth phase and for the next year we are committed to continuing to sell to our customers online, as then we can keep our RRP lower. However, should the right opportunity arise we are also open to stocking our garments in traditional retail stores.”