Long hours spent in front of a computer can take their toll on a woman’s body, and pain—not posture—is usually her greatest concern at the end of the day.
But proper alignment can alleviate some of those aches, according to Vivian Lee, the founder and CEO of Kinflyte, a new women’s lifestyle brand focuses on back-saving staples.
“I had chronic neck and back issues, and I think that was compounded by having two young kids, commuting three hours a day and spending a lot of time doing desk work,” Lee said. She began looking into the different posture braces and tops on the market, but when it came to finding a fix that provided both support and aesthetics, she came up empty-handed.
That’s when Lee, who spent the past decade working in video games and interactive software, decided it was up to her to devise a solution. Two years ago, she began consulting with experts in performance apparel, design and biomechanics to create a garment that would mitigate the posture problem while providing relief from pain.
“I wanted something that didn’t look medical,” she explained. “I thought, ‘What is more essential than a bra and underwear?’ It’s something you have to wear every day.”
Lee connected with Columbia Sportswear veteran Michelle Rose, who designed the company’s outerwear from 2002-2007. They collaborated on the Kinflyte products’ look and feel, keeping in mind the specific features that Lee viewed as integral to the perfect-fitting bra.
She also worked closely with former Nike innovation executive Elizabeth LeMay, who now runs her own product prototyping lab in Portland, Ore., called Studio 317. “I went deep into the design and development with the intent of creating beautiful, performance-driven posture-wear,” Lee said.
Drawing from her background in marketing and research, Lee came to both women with insights about the benefits and pitfalls of modern posture devices like straps and braces.
“There were definitely cons to a lot of them,” she said. “They wrench your back in an unnatural way. A lot come with warning labels that say, ‘Don’t wear for more than a few hours at a time.’”
She also spoke with three female physical therapists, as well as yoga and pilates instructors, about physiology and biomechanics.
“If you look at it from a holistic standpoint, while everyone has different views on how to create proper alignment, it’s consistently agreed upon that posture affects your well-being,” she said.
Ultimately, the input of the physical therapists proved deeply valuable, Lee said. Using approaches like kinesthesiology taping techniques, they were able to identify the locations of crucial pressure points and design around them.
Lee launched an Indiegogo campaign in March with a three-piece activewear capsule that included a bra, a built-in bra top, and high-rise underwear. After just 45 days, she had raised more than $72,000 to fund Kinflyte’s initial product run and officially launch the brand in September.
The platform proved to be not just a funding generator, but a testing ground for ideas. “It was my launch pad for the brand, and also a place to get consumer feedback,” she said, adding that seeing interest in real time helped assure her that demand for her product existed.
Since the brand’s debut, the wireless Freedom bra has emerged as Kinflyte’s best-selling product. The construction provides targeted compression in the shoulder area, “removing the direct weight that happens with most bras on the midpoints of your shoulder blades,” Lee said. It also provides support across the length of the upper back, drawing the shoulder blades inward to discourage slumping.
The bra is available in two fabric formulations, both of which retail for $119. The most popular, called Eco Jersey, is a polyester/spandex blend, made up in large part (79 percent) of recycled plastic bottles. The second, called Max Support, combines nylon and spandex into a thicker, more supportive knit for those who need it.
All garments are developed in China, Lee said. Manufacturing takes place in Dongguan, distribution is out of Hong Kong, and fabrics are sourced from Taiwanese mills.
“I wanted to use recycled materials but also make sure that things were traveling shorter distances during the crucial design and development process,” she explained, offering that the carbon savings make the products more sustainable.
The brand represents the purest of direct-to-consumer plays, reaching consumers primarily through social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. A sophisticated product with an inspiring origin story, the business model has proven productive for Kinflyte.
“You can communicate a lot through those channels and through your website about the attributes of the product, and what it does,” Lee said. Instead of relying on wholesale partners to deliver messaging about her creation, she’s able to receive real-time feedback and share user testimonials coming from real customers.
DTC also provides Kinflyte with the agility to pivot if something isn’t working for the brand’s audience.
“The real benefit of DTC is that you get to hear directly from prospective consumers about what they like or dislike. People comment on the ads directly, and it’s no holds barred,” she said.
Lee is receptive to the feedback—a holdover trait from her days in the software space, where mobile games were updated every five weeks. “I understand the need for products to stay fresh and relevant. If there are things are not quite clicking, those are the areas that I then focus on for the next production run,” she said.
Small-batch manufacturing allows her to closely monitor supply and demand, while also making iterative improvements on product design, largely based on customer feedback.
“There’s a lot of similarities between this business and a software company,” Lee said. “There are always improvements to be made.”