Knix is an intimate apparel brand on a mission to inspire all women to live unapologetically free. Knix is the world leader in wire-free bras and functional underwear. They’ve pioneered the use of patented bonding technology to create seamless, chafe-free designs, as well as fabrics with support structures built right into them. HOLR had the pleasure of chatting with CEO of Knix, Joanna Griffiths, and talks to us about the vision behind the brand, entrepreneurial advice, and how Knix continues to change the game.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the vision behind Knix?
My name is Joanna Griffiths, I’m the founder and CEO of Knix. I created the company about 7 years ago. It was inspired by this kind of shocking discovery I had that women can leak a little when they laugh or jumping jack and 80% of women experience leak during their period. It was really astonishing that there could be something that so many women experience and struggle with, and yet there were really no products on the market that were designed and suitable for this generation.
While I was doing market research, I didn’t have a background in intimate apparel or background in fashion. I knew i didn’t have any of the answers so I went and spoke with hundreds of women and started asking a lot of questions. Through that process, I kind of discovered two really big themes that have been really at the heart of Knix over the past several years.
One was that women were looking for a better product as a whole, there was a challenge around leaks and wouldn’t it be great if there was a product that could help eliminate leaks. In general, if you ask someone about the intimate apparel category, they had so many complaints and I really felt like no one was satisfied — it’s an industry that doesn’t have a lot of innovation and really hadn’t evolved to be creating products that were designed for how women live today.
Knix’s vision, messaging, and product is all so impactful and it’s been such a game-changer for women. Aside from that vision, what really inspired you to leave your job at such a young age and launch yourself full force into the development of this? And how did you stay motivated during those initial phases? Maybe in particular when you were facing some of the barriers that you were coming across in the industry?
Honestly I didn’t really have any intention of starting my own company when I went back to school. I thought I would stay in the industry I was in before, which was in media and entertainment. However, it was throughout all those conversations. and understanding the emotional impact the issue was having on their lives and really feeling like, ‘Oh my God, this product and this company could actually make a difference and I see how I can make a difference’. I took the leap and I think I’ve been really fortunate of having a lot of people in my life who have been really supportive.
WhenI started, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would adapt to where we are now. Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of setting goals that are obtainable and committing to yourself milestones that you want to hit — while being really focused and working towards things.
I also learned the importance of attaching yourself to your mission or a cause that’s greater than just you. I think a lot of women have had historically a hard time advocating for themselves. They’ve had a hard time asking for things or fighting for things because it just wasn’t in my major. Really early on we made the intentional effort of having Knix be not just about products, but about this broader mission.
From what I saw, you began your funding through Kickstarter campaigns and crowd funding initiatives. Can you take us a little bit deeper into what it was like for you getting the financial backing for your company and why you chose to go the route of crowd funding?
A lot of things have to do with timing. When I launched Knix, it was when crowd funding was kind of starting to take off and was a very exciting new field. So we took advantage of that and decided that that was a great way to launch the company. Some of our best product ideas came from our campaign, like an insider tip on sizing and what our customers wanted. And we looked into styles people wanted to see and looked at how to plan our firm inventory vibe. We had this amazing opportunity to learn from people before we even launched, that I really think was part of the reason why we were successful. I say it all the time internally — people are telling us what they want, we just have to listen. I think a lot of the time businesses fail because they think they know what the customer wants instead of actually listening to them.
There’s been a real shift in terms of the number of female decision makers and the number of active female investors. In 2013, it was very rare to have a female partner to fund. So it was a harder sell I would say than it is now. I also think that we’ve really seen a lot of new female founders come onto the scene who are doing amazing things, which is also changing the narrative. One of the biggest pieces of feedback I got when I was starting Knix or looking for funding, a lot of people would tell me that we weren’t a business, that could take on investors because it was a cute lifestyle business. And I think that’s something told to female founders a lot. It basically diminishes the person’s ambition or aspirations for their company. I think that there are lots of examples out there of women showing that we can do more than make cute lifestyle businesses. We can build incredible companies that actually make a difference in the world and build great teams. I really have seen the conversation changing, which I think is exciting.
Now you’ve already kind of touched on a lot of this already — but what advice would you have for individuals or females in particular who are working towards bringing their visions into form? Like just maybe one or two key things that would be really crucial or helpful to keep in mind?
I’m such a big advocate for solving real problems that are important to a lot of people. If you’re solving something that really needs to exist in the world, your success will be so much higher. The rage used to be apps, everyone was signed up for apps and there was kind of a technology boom. Now you’re seeing a new wave of companies and brands that are solving real problems and it’s just so much easier to build a business when you’re creating or serving an unmet need.
Knix has created so much positive, empowered impact in change within the way female identified individuals talk about and embrace and view their bodies. How have you seen this conversation shift since you began Knix and how can we continue to encourage the loving, acceptance of all bodies?
When we did our first real women in Knix shoot back in 2013, I’d never seen photos of what bodies look like, except for the Dove real beauty campaign — which I think helped drive a lot of this movement in general.
As a brand we’re constantly trying to push the narrative and change the dialogue. 6 years ago everything was about the perfect picture or the perfect curated, edited lifestyle and now I think people are craving raw human connection. You even see it with a lot of celebrities now who are just leading the charge and engaging in conversation about some of the more real human challenges and struggles. I think it’s really shaping what our future’s going to look like.
In light of the recent findings surrounding the harmful PFAs in women’s menstrual underwear at Knix, four products have been confirmed to be 100% completely free of these toxic chemicals and the PFA’s. Can you speak more about the dangers and side effects of these toxins?
I guess about two weeks ago now, something that sort of brought our category into question is the PFAs found in the competing brands’ products. It’s always been at the top of my mind because in 2015 it was a category that didn’t exist. Now, it’s almost a half a billion dollar industry. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of different brands pop up and you can make these products a bunch of different ways. The price comes into this and you can see a lot of broader claims being made about products without any kind of consumer regulation or oversight, and without any kind of common language.
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"Self-Love is about honestly addressing the shadow aspects within you, the parts you might not like and accepting yourself for who you are. Its also about forgiving yourself for not meeting your own self-imposed, impossible standards and understanding you are worth it. You are loved and a million times worth it." @cashmereandcamo in her LuxeLift Pullover Bra? #knix
I think a great example for this is when we launched, It’s typical to talk about absorbency in terms of volume. 3 milliliters or, 15 milliliters or 20 teaspoons. I can try and equate this to a way that people can understand it because there really was no vocabulary around the space. Then you start making a shift where you’re talking about it in terms of tampon absorbency or pad absorbency — that’s something that people understand. So you’re seeing a new category where there’s language being created and a lot of things that companies are able to say, but there aren’t any regulations. We’ve always done a lot of third party testing and when you’re inventing a category, you’re inventing products so you have to go through a lot of testing since you’re making something that hasn’t existed before.
Can you go a little bit more in depth as to how you found the materials for this particular Knix menstrual line?
Basically the way that our product works, there’s a top layer that protects the skin cotton based fabric. It’s like a natural crucible fabric that’s important to us, and a lot of customers. Then there’s an absorbant layer made of a micro-fiber that can absorb more than its weight because it has more surface area to absorb moisture. Then there’s a waterproof membrane that prevents leaks. So there are overall three layers that go into our technology.
Finally, I mean you already are doing so much, but in what other ways, is Knix working to create change and bring positive impact to both the community and the world through your products and your messaging?
Everyday we continue to reel out any products or continue teaching a bigger brand campaign that sparks timely, much needed conversation. On a basic strategy side of things, we’ve recently launched retail stores that are working to create a space where people feel welcome to come and just have a really positive experience and feel comfortable in their skin. Because I think for the longest time, shopping for these kinds of products was maybe not the most enjoyable experience. So we’re trying to change that.
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