For a brand that was once just a humble Indiegogo campaign hoping to raise $15,000, Bombas has cemented its place in the halcyon of mission-oriented companies, with revenue now cresting $100 million.
Known for matching each purchase of its soft, stylish and sturdy socks with an in-kind donation to a homeless shelter, the New York basics brand has since branched out to T-shirts—and on Tuesday, it added a third category: underwear.
Two years in the making, this newest launch, it says, means it now offers the top-three items most frequently sought by shelters serving the American homeless population, whose numbers topped 550,000 as of January 2018, according to a White House report. To date, Bombas donations have passed 44 million and conting.
Bombas consulted market research, listened to customer insights and fielded surveys, too, when formulating the size-inclusive, dual-gender underwear debut.
With social calendars sidelined in favor of sheltering in place, virus-wary consumers over the past 10 months have rekindled an appreciation for close-to-skin sartorial staples, and brands are serving their appetite for style-forward skivvies. MeUndies, which just launched a Marvel-themed collection, nabbed a $40 million investment in November. Burlesque bigwig Dita von Teese teamed with Playful Promises for a plus-size lingerie launch earlier this month, Brazilian footie Neymar is the face of Superdry organic cotton undies, Allbirds tiptoed into tighty whities over the summer, and October saw men’s wear upstart Rhone drop a line of “elevated essentials,” including tees, briefs and socks.
Innerwear, it seems, is having a moment.
“People are spending more time at home, and with so much going on in the world, they’re looking for both physical and emotional comfort—and products like underwear, socks and even a t-shirt can offer that,” said Melissa Calamia, who left Aeropostale to take on the role of senior product designer of underwear at Bombas in January 2019. Adding great-fitting, comfortable undergarments to one’s wardrobe is “akin to self-care,” she continued, “especially now more than ever before.”
The first step in making buzzworthy bottoms? Picking the right fabrics. Calamia says Bombas evaluated a “wide range of materials” before selecting cotton and modal, “more eco-friendly fibers” that elevate its sustainability efforts. Both the seamless and the cotton modal fabrications offer a “really amazing balance of comfort and durability,” she added. “Quality and usable lifespan of the product [were] top of mind during the development process.”
Male shoppers can pick from briefs, trunks and boxer-brief silhouettes in sizes S-3XL and four dark, neutral colors. For women, Bombas came up with a thong, bikini and hipster style in sizes XS-2X across 14 color ways, all packaged in FSC-Certified 100 percent recycled and responsibly sourced paper.
“With each silhouette, we’re able to provide customers with a diverse assortment of options—from coverage and rise, to shape, color and fabrication,” Calamia said. “We look forward to broadening our collection with additional silhouettes that suit a number of different styles, as we continue to grow this product category.”
Departing from the traditional approach to designing across size spectrums, Bombas brought diverse fit models into the equation. “It was important to us that Bombas Underwear was thoughtfully designed to fit real human bodies,” Calamia said. “To do so, we did not take a one-size-fits-all approach to development, and put specific focus on both the design and fit of each offering—straight and plus sizes—to ensure the products are as inclusive as possible.” Instead of taking a shortcut and grading up from a straight-size female model to make the full line, “our team intentionally fit the product on both Medium and 1x models to ensure there were intentional improvements specific to the size range and provided the best fit for customers,” she added.
Recipients of Bombas’ charitable donations were taken into consideration, too. “As a brand founded to support the homeless community, we take the same thoughtful approach to the design and distribution of donation items as we do to the products created for paying customers,” Calamia said, adding that each consumer purchase triggers a donation of a “specially-designed” pair of underwear to someone in need.
The brand recruited the expertise of its 50-state network of more than 3,500 homeless shelters and community programs when developing the donation-specific underwear, Calamia noted, a process that involved “thinking through who would be receiving the donations, what their sizes are and how they’d wear the product.” Homeless shelters will receive the women’s hipster and the men’s boxer-short styles, both in dark colors for “less visible wear” as well as “dual sizing for a flexible fit” that can accommodate a range of sizes, she added.
“Similar to our consumer product, we will continue to iterate on our donation product to ensure we are meeting the needs of the homeless community as best as possible,” Calamia said. That means regularly consulting the partner network “to understand what they do and how they serve those in need,” she added, and “ensure that Bombas is supporting the needs of the organization and those they serve in the best way possible.”
“Launching underwear furthers Bombas’ mission to “own everybody’s top drawer.”
“For us, we understand how much trust goes into the items you wear closest to your body everyday, and want Bombas to be the first thing that someone puts on in the morning that they’re least excited to take off at the end of the day,” Calamia said.