An average person who menstruates will spend seven years of their life on their period – that’s over 2,500 days. In this time, 5,000 to 15,000 menstrual products will be disposed of, resulting in about 300 pounds of waste per person. “It’s such a huge part of people’s lives, so let’s honour it and respect it,” says Knix founder Joanna Griffiths. “And let’s stop using disposable products as part of that.”
This was the inspiration behind the Toronto-based intimates brand’s newest product, the Super Leakproof underwear. It’s the latest offering in Knix’s line of period underwear, made possible by years of textile development and research. Three moisture-wicking and anti-odour layers, which includes a natural modal and seaweed fabric, holds up to eight teaspoons of liquid – or the equivalent of eight tampons – and is meant to completely replace disposable period or bladder leak products. Based on customer feedback from the existing line, they’ve also made the leakproof section longer to provide more coverage in the front and back.
The feminine hygiene category is a $35 billion industry, with leakproof underwear estimated to become a $500 million category by 2023. When Griffiths started Knix back in 2013, the brand was one of the first to bring period underwear to the market. “It was right around the time of technical performance apparel,” she says. “That in a lot of ways, laid the groundwork for this particular product, because we’ve been able to borrow innovation from other areas and repurpose it.”
Since then, she’s observed that the way we think about periods has also changed. “When we started, the most common question we would get around the idea of leakproof underwear is, ‘Is it gross?’” she says. “For so long, we had been conditioned to think that periods were gross and now we’re evolving.”
The Super Leakproof underwear is available in five different styles (thong, cheeky, bikini, boy short and high rise) and sizes ranging from small to XXXL, across both the teen and regular line. Knix has also launched three period kits, which offer a mix of pieces from the entire Leakproof line depending on what your cycle is like; you can choose from light flow, mixed flow and heavy flow.
We spoke with Griffiths about the new line and just how far the conversation around periods has come.
How do you pick the right size?
“It’s pretty true to size. All of our products are really stretchy. We have a size size chart on our website – go by your pant size and then just pick the corresponding size.”
How do you care for period underwear?
“You wash them just like regular underwear. If you want, you can give them a pre-rinse before you put them into the wash. We say to wash them with dark colours and then lay them flat to dry.”
What was it like to be one of the first brands to make period underwear?
“We actually first started producing in Korea because that’s where I found the original prototype of leakproof underwear. When I was setting up Knix and we were trying to get factories, we got a lot of strange looks. A lot of people didn’t really want to work with us because a) we had no track record, b) we had no customers and then c) we were trying to make something that hadn’t been made before. That, by all accounts, was quite confusing for manufacturers to even think. It was part luck and part timing, and then just never giving up. I still have our first prototype. I keep them in our office because they’re so terrible that they need to be kept forever.”
How did your customers play a part in developing this product?
“We track all of the customer requests that we get, whether it comes in through social media, emails or product reviews. Every month, we have a meeting where we review all of the feedback. Once we actually decide to move forward with a new product, we often go back and find someone who was part of the inspiration for the product, and we include them on our packaging. It’s actually been a really great part of our customer journey because it means we aren’t the only ones who are having to think about new ideas or how to make things better. We foster such an environment where our customers and community are giving us ideas constantly and so it really acts as our pipeline for product innovation.”
Over the last few years, period underwear have become a popular category. Why do you think that is?
“As a society, we’ve come a really long way in terms of destigmatizing periods. It’s one of the most human things that people do – it’s literally integral to our existence as a species. This isn’t something that should just be brushed under the rug. I think you’ve seen a cultural shift where it’s entering more into the mainstream. We’re combining that with a much more eco-friendly, sustainable-focused consumer, who is now interested in leakproof underwear, menstrual cups and these products that used to exist on the fringe.”
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