Are you passionate about sustainability? An eco-friendly underwear brand called Stripe+Stare has just launched in Ireland. Here's everything you need to know...
If you're an Irish woman, you'll know the main port-of-call for a good aul pair of knickers is Penneys, Dunnes Stores or maybe even Michael Guineys.
Unless you're a permanent nudist, underwear is a necessity – but we tend to forget about them when it comes to the issue of sustainability. We know the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluting industries in the world – and we know that we need to change our shopping habits – but our undergarments never seem to weave their way into that conversation.
That is, until now.
One brand is trying to change the way we think and shop for our knickers. Enter Stripe+Stare; the sustainable underwear brand voted the 'Most Comfortable Knickers' in the world, not to mention loved by celebrities such as Poppy Delevigne and Pandora Sykes.
As a comfort-loving, big knicker-wearing queen, I can confirm that they are both sustainable and a dream to wear.
The brand has just launched in Brown Thomas, where I met the co-founder Katie Lopes. Where did the idea for a sustainable knicker brand come from, I wanted to know. "I used to have fashion stores in London and we weren't really selling underwear, but we had Hanky Pank the little g-strings," Katie tells me.
"We had them at the tills as a pickup point and the girls in the shop had to persuade me to get them in, because even though we were situated in Chelsea, I didn't think anyone was going to spend £18 on a piece of lace".
Alas, the women of Chelsea lapped them up and after some research, Katie discovered that women are more loyal to their underwear than they are to any other fashion category. "So we're selling these g-strings and I was like 'that's cool but we're English, and we need a brand of knickers because English girls wear knickers'.
"I couldn't find a brand that was cool, fun and comfortable, and that's when I started to sell myself in my own stores".
But where does sustainability come into all of this? Well, the underwear is sustainably sourced from beechwood trees; a natural source of fibre.
"They start life as wood, so it's amazing. People never believe that you can go from wood to something so soft. It uses 95% less water in its production than cotton and they are fully biodegradable. The whole company policy of Lenzing Micromodal (whom we work with in Austria) is from nature to nature and not doing it any harm in the process".
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When the lifespan of the underwear is up, they go in the compost bin. As unbelievable as that sounds, Katie reassures me there is science behind it, saying, "They have patented what they do to make the fabric. The patented formula is like Coco-Cola's; nobody knows outside the factory. Scientists in Austria have gone to the factory to see what they do and have said it is 100% sustainable".
There is an idea that sustainable fashion is boring; that the colour scheme is beige and the fabric hard.
However, the one thing which strikes me about Stripe+Stare is the bright colours and fun design. Katie tells me deciding on the fit and design is what took the longest when setting up the brand.
She herself did not have a design background, so it was her mother who made the initial prototype. Following this, she travelled to Hong Kong for sourcing and met Adam who owned an underwear factory. She still works with him to this day.
Why China, I asked. "They have to be made in China because otherwise, we would never get the price. The fabric is super expensive and I've tried to get them produced in Europe and the UK, but they would end up being £40 a pair and I wanted them to be really accessible because they are your everyday knicker," she says.
The price point is well below average for sustainable clothing, with a four-pack costing €47.
Katie believes that to move sustainable shopping from being a choice to a key aspect of our decision in shopping, the price of both making and selling sustainable clothing has to be addressed. "I think it makes it quite hard because it is very expensive at the moment to produce sustainably.
"And there is a real shift, and it's happening so quick. At the beginning when people heard something was sustainable, they were like, 'oh that's quite nice', but it wasn't the reason they were buying it. But now people are feeling a real onus of responsibility".
Stripe+Stare is growing more in popularity by the day, but what's next for the brand? "People are always asking me are we going to bring out different shapes of knickers, but the answer is no. There are other brands out there who do the perfect g-string and if that's what you want, go to them".
Katie continues, "We're going to introduce a range of soft bras and vests – and Selfridges have asked us to produce a ready-to-wear collection, so that'll be the perfect white t-shirt and layering pieces and some loungewear".
Lastly, Katie tells me she is inundated with messages from women saying they are throwing away all of their underwear so they can just wear Strip+Stare. Which made me start to think... a sustainable brand, where both style and comfort are key?
I might just have to stop wearing the rest.
Stripe+Stare is now available in The Lingerie Room at Brown Thomas
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