The concept of “blood” and “bleeding” is generally avoided in mass marketing for period products. It was only recently, and with some fanfare, that commercials showed that red liquid was being absorbed instead of blue.
But when it comes to contemporary underwear – an increasingly popular type of underwear made from extra absorbent fabric – it’s hard to avoid. At least in conversation with the founders of the Period Company, a brand that was launched in October and promotes contemporary underwear that is cheaper and more sustainable than other menstrual products. Bleeding is a profound act for them.
“Something emotional happens when you bleed into your underwear and have no tampons, no pads, no trash – if only you can really be on your period.” said Sasha Markova, who founded the company together with Karla Welch.
“Flowing is a completely different experience, and we somehow feel evangelical.”
Ms. Markova, a longtime creative director, doesn’t exaggerate with evangelization. She describes the change to her product as “conversion”. As in “We really switched to the idea of this underwear.” Or, “The amazing thing you can do with Gen Z is say, ‘OK, now we have you. Hey, convert your older sisters and your mothers. ‘”
There is a spiritual element to this approach that lands somewhere between typically Californian and harmlessly cultic. But the conversion is really important to running the business. The Period Company and every other brand that makes alternative products (like the menstrual cup) needs customers who are open enough to abandon the products they always used – the products their mothers “sighed” to them long ago with a lot of load, ”said Ms. Markova.
It’s not an easy adjustment, especially when generations of women have been raised to fear leaks. (For a while, fear of humiliation was a hallmark of product promotion, along with the blue mystery liquid.) And there is growing competition for those willing to convert.
That’s why it helps that the company was co-founded by Ms. Welch, a high-profile stylist whose clients include Tracee Ellis Ross, Olivia Wilde and Sarah Paulson. (On Instagram, Chelsea Handler and Busy Philipps were among the celebrities who made unpaid referrals to the brand. They wore matching, gifted sweatshirts that said, “Dear Mother Nature, thank you!”) Ms. Welch has also worked with Hanes on a number of T-shirts designed, initially inspired by her client Justin Bieber, as well as jeans with Levi’s.
Four years ago when her child’s first period arrived, Ms. Welch found herself in a “hot mess” trying to lead her now teenage girl, who does not identify as female, through the traditional options.
“Which made me go back when I got my period and my mom didn’t even talk to me about it,” she said.
Ms. Welch was also increasingly determined to cut down on her personal waste, including the plastic that was thrown away every time she used an individually wrapped pad.
“I said, ‘There has to be better,” she said.
That kind of zeal is pretty common when it comes to alternative products from the time. The Internet is teeming with articles and videos preaching the gospel of the cup, especially – even more so than in contemporary underwear – and the destructive evils of disposable tampons.
In 2018, this dedication led the Shelton Group, a sustainability-focused marketing firm, to conduct a survey on these products and collect responses from more than 2,000 people with periods.
In the survey, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they used or are considering reusable menstrual products.
“We were stunned by that number,” said Susannah Enkema, vice president of the research and discovery group. It came as no surprise, however, that the majority of this group were between 18 and 34 years old, the age group most concerned with the environment.
“It’s the perfect product category for Gen Z and young millennials who, absolutely more than any other age cohort, have a desire – and to some extent an obligation – to go greener,” said Suzanne Shelton, executive director of the company.
At the same time, around 20 percent of those surveyed stated that they had decided against reusable products. They were more likely to be in their late 30s and 40s, Ms. Enkema said, and resisted largely because they had already found what worked for them.
“The group that turned down these products is a group that cares less about the environment,” Ms. Shelton said, using Gen X not to hit. “They care more about their personal comfort.” Conversely, the younger group had a different concept of convenience.
“I’m in my early 50s,” she continued. “The idea of contemporary panties or a diva cup seems completely impractical. But no for these young women. What seems impractical is having to buy products every month. “
The younger group also tends to be more open about periods, view menstruation as a women’s empowerment issue, and promote the idea that “this isn’t dirty, this isn’t gross, it’s not embarrassing, it’s nothing what to whisper about “. Mrs. Shelton said. (The researchers also learned qualitatively from this group that it is no longer acceptable to refer to period products as “feminine hygiene”.)
Another 20 percent of respondents said they had never heard of reusable products before the survey, said Ms. Enkema.
Jockey meets Kotex
When Mrs. Welch turned to underwear for her child, it was a solution, but not perfect. Most couples were between $ 25 and $ 40, and she didn’t want to pay $ 40 for junior underwear.
The two dominant brands in the market are Thinx and Knix, both founded in 2013. At one point, Thinx was considered one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. It made headlines for its subway ads and its founder, Miki Agrawal, the self-titled “SHE-EO” who was ousted in 2017 on charges of sexual harassment (which she denied). Another competitor, TomboyX, specializes in gender-neutral underwear, while Ruby Love (formerly PantyProp) was founded to fight urinary incontinence.
The founders of the Period Company said they were fans of these brands, but as Ms. Welch has repeated, she and Ms. Markova are more interested in being like jockey and offering simple, no-frills underwear than La Perla. Their prices drop between $ 12 and $ 14. (In comparison, a pack of disposable tampons or pads usually costs less than $ 10.)
Your underwear is tight, but with a bit of stretch, similar to shapewear when shapewear has a pad sewn into the crotch between two thick layers of cotton. Switching to underwear seems easiest for those who already rely on pads. There are a few different styles including skyscraper and bikini. They are all black except for two gray junior styles. After a day of wear, the product is rinsed and wrung in the sink, then washed or hand washed. Sizes go up to 3X, although the company expects them to go up to 6X by the holidays.
“The only way to really make change is by having you available to everyone, affordable and ready to go to a really mass market,” said Ms. Welch. “We don’t want to be chic. We want to be available. “
There’s also nothing particularly sensual about the Period Company’s marketing, which uses a lot of text and even footage of the (bloody) cleaning process. Other companies tend to rely on innuendo (see these Thinx ads) or, like many fashionable underwear brands, emphasize the “all bodies are beautiful” approach with pristine photos of various models.
But that’s the thing, said Mrs. Welch. Despite its close industry ties, the Period Company does not want to be a fashionable underwear brand.
“I honestly don’t think we live in any fashion category,” she said. “We are important to me. We are just as important as the pads and tampons we bought. We live in this world and I don’t want to live in the fashion world for now. “
More than any other job she’s had in fashion, the Period Company has stated its “purpose,” she said.
“I love what I do, but I’ve always felt I had a purpose all my life,” said Ms. Welch. “Four years ago, when I started doing this, I felt I had stepped into this cause.”