Kirsty Chong is the founder of underwear brand ‘Modibodi’ and started the company when she began to suffer light incontinence whilst training for a marathon after giving birth. She established that the products available were aesthetically unpleasant and were damaging to the environment.
Having created and developed many apparel products, 'Modibodi', have now launched it’s new range for baby and maternity. Kirsty chats to Female First on all things boobs, leaks, comfortability, and sustainability.
Can you give our readers a little insight into you and your background?
I’m the CEO and founder of leak-proof apparel brand Modibodi®. I’m a mum of four from Australia and also a fash-tech entrepreneur and social advocate of health and gender issues. Before launching Modibodi, I worked in PR and had moved to Seattle, America where I had a real “switch on moment”. The city is very environmentally aware and closely connected to nature and innovation. As a new mum, I became far more conscious of the world that my kids were living in and the importance of nature. I am also a keen runner, and it was while I was out training for a marathon in 2011 in Seattle, that I came up with the Modibodi concept. It was a convergence of many insights at the right time that led me to think we can do better – particularly around waste. I’m committed to championing a more sustainable world, helping end period poverty and normalising conversations about periods, leaks and real bodies. I have actively been involved in petitioning governments to remove the tax on period products and at Modibodi we work with partners including Plan International, Bloody Good Period and Irise to name a couple.
Where did the idea for ‘Modibodi’ develop from?
I was living in Seattle at the time, surrounded by tech start-ups and on maternity leave with two young children. My periods had not long returned and I found myself struggling with light incontinence. Whilst out running one day, I realised the main solution available to manage leaks was disposable hygiene products, which were ugly, inconvenient, uncomfortable, often unreliable, and disastrous for the environment. Once I realised how problematic the issue was, I couldn't understand why with all the advancements in technology, underwear and disposable hygiene had not evolved. I knew instantly that I wanted to create an entirely new product for women. I am proud that I took that idea and turned it into a product and now a range of products that are more convenient, comfortable and can reliably manage menstrual flow, incontinence, sweat and even breast milk leaks, and reduce the number of single-use products that end up in landfills, damaging our environment.
How do your products help pregnant and post-partum women?
Launching Modibodi’s maternity and baby range was a natural next step having launched underwear, activewear and swimwear. I want to help people get comfortable with their pregnant and postpartum bodies, by bringing conversations, sharing real, raw stories, and creating high-performing products which look as good as they feel. And while we don’t take ourselves too seriously at Modibodi, we’re serious about tackling taboos and starting conversations with facts, care and compassion. Many of the existing products in the maternity and postpartum market perform poorly, aren’t flattering and are environmentally harmful. Current breastfeeding bras on the market are not ‘absorbent’ or ‘leak-proof’, and they may be breathable but not truly ‘moisture wicking’. Comfort was a priority when designing our Breastfeeding Bra and Cami, which both feature a wire free design and internal power mesh for serious support, while still being safe and comfortable enough to sleep in.
Our goal was to create a product range which is not only better for your body but better for the planet too, through reducing the need for disposables. Alongside our maternity range, we have launched our baby collection of reusable nappies, liners and nappy boosters. Modibodi’s reusable nappies have been designed for high-performance and usability to encourage more parents to switch from disposables to reusable nappies for good. It’s the most absorbent reusable on the market, fits like a disposable and simple to use.
One of the main ideas of your brand is to be committed to providing sustainable solutions to leaks for all bodies – Why do you think it’s important to use more environmentally friendly products?
Like all businesses we rely on nature to provide us with clean water, fresh air, and healthy soils for food and crops to grow, like our organic cotton, bamboo or merino wool. When you position your business as part of nature you realise that protecting natural systems and supporting biodiversity is essential for people and business.
These ‘convenient’ products come with an inconvenient environmental cost. Single use products require the collection of raw materials which generate significant carbon emissions and water use. We know from our life cycle assessment that during four years of use disposable products will create about 60% more carbon emissions than a Modibodi absorbent gusset. In the UK alone, about 200,000 tonnes of sanitary waste is created every year with the majority of it being incinerated producing CO2 emissions. Using a resuable product to replace disposable single use products is a tangible way to personnaly contribute to keeping our environment healthy. We love that customers can make choices that have a lower environmental impact by choosing Modibodi.
What is your inspiration for your product designs?
Design is inspired by creating products that make the wearer feel confident and able to 'get on with life'. We do have a wide range of products to ensure that we are able to meet needs of many customers - like our adaptive range, swimwear, active wear. We want every ‘body to feel supported and confident wearing our products. We are always looking to innovate through the use of sustainable fabrics, more comfortable designs, collaborations - such as with Leon Designs an Indigenous Australian Designer. We launch new colours collections every 3 months, and now have 48 products across the Modibodi range. From thongs to full briefs, leggings to swimwear. The goal is to continue to innovate sustainable leak-free apparel for every body.
How do your products help protect against leaks and periods?
Modibodi can be worn without the need for a pad or tampon and the range includes 6 absorbencies, from moisture wicking to Maxi 24hrs, as well as detachable styles for ease of changing (great for those with disabilities or sensory issues), maternity and a vegan range. Modibodi look and feel just like regular underwear and with frequent new colours and pattern drops, staying leak free has never been better. The science behind the apparel took years in the making and close to 1000 scientific tests, to make up the patented Modifier Technology®. Made as a three-layer component; a top layer quickly wicks away moisture, fights bacteria and stops odors, a middle layer quickly absorbs fluid and locks it away, and the third bottom layer gives you extra leak-proof protection, ensuring you are at your most secure and confident, with no leaking through to clothes, which means total freedom. Comfort is a huge benefit – it’s something that you simply cannot get with disposable hygiene. Modibodi period and leak-proof underwear are made from luxe performance fabrics and our patented Modifier Technology to keep the wearer dry, odour-free and protected from leaks. That’s something you can’t get from normal cotton or synthetic underwear combined with a disposable pad or tampon! They are more convenient and reliable. You never have to worry about running out of protection for those just in case moments.
Can pregnant or post-partum ladies wear your bras and briefs and feel supported/comfortable?
Absolutely, comfort and support were at the heart of the design process for the maternity range, just as with the very first pair of Modibodi underwear. The new maternity range is revolutionising the pregnancy and postpartum experience thanks to its superior design with scientifically proven performance. Our new Breastfeeding Bra and Cami have the most amazing design, fit and comfort and I’m so proud to be sharing them with you. Our team have years of prior experience in bra design and manufacture and the comfort of this new bra is phenomenal. I actually think you’ll want to wear then every day even after the pregnancy and postpartum stages. But they don’t just look good, they manage leaky breasts and sweat and have been lab tested to absorb up to 25ml per cup. After breastfeeding four kids I’ve tried my fair share of maternity bras. They were uncomfortable and offered no functional support for sweaty, leaky breasts, and disposable breast pads were scratchy, stinky and never stayed in place. The maternity briefs have been designed with a V shape to sit comfortably on the waist, whilst the post-partum control briefs support post-partum bleeding, heavy discharge or light – moderate bladder leaks. Combining the benefits of shapewear with our tried and tested absorbent lining which is made as a three-layer component; a top layer quickly wicks away moisture, fights bacteria and stops odors, a middle layer quickly absorbs fluid and locks it away, and the third bottom layer gives you extra leak-proof protection, ensuring you are at your most secure and confident, with no leaking through to clothes, which means total freedom. Plus made from pre-consumer recycled nylon fabrics in line with our sustainability goals. It’s a product line I’m really proud of.
What advice would you give to women who have only ever used the standard period products but want to venture out?
Period and leak-proof underwear has the capacity to drive a real positive impact on our environment, and significantly improve the quality of life and period dignity of millions of people around the world. Nobody should miss out on doing the things they love because of leaks, whether it be periods, bladder leaks, breast leaks or sweat. We need to keep shouting about it. We are in the 21st century, we’ve come on somewhat in terms of our openness, but we are still so far from where we should be. Periods are natural and human. As an audience, we should not be embarrassed to watch adverts on periods or to discuss them, or issues surrounding them. Equally, we are futureproofing the choices people can make in managing their periods. We make our underwear from environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo and wool to suit a range of lifestyles, such as being worn for up to 24 hours, or as a practical choice for those with disabilities, sensory issues, endometriosis, or key workers doing long shifts with no time to change. None of these are things we should feel we need to stay quiet about.
What are your future plans for ‘Modibodi?’
While we have some way to go, the future is looking promising. The goal is to keep the conversation going so that menstrual and maternity self-care becomes commonplace at work, home and school, and so incontinence and excessive sweating are not seen as taboo subjects. To reach this milestone, we as mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers and friends need to work together to replace shame with understanding and empathy. We have some extremely exciting launches this year and will continue our commitment to help people all over the world. What sets Modibodi apart is our continued vision to create limitless positive impact. Whether that is, daring to design the most comfortable and effective products to manage bodily leaks in the most sustainable way; Using our voice and brand to celebrate diversity and inclusivity, promote self-acceptance and open conversations around our bodies and bodily leaks, and at times challenge unjust cultural or social norms in the name of equality; or donating our products to menstruating in need to help end period poverty. This year we have committed 100,000 pairs (over 1,200,000 pound in product) to 20,000 people in need to manage periods and light incontinence. We do this with the generous support of our customers and the ‘Give A Pair’ programme which customers contribute to supporting us to donate bundles of five underpants in a waterproof bag to women and girls who often don’t have access to alternatives. We hear so many extraordinary stories from our partners of how a reusable product provides dignity that it inspires us to continue to reach big goals.
We also donate all returned sellable stock ensuring nothing ends up in landfill. We have also just launched a new Modibodi menstrual, menopause and miscarriage policy for employees. This new policy entitles all Modibodi employees extra paid leave explicitly for menstruation, menopause and miscarriage, in addition to the company’s existing sick leave entitlements.
For more information, visit www.modibodi.co.uk