The New York innerwear subscription company announced the certification Wednesday following a three-year journey to revamp its ESG profile, according to vice president of innovation Camille Kress. Adore Me started examining the impacts of its business model and supply chain in 2019. “We weren’t really built with sustainability in mind,” Kress said, noting that environmental and social impact “weren’t a part of the conversation” when the bra and underwear company launched in 2011 after founder Morgan Hermand-Waiche hatched the idea for Adore Me as a Harvard Business School MBA student.
Adore Me has “grown super fast” to become a $200 million business, thanks in part to long-term supplier and logistics relationships as well as people scooping up stay-at-home garments during the pandemic, Kress said. Approaching B Corp certification forced the company to consider how “we want to do things today,” she added.
Digitally native Adore Me, which now runs seven stores, transitioned mailers and packaging to recyclable cardboard boxes and poly bags. It has also integrated materials such as RPET into products including swimwear and bras. With its supply chain in good shape, Kress said the company has instead focused on workers. Adore Me owns its U.S. distribution center, and has created educational opportunities like English-as-a-second-language classes and programs promoting career growth and acceleration. Asian production partners have been subject to audits and internal ratings based on worker pay, safety and transparency. “Some of them we really hand-held through the process of improving, and some of them were already doing things that actually inspired us, so it’s been a case-by-case process,” Kress said. Ensuring compliance remains a moving target.
For Adore Me, which is working to improve processes and relationships, “scale is really a double-edged sword,” Kress said, in contrast to newer companies built with sustainability from the ground floor. “At the same time, we have the resources to make changes, and the impact is much larger.”
The company knew it didn’t want any sustainability-focused changes to affect consumer prices. “We’re lucky enough to be a growing company,” Kress said. “We’re EBITDA-positive, so we have a little bit of cash to play with and we absorb the cost” of projects and initiatives that erode margins. Recycled polyester bathing suits are more expensive to produce than those made with virgin inputs, but their prices don’t really reflect the difference in component costs.
Though the industry is gravitating toward eco-friendly processes in response to consumer demand, Kress said Adore Me’s members have expressed a different perspective. Consumer surveys indicate that the Adore Me customer largely views sustainable brands as exclusionary—too expensive, not size-inclusive enough, and lacking in variety. The consumer shopping Adore Me “wants cool, colorful products, a large selection, new styles at a very affordable price and a wide range of sizing,” she said.
Now Adore Me is figuring out how to integrate sustainable practices into its operations without “falling into the marketing tactics of other sustainable brands,” said Kress, who believes that focusing outwardly on ESG could leave longtime Adore Me members feeling that the brand is moving on without them. “It’s up to us to decide whether we want to be seen as a sustainable brand, or if we want to just help our customer better understand what inclusive sustainability can be.”
Meanwhile, British lingerie label Nudea will make its first foray into the U.S. market this month, after achieving B Corp certification in February. The three-year-old brand is known for its focus on fit, powered by data from more than 15,000 wearers, along with its commitment to size inclusivity, with 43 sizes ranging from cup size A through GG.
Nudea says customers who use its at-home measuring tool, Fit Tape, end up making fewer returns. In recent seasons, it has also introduced premium fabrics made from Tencel and recycled microfiber. Bras and underwear are produced in Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Social and Labor Convergence Program-certified (SLCP) Portuguese factories, and items are delivered in Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) recycled and recyclable cardboard packaging.
Nudea works with seven new wholesale partners to facilitate its North American expansion, including stores in New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Washington and North Carolina. The largely independent lingerie and loungewear retailers will now carry Nudea products in stores and online, according to founder and CEO Priya Downes. “We are really excited to expand Nudea’s reach into the U.S.,” she said. “It’s great to see our strong sustainable ethos standing out and gaining momentum with stockists.”