Launched just last week, Knickey is a female-founded women’s underwear brand, creating briefs from certified organic cotton. Knickey is not only committed to making undies that are both better for your body and the environment, but they also make it easy for you to send in your used and worn underwear—Knickey or not—for them to recycle for you. Since Cora is also committed to organic cotton, we love chatting with brands who share our mission. We talked to Knickey’s founder, Cayla O’Connell Davis, about the dangers of chemicals in our clothes and products, women’s health, and why you might want to, ahem, throw away some of the contents of your underwear drawer.
1. Congratulations on launching Knickey! Can you tell us a little more about your brand and the impact you’re hoping to have on women’s health?
Thank you! Knickey offers organic undies for everyday. Our goal is to make organic cotton the everyday option through affordable, elevated intimates. Most people know about the benefits of choosing organic produce or using organic skincare products, but that is usually where the buck stops. The reality is that what you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. While organic cotton fiber may not be the most prevalent option for women’s intimates on the market, it is certainly the superior option.
Sixty percent of undies today are made from synthetics (made from crude oil) which are largely the cause of urinary, yeast, and vaginal infections in women because these fabrics do not breathe. Choosing a natural fiber for your nethers is simply a better option from a health perspective, but beyond that, our certified organic cotton is free from the harmful toxic chemicals that go into 98 percent of the world’s conventional—i.e., chemical—cotton. As a woman, it’s a no-brainer to stop buying intimates that are made with carcinogens, and to start thinking about what is safe for my most intimate lady parts. With Knickey, we hope to bring that awareness to the forefront, and offer a solution for women who care about their reproductive health—because we all should!
2. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some of the underwear in my drawer for years. Other than the fact that they’re starting to wear and have seen better days, are there health reasons I should opt for an underwear overhaul?
Don’t worry—I think we all have that dedicated corner of old, unworn undies in our top drawer! That said, it is actually recommended that you retire a pair of undies after about a year. This is because undies lay so close to the skin and other (internal!!) organs; over time they accumulate dead skin cells and microorganisms that cause bacteria accumulation, no matter how often (or thoroughly) you launder them. According to a study conducted by the Good Housekeeping Institute, “83 percent of underwear that’s considered clean still contains up to 10,000 living bacteria.” This can cause infections, reactions, and a whole host of unwanted irritation, so it’s best to retire them after a while.
3. Knickey has a take back program where customers can send in their old underwear for a new pair. Can you tell me more about how this works and the idea behind it?
We are so excited about the recycling program, and have already seen some of its impact since launching. The idea is simply to divert reusable textiles from ending up in a landfill and capture them for secondary uses such as industrial rags, mattress batting, and insulation. I did my master’s research on sustainability practices in the fashion industry, and one of the largest issues we have to deal with from an environmental standpoint is the accumulation of textile waste.
While there are secondary and tertiary markets for the resale of wearable clothing and recycling of fibers, still about 85 percent of clothing in the U.S. ends up in a landfill to rot and leach toxic chemicals into the earth. You may be surprised to know that 95 percent of that discarded clothing can actually be recycled—even your old, used undies! Right now, there is no great way to dispose of old, worn-torn intimates; you can’t donate them, you can’t resell them … and throwing them out sends them straight to that landfill. So instead of letting them collect dust in your drawers, send them to us! We will recycle them—Knickey or not.
4. At Cora, we know about the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in the products we wear, ingest, and put in our bodies (like tampons). But I also learned from Knickey that, according to the UN, ~200K people die from pesticide exposure each year in farming and factory communities. That is so tragic. What can we do to make sure we’re buying products that are best for our health, and the health of others?
This is such a devastating statistic, and it is largely made up of deaths in some developing countries where access to healthcare, clean water, and worker welfare generally is frankly, scarce. As a consumer, understanding the provenance of the products you buy can be difficult: so many companies keep their supply chains obscured from the public to preserve trade secrets, proprietary inventions, and competitive edge. As you note, this is often the case with ingredient and material usage in product development, which can lead to unregulated toxic chemical usage, exposure, and ultimately illness.
One thing that I recommend looking for with products and brands, is their adherence to third party certification standards by trade organizations or NGOs. These will mostly be in the form of some sort of seal or stamp of approval from an outside entity, which guarantees the company is making legitimate claims and upholding best practices from an environmental and ethical standpoint.
Some of these you may already be familiar with—Fair Trade, Leaping Bunny, and BlueSign—but there are so many more that you can look for in the market to ensure you are purchasing products that are better for you and the people who make them. One that is near and dear to Knickey’s heart is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which is the gold standard for certifying organic textiles used in apparel and homegoods, as well as fair labor laws. These standards can help to inform customers that the brands are making concerted efforts to protect the health of those who produce their goods, and those who ultimately buy them.
5. In 2008, more than 600 people joined a class action suit against Victoria’s Secret for horrific skin reactions and permanent scarring, as a result of wearing VS bras, which were finished with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. As a society, we’re really gaining awareness of the harmful chemicals many of us have been putting on or in our bodies for years. But, as with organic food, the alternatives are expensive. Do you have any tips for women who are trying to make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their families, but are doing so on a shoestring budget?
I think that as people become more aware of these product attributes, consumer habits are changing, and therefore brands are changing to keep up with their needs. Our company mission is to make organic the everyday option, which in long term goals, goes well beyond undies. For us, that means redefining the access point for organic and natural products, from both a cost and convenience standpoint. Our undies start at $12 a pair, and decrease in price when you bundle to as low as 50 percent off. Having a direct-to-consumer model is incredibly important to us, so that we can ship anywhere in the U.S. for free, ensuring that we are reaching as broad an audience as possible.
Beyond our offering, the barrier for entry with organic products is truly a supply and demand equation, so I would encourage individuals who are seeking safer products for themselves to simply hold companies accountable. Ask questions and demand better products from your favorite brands and retailers, because in the end, they are often the determining factor for market prices.
In the meantime, blogs like this one (!!) are an incredible resource for savvy shoppers seeking better products for themselves and their families—and so often you can find good deals, whether it be through an online discount code, subscribing to monthly shipments of your household items, or just buying in bulk for savings.
Finally, you may be surprised to know that Walmart, Jet, and Costco are the largest purveyors of organic products in the world. So, beyond shopping locally or direct to consumer brands online, there are some great products offered where you may least expect them—you just have to look!
Thank you so much, Cayla! Head over to Knickey to learn more and shop good-for-you undies.