On a recent episode of my favorite pop culture podcast, the hosts were dumbfounded to learn that you should be replacing your underwear as soon as six months after purchasing. Soon after, I came across a viral survey, which included the line that at least 85% of respondents didn’t know how long they’ve owned their oldest pair of panties. Yikes! Days later, when a release about Underclub landed in my inbox: I assumed it was fate. The premise of the venture, founded by Katie Fritts, aims to solve many woes in the underwear department. Think: Glossy Box for underwear and you’re on the right track. The luxury underwear and lingerie subscription company is not only on a mission to “introduce you to your next favorite, female-founded brand” but to also limit product waste in the industry by repurposing it for collaborations. Since the pandemic hit in March, the brand’s e-commerce sales are booming too, thanks in part to selling popular brands like Hanky Panky, Commando, and Cosabella. We caught up with Fritts to get the lowdown.
What was your background before starting Underclub?
Before Underclub I was in investment banking in NYC: building financial models and running mergers and acquisition analyses for massive corporations. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about value creation at billion dollar scales, but I also realized I wanted a much more hands-on experience; growing a company where my unique skill set made a real difference in the outcome.
Was there a particular a-ha moment that led to the idea?
Women are more likely to have negative associations with their underwear than positive ones. During research interviews for a menstruation project in grad school, I received so much unsolicited commentary about women’s relationship with their underwear—that they saved their torn/ripped pairs to wear when they were on their period, or wore two pairs, or wore bathing suit bottoms. All situations that allowed underwear the power to make women feel worse, not better. And on the other extreme, the sexy pieces women were buying for their partners prioritized everything for their partner’s desires, often at the cost of the wearer’s comfort and confidence. I knew there had to be a better way for women to feel empowered, beautiful and comfortable in their most essential layers.
I think most women can agree, shopping for everyday lingerie is pretty annoying! How does Underclub make life easier?
So annoying!! Our goal is to turn the chore of underwear shopping into a treat—instead of it being something you suddenly realize you need to cross off your checklist every few months (or decades…), we built an entertaining Style Questionnaire and interactive user experience so you can look forward to the next surprise you get every month. Things like our #ucwishlist on Instagram and past-delivery reviews are fun and engaging ways for our community to tell us what they want, and to help us deliver the best experience.
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What’s one thing you’ve learned about the lingerie industry that you think would surprise everyone?
The level of human labor required to make quality intimates is higher than most realize. Many people perceive underwear as a mass produced, machine-automated product, but the attention to detail required for things like symmetrical cut-outs, trimmings and hardware requires the human eye and hand. When you’re dealing with something as small as a pair of underwear, measurements that are a fraction of a centimeter off really do matter.
What sizing does Underclub offer?
We carry XS-4XL and curate styles for all body types.
And what kind of brands do you offer?
We work with over 50 ethical and fair trade designers and brands. In addition to working with larger brands like Natori, Hanky Panky, Commando, and Playful Promises, we prioritize seeking out other female-owned, small businesses that show the craftsmanship, quality, and design our members love. To name a few: Kilo Brava, Titov, Clo Intimo, and Monique Morin are among our more recent collaborations!
What kind of styles are there? Is there something for everyone?
People come to us for beautiful, high quality essentials that are comfortable to wear every day. Our curation is 100% dictated by our members—we’ve always been a customer first company so that we can deliver the best products, no matter their unique needs. We have delivered underwear to sizes XS-4XL, ages 16-91, female and male identifying, and to every state in the U.S.
What else do we need to know: what values are important to the company?
Our mission is to support our community in feeling their most confident, badass selves. We believe in using our platform and voice to highlight the beauty and value of diversity across colors, shapes, sizes and genders. 2020 has been a pivotal year for everyone, and allowed us to show up for our communities in new ways. We contributed over $26,000 in donations and product to causes like Dress for Success, BLM, Pride Foundation, and more.
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Lastly… Justin Bieber reportedly never re-wears his underwear!! What are your thoughts on this?!
If music ever fails him, I hear there’s a lucrative market for used underwear!
[Ps. Underclub has teamed up with Nude Barre, a Black-owned, female-founded brand that is redefining nude underwear, to create an exclusive two-pack, which includes one seamless thong and one seamless bikini in your choice of eight skin tones. For every nude pack purchased ($32), Underclub will donate a pair of underwear to Dress for Success. See underclub.com for more details; launching January 12!]