Ratchel Pinlac was sick of treating shapewear like a dirty little secret.
A fan of smoothing shorts and bodysuits, she resented the homely designs that characterized most options on the market. Of equal concern was the promotion behind these products.
“Shapewear is marketed as a solution, and a solution means that you have a problem,” Pinlac told Sourcing Journal. “You’re telling me that my body is a problem, and it’s pretty upsetting that brands have felt they could put out that message.”
In 2016, Pinlac was working as an inventory and vendor management specialist for Amazon, but she spent her days dreaming of entrepreneurship. When she began safety-pinning lacy bralettes to Spanx shorts to form her ideal bodysuit, she believed she’d hit on a gap in the market: shapewear that was made to be seen.
“When I wore traditional shapewear, it always felt like I had to like nudge it around to make sure that I didn’t show that it was digging in, or that I was wearing something,” Pinlac said. “It always made me feel bad, having to hide. You just don’t feel like yourself.”
She began mapping the launch plan for Pinsy, a direct-to-consumer startup with figure-flattering garments designed to make an ensemble, not play a supporting role. Luxe, lace-paneled bodysuits are the brand’s bread and butter, and the styles can be paired with jeans, skirts, and athleisure—or worn alone as lingerie.
“I have no product development experience whatsoever, but I kind of just hacked my way through finding a supplier, finding a designer, fitting styles on multiple bodies and sourcing the right fabric,” Pinlac said. With no physical office space—just a handful of remote workers collaborating over Zoom—Pinlac cobbled together her collection.
A lead designer helped source top-of-the-line performance materials with four-way-stretch, breathability and moisture-wicking properties, like Econyl regenerated nylon from Italy. Prototypes were developed with discreet, power mesh panels designed to smooth and shape, built-in wirefree bras, adjustable straps and hook-and-eye crotch openings. Pinsy solidified manufacturing partnerships in China and Sri Lanka, known for expertise in intimates.
The brand’s first collection dropped in November 2019, just months before the pandemic ground the global supply chain to a halt. “We felt insensitive even talking about shapewear when the world was basically crumbling,” Pinlac said. But shoppers began to re-emerge by summer, and marketing began in earnest—primarily on Instagram and TikTok, which was emerging as Gen Z’s point of inspiration. “From day one, it’s been a social-first brand,” she added.
“Once we started actually advertising, we were selling out,” Pinlac said, noting a waitlist that grew into the thousands. Pinsy spent the rest of the year ramping up production and chasing inventory—challenges still plaguing the sector.
Pinlac said out-of-stock remain a problem but Pinsy allows consumers to pre-order products or join a waitlist, capturing revenue and retaining interest even in the absence of physical product. The social media landscape is becoming increasingly competitive for brands, meaning advertising dollars need to go the extra mile. “We spend a decent amount of time, effort and money to get people to the site, and we want them to convert,” Pinlac said.
Pinlac believes consumers are just as interested in Pinsy’s styling as they are in the company’s products. Size inclusivity was a brand tenet from the start, and Pinsy has developed a roster of diverse influencer collaborators to showcase its S-3XL shapewear. Women of all shapes are represented in TikTok videos and Instagram reels, where it spotlights styling tips. “I think that the product is so highly demonstratable, and it comes to life on video,” she added. “You want to stop scrolling and be like, ‘What is this?’”
With so many DTCs competing for wallet share, Pinlac has discovered that tapping into a captive audience is key. Pinsy has done this by cultivating a community of influencers who embody the brand through their values and their aesthetic. “We’re pretty deliberate about who we choose to work with,” Pinlac said. “Maybe we see that she’s already worn something like this, and we can see her in it—her audience is primed to consume that content.”
Pinsy is keen to keep these newfound brand evangelists close, working with them on an ongoing basis and nurturing relationships through new product launches. “If there’s a connection there, we’re going to want to use her again and again,” Pinlac said.
Pinlac said plus-size shoppers as the brand’s most ardent supporters. “Size XL and up is definitely the core of our customer base,” she said, and she’s committed to seeing the company’s marketing reflect that. “I think about having friends who are plus-size and always hearing them say, ‘That’s super cute—it probably doesn’t come in my size.”
“We should love everything that we buy, and love everything that we put on ourselves,” she added. “I think [Pinsy] is a very unapologetic way to be like, ‘No, this is me. I don’t want to hide what I have, I want to like enhance what I have.’”