The pitch in question was delivered by a new brand called Kindly, which lingerie maker Gelmart International created and recently launched at the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. It’s not the first company to try to bring sustainability to intimate apparel, but it is the first to do so on a large scale and with accessibility at the core of its ethos.
This is a potentially game-changing distinction because most efforts to innovate around sustainability, especially in the apparel space, start at the high end of the market, says Yossi Nasser, CEO of Gelmart International. . And while adding green options to the industry in any capacity is progress, Nasser explains that these green brands tend to be too small to make a real difference. “When a new innovation hits the market, it starts at the top, where there is the least amount of volume and impact, and then works its way to the masses,” he explains. “[As a large manufacturer]we found a way to start from the bottom up, which puts pressure on the rest of the industry to do the same.”
Those smaller, top-of-the-pyramid sustainable efforts also tend to put many consumers off price, simply because they are made in smaller batches and therefore more expensive to manufacture. Nasser explains that the brand’s association with Walmart has made it possible for them to obtain discounts throughout the supply chain due to the volume they are producing to fill the needs of the retailer. Many stories. “MEIt’s still not the cheapest bra out there, but the market hasn’t really seen innovative bra technology at a price like this, so we think it’s extremely disruptive,” she says. (All Kindly bras are under $14 ).
And while Kindly’s bras haven’t completely solved all sustainability issues, the company has taken a step that it says solves one of the least eco-friendly aspects of its bra: Most bra cups are made from foam, which is not biodegradable. After years of trial and error in development, Gelmart developed bra cups made from sugar cane, and they are what you will find in the styles offered by Kindly. The rest of the bra, along with Kindly’s panty offerings, is made with recycled materials to further reduce its impact.
“In my 40+ years working in the industry, this was the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on,” says Eva Bastug, product manager of Gelmart International. “It took us three years to work on a cup that was more than 80 percent plant-based. There is still work to be done, but our team is taking action to create a more sustainable future with beautifully crafted products that people can feel good about using.”
Nasser also admits that this iteration is not the perfect solution for sustainability in the intimate apparel space. After all, the sugarcane crop has its own environmental problems, including deforestation. But Kindly’s sugarcane is sourced through Braskem’s ethanol responsible sourcing program, which means it meets certain green standards. In any case, Nasser says that while they are confident in the value of their current product as a sustainable alternative to mainstream options, the company will continue to build from here.
This all sounds… great, right? But if you, like me, were curious about how a plant-based bra compares to a regular one, read on for my take on Kindly’s newly launched line.
I tried the first mass-produced plant-based bra: here’s what I thought
Kindly’s starters aren’t the kind of lacy outfits you’d wear to seduce your partner on an anniversary; instead, Gelmart International marketing director Caroline Limpert notes that the company’s design focuses on comfort for everyday use. As such, the brand’s current styles include a non-wired t-shirt bra, a V-neck bralette, and a seamless X-back bralette. Each one comes in a variety of color combinations and sizes range from 34A–40DD, with additional sizes promised later this year.
The brand sent me one of these new bras to try out before launch, and I must admit I had my doubts before it arrived. Bra fit is so personal, and there’s a reason I still wear bras older than some of you reading this article: I like the fit and feel too much to let them go!
But since its arrival, the only time I’ve wanted to take off the Kindly bra is to reluctantly wash it. It’s as comfortable as promised, and it also gives my chest a shape I haven’t naturally enjoyed in maybe a decade. (In other words, he holds the girls nice and tall and tight.)
I’m still not throwing out my outdated bras in favor of this new one, but not because it’s not superior, I just don’t want them landing in the dumpster. But if I need to buy new everyday bras in the future, I think it would be hard to defend any other option given the price, fit, undergarment aesthetic, and sustainable materials, of course.
And I’m excited to see the brand continue to innovate, as they don’t plan on resting on their laurels having cracked the mug code to this point. The brand is motivated to break new ground to provide consumers with options they can feel better about buying, while setting an example for the rest of the industry. Loungewear, activewear and basics are also on Kindly’s radar, and it’s no coincidence that these target categories include the items women wear most often.
“The Kindly brand is about being kind to your wallet, kind to your body, and kind to the environment,” says Limpert. “[These initial launches] They are just the beginning for us.”
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