Generally speaking, lingerie falls into one of two camps: practical or pretty. But Julie Sygiel, who founded her underwear line Dear Kate in 2012, is on a mission to create delicates that don’t compromise. Why, after all, can't stylish and pragmatic live in harmony? While the Dear Kate designs are delightful, the real reason to throw out every other underwear you’ve ever owned lies in the fabric: a leak-resistant, stain-proof textile created by Sygiel herself while she was a chemical engineering undergrad at Brown University. We sat down with the smarty-pants entrepreneur to learn more about her fabric breakthrough, the original inspiration for Dear Kate, and what’s up next.
What motivated you start Dear Kate?
I took an entrepreneurship class in college and my business plan team realized that every woman has a horror story from that time of the month—not to mention the monthly stress our period adds to daily life while we’re busy working, exercising, and doing all of the other activities that ambitious women pursue.
What sets Dear Kate apart from its competition?
Every pair has our patent-pending fabric combination that includes a built-in breathable lining that protects like a pantiliner. This inner lining is wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, and it’s also stain-releasing, so when undies come out of the washing machine, they look as good as new.
What's your design process like?
When I first started designing the line, I polled everyone in sight. Turns out, the most important thing to women about our underwear is comfort. It makes sense that we feel comfortable and sexy. Once we have comfort covered, I think about what type of different styles we can offer. Some pairs are sporty, some lacy, some have bows, some have ruching in the back—there's something that appeals to everyone.
What's been the most rewarding part about starting Dear Kate?
The best days are when we get emails from customers telling us how much they love wearing our undies. One of our customers wrote in and said, “I wore mine to speak at the White House. Some days you don’t want anything to go wrong.” It’s moments like that when I know we’ve made a difference for someone, and our vision of empowering women every day of the month is coming true.
Why did you decide to expand into bras?
We make matching bralets for a few of our collections like the Ella and Margot. While our special wicking fabric is in the bottoms only, it’s always fun to have a matching set. The bralets are super comfy—and as someone who is probably never going to make it out of an A cup, I love wearing them. Some of our bigger-busted customers like wearing the bralets at home since they aren’t very supportive, but they’re incredibly comfortable.
What's next for Dear Kate?
We’re excited to expand into additional fashion apparel items! I can’t share details yet, but our inspiration comes mainly from customers who write in and tell us what they would like to see from Dear Kate. We announce new items through our newsletter and if you want to sign up, you can do so by visiting our site.
Special offer: Get $10 off your first-time purchase at Dear Kate by using the code birchbox at checkout! Valid now through 3/31/14.