Plant-based fashion innovation just got a mass-market shot in the arm.
The world first is the product of Kindly, a new sustainable innerwear line from the portfolio of FullStride Ventures, the company-owned incubation arm of private-label intimates manufacturer Gelmart International.
The launch, according to Denise Incandela, who oversees Walmart’s apparel and private-label brands, supports the retailer’s efforts to “develop products with a commitment toward sustainability.”
“Our goal was to develop an exclusive bra that is made with the planet in mind,” she said , “and Gelmart worked tirelessly to engineer a game-changing innovation for the intimates category that provides our customers a groundbreaking bra cup made from sugarcane.”
Three years in the making, the Kindly line leverages a proprietary blend of recycled nylon, spandex, and elastic in addition to sugarcane. The plant-based bra has undergone close to 30 rounds of trial, testing, molding and wear tests.
Bringing Kindly to life “was the most challenging project I’ve worked on—and it certainly feels the most rewarding,” said Eve Bastug, Gelmart’s chief product officer and a 40-year industry veteran. However, “[t]here is still work to be done but our team is taking the steps to create a more sustainable future with beautifully crafted products that people can feel good about wearing.”
At a FullStride virtual event previewing Kindly, Bastug addressed some of the challenges in developing the eco-friendly but still functional line. She cited working with the foam and applying a fabrication that is laminated but also sustainable as perhaps the most difficult aspect of birthing the plant-based bra cup. A molded fabric is placed atop the foam, helping to form a three-dimensional shape that goes over the cup, she described.
Despite all of the effort, the first iteration of the mold created a hard cup that wasn’t even usable, Bastug said, but the 27th attempt got the green light to move to the wash-testing phase. Bras have “tons of SKUs,” she added, noting that 29 sizes plus all of the available color options “adds up to 286.” Though work on Kindly formally began in autumn of 2018, Bastug, who has previously worked at Hanesbrands and Warnaco, said she’d been thinking about creating sustainable intimates since 2007.
Silhouettes in the Kindly line were conceived with comfort in mind, which meant ditching underwires for seamless styles and circular knitting. The color palettes references the Earth elements of air, water, and fire.
Bastug recommended line drying Kindly products over tossing them in the dryer to help bras last longer. The introductory product line includes two bra styles in sizes 34A to 40DD, three bralette styles in sizes S to XL, and three underwear styles—thongs, hipsters and boyshorts—from XS to 3XL in both seamless and micro fabrication.
While the intimates maker has been working with Walmart to develop the Kindly line, where it is now exclusively available in all 3,300 stores and online with prices between $11-$14, it plans to introduce the line more broadly to other retailers down the road, according to Gelmart CEO Yossi Nasser. Expanding Kindly into Walmart’s international doors “might actually happen sooner rather than later,” he added.
“Real sustainability does not exist without accessibility,” Nasser said. “When selecting a retail partner, Walmart was a no-brainer for us. We’re thrilled to bring the world’s first plant-based bra cup to market, and humbled by the opportunity to speak to Walmart’s wide and diverse audience.”
It’s critical that Kindly is “known not only for quality products,” he added, “but more for creating a movement towards a more eco-friendly and attainable lifestyle for all.”
Gelmart marketing chief Caroline Limpert emphasized at the virtual event the focus on creating a brand that’s “kind to the planet, kind to the wallet and kind to the body.”
“We take notice of consumer trends, and consumers want comfort and care much more about our planet than ever before, especially in this post-pandemic world,” she said in a statement.