In a world where everything is so obviously influenced by our physical appearances and the kind of clothes we wear, underwears - the most intimate item in our wardrobes - continue to exist as an afterthought, for people of all genders. Underwear, for women, comes disguised as an expression of sexuality, and for men, as a symbol of their machismo - an underlying truth in all our television and print advertisements. But hardly anyone wants to get into the depth of it to understand what consumers actually want to wear and why - not even the consumers themselves.
In India, shopping for innerwear is still considered a taboo by many. While for women it is stigmatised to the point where they feel the pressure to be discreet about their need to purchase new underwear, for men it’s all about picking up the first pack-of-three they see on the shelf. Unfortunately, comfort is the least of our concerns.
However, the past few years have witnessed a huge shift in this mindset; a movement being led by the youth of our country. Although still a nascent and relatively unexplored concept, many Indians are now identifying ‘innerwear’ as an industry of its own. One which is equally affected by concerns of body-positivity, sustainability, and inclusivity. So read on for a list of ‘underwear pioneers’, as we like to call them, who are reshaping the kind of conversations we have around undergarments in general.
We’ve all heard of body-positivity and gender fluidity when it comes to clothes, but what about underwear? Founded by Abhishek Elango, Tailor and Circus, is a Chennai-based underwear brand that offers anti-microbial, sustainable, and fully inclusive innerwear made out of micro-modal - which is extracted from the beech wood tree. A venture that started out as a men’s underwear brand eventually realised the inherent misogyny that comes with women’s underwear brand as well and decided to make undergarments that were body-positive in every way possible and catered to a diverse audience. A thought that is reflected on their Instagram page as well.
It was in 2017 that Joyita Banerjee noticed that the women’s innerwear industry was somehow limited to floral, polka dots, and Aztec prints only. Rejecting this male narrative of feminity that seemed to dominate a product that was exclusively for women, Joyita decided to start Underworld as an innerwear fashion label that would steer away from traditional prints, and incorporate snazzier graphic prints. Of course, rendering intricate graphic designs on little pieces of fabric is not easy, but over time, Joyita and team have found a way to make it happen. Something that’s apparent in their debut collection ‘BUMMER’.
Underwear for men has almost always been an afterthought. With its minimalist designs, basic colours, and standardised packaging, there’s hardly anything to be excited about. However, Buttalks, founded by a Chennai-based trio Brijesh Devareddy, Surej Salim, and Manish Kishore, is bringing a unique concept to India: subscription-based men’s underwear delivered to your doorstep once every four months. The process is simple; you choose your favourite brands, put in your preferences and other details, and then just sit back and wait for new undies to arrive every few months or just once, depending on your subscription plan.
IV. Inner Sense
Probably one of the only brands that places importance on nursing mothers, Inner Sense provides options to those who desire comfort more than anything. In 2014, Neerja Lakhani founded the company with the idea of organic and sustainable innerwear in mind. With anti-odour and anti-microbial feeding bras, they have provided the solution to a problem many would not even think of. Their nursing bras are made of organic materials, a blend of organic cotton and bamboo to ensure good health for the mother as well as the child. Maternity care and needs are carefully tended to in their products. Additionally, Inner Sense informs about the same through their blog. In fact, the company also sells diapers and organic baby food to cater to all mothering needs.
Finding perfectly fitting bras is a witch hunt. The problem intensifies for women whose sizes just don’t seem to exist in the market. With a will to tackle this situation, Raksha Shetty founded Xxllent that caters to all plus-size women. Their site eludes confidence and pride in plus-size bodies; #IAmXxllent seems to be their mantra. Along with a range of bras, they sell night gowns too. Xxllent creates an impressive body-positive space for women who have always faced the issue of unavailability of plus-size clothes, innerwear and accessories. Their Instagram page emphasises the same values, something that’s ought to bring a smile to your face.
Born out of a conversation about uncomfortable bras, Brag was founded by Simeran Bhasin and Ivy Chin. Classmates and best friends, they set out to eliminate the idea of discomfort associated with bras. They have ditched the underwires but most importantly, focus on introducing bras to young girls. The task of choosing and wearing a bra for the first time is special yet daunting. Brag simplifies this process by presenting a range of attractive and comfortable innerwear specifically for teenagers. Such a particular effort for youngsters is bound to make them feel included, comfortable and confident all at once.
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