Comfort and price will always be important factors when it comes to buying undies. But for women, there are other things to consider. From who is making your knickers to how they are promoting their brand, a number of independent labels are leading the charge when it comes to ethical intimates.
A general dissatisfaction with the shape of the industry has given rise to a wave of brands challenging the norms. If you’re looking for sustainable fabrics, inclusive sizing or designs formed by a female gaze, these are the names to know when it comes to updating your top drawer.
Given that our intimates touch our most intimate areas, it’s startling how long we have gone without examining the impact undies can have on day-to-day happiness for many women. For Emma Rutherford-Ward, founder of Vee Underwear, creating thrush-friendly underwear is the first step towards breaking down the stigma around vaginal health. Eschewing “sexy” idealisms, the brand uses organic bamboo, which is not only a more sustainable option, but also has antibacterial, antifungal, breathable, odour-resistant and moisture-wicking properties. Rutherford-Ward believes that opening up the conversation and making help for preventable vaginal infections like thrush more accessible is key to happy and healthy hoo-has. The brand has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation and is donating $1 from every order of its limited-edition Purposeful Pink collection this month.
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Kat the Label is on a mission to elevate your everyday lingerie. Launched in 2015, the Melbourne-based brand sought to fill a gap in the market for beautiful pieces that weren’t overtly sexual. The now-signature mesh, satin and lace-trimmed styles are designed to inspire confidence, especially when you’re wearing them just for you. The range is available in an XS to XXL size run, with both underwire and soft-cup bras that span from AA to F in traditional cup sizes. Treat yourself to a matching set in an assortment of classic colours like black and white, as well as trending pastels and jewel tones.
Being Australian-owned in a space that is often dominated by international heritage brands is incredibly important for First Thing’s founder Georgia Gazal. As a young woman searching for comfortable pieces that also made her feel really good about her body, Gazal was unsatisfied with what was on the market and set out to change that. The brand launched in June 2022 with five styles of briefs (all designed with a V-shaped waistband that can be worn low on your hips or higher depending on your preference and outfit), three underwire bras (including a padding-free strapless style), a soft-cup bralette and crop top. With a size run that currently extends to a 16D, Gazal hopes to expand the core collection as soon as possible to fit a range of bodies.
According to Boody, lace doesn’t define lingerie. If you’re looking for basics that put comfort above all, the brand’s signature buttery-soft bamboo pieces are it. Both briefs and bras are available in a range of cuts and colours, and can be bought in convenient bundles, which means there really is no excuse for holding onto your “favourite” threadbare undies any longer. The collection of easy-wearing neutral tones promises to slot into your wardrobe without any fuss.
If you’re looking for wildly better underwear, Australian brand Nala is creating “bold and fierce” pieces for every body. Boasting ethical and sustainable production techniques, as well as the use of innovative materials, the brand is leading the way in shifting the industry to better practices. The brand has just launched Fahrenheit Vol. 1: a bold and summery collection of briefs, bras and bralettes featuring three new styles and three new colours (Canyon, Blue Lagoon and Sugar Plum). Just like the rest of the brand’s super-inclusive – and super-comfortable – designs, Fahrenheit undies and tops are made from innovative eco-friendly fabrics mostly composed of bio-based and recycled nylons. Femme without frills. Sizes run from XXS to 5XL and the brand’s site features a body-neutral fit guide, which supports its approach to inclusivity.
Maison Essentiele founder Olivia Koennecke doesn’t believe in saving your best things for special occasions. Light the fancy candle, drink the really good bottle of red wine and wear your most beautiful intimates every day. This is the premise that the Sydney-based brand was founded on. Silk bralettes, ruffle briefs and vintage-inspired nightgowns fill the label’s latest collection. Designed to be worn for sleep, as well as daywear, the luxurious essentials are sized XS–XL (AU6–14). There is a conscious decision to create pieces without too many zips, buttons or uncomfortable fastenings to ensure easy wear, whether you’re spending a Sunday at home or donning them for date night.
Inclusive, thoughtful and exceedingly comfortable underwear that can carry you through daily activities with confidence: this is how Keisha Dessaix, founder of Le Buns, describes the brand’s collection. With sizes 6–20 available across a range of briefs and bras, helping customers find the right fit is incredibly important for Dessaix. Product pages include the option to view pieces on bodies in different shapes, sizes and skin tones, with a 360-degree functionality, to help shoppers imagine themselves wearing each style.
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a cause that is close to Aimee Cherie Intimates founder Aimee-Cherie Kendall’s heart, due to her own mum’s diagnosis. While the brand has a standing $2 donation year-round, this month it’s doubling down and donating $4 from every order to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Now is a great time to invest in uniquely feminine pieces that shouldn’t just be saved for special occasions. Following a pandemic-induced boom, Aimee Cherie Intimates made the decision to partner with a women-owned factory in China to produce its core bamboo styles. However, more intricate lace pieces are still handmade by Kendall in the brand’s Melbourne studio.
A pioneering force in the market, Nico founder Lis Harvey has been creating the ultimate range of sustainable basics since 2012. Minimalism is at the core of the comprehensive collection, which includes varying cuts depending on your preferred coverage and level of support. Pieces in plant-dyed organic cotton arrive in colour-pop hues that are designed to mix and match, shaking up the neutral tones found in many top drawers. The team offers virtual fittings to help combat the apprehension shoppers have about buying bras online and navigating ever-differing size charts. Harvey believes that every woman deserves the feeling of well-fitting underwear and is passionate about helping customers find the perfect pieces to add to their collection without being pigeonholed by the number and letter on the label.
Originally conceived as a maternity brand, Juem’s range can be enjoyed by women at any stage of life. Based in Byron Bay, the label uses planet-friendly materials like GOTS-certified organic cotton elastane and OKEO-Tex standard 100-certified lace across the collection. Cuts and colours have an unapologetically feminine feel, and the pieces are designed to adapt to changing bodies thanks to supportive stretch and adjustable fastenings, including room for breast pads as needed. Linen loungewear enthusiasts will be well-acquainted with its sister brand, Deiji Studios.
Feminine, playful and with a sprinkle of vintage glamour, Chouchou Intimates takes iconic lingerie silhouettes and reworks them for the modern woman. Lace, satin and mesh detailing feature heavily in the collection, which is not shy about colours or cuts. With a size range that currently fits to 3XL, being as inclusive as possible is non-negotiable for founder Tina Grasso, who held off launching until she believed that as many people as possible could feel comfortable in the brand’s products. With the option to add personalised embroidery to key styles, these pieces make the ultimate keepsake for life’s special moments.
Nisa means “women” in Arabic, but for the New Zealand brand, it stands for solidarity. In 2017, founder Elisha Watson quit her career as a lawyer to launch the label as a small business that offered employment opportunities to women from refugee and migrant backgrounds. The Wellington-based workshop has not only provided work for 19 women, but also offers them the opportunity to learn English and create a vibrant community as they settle into their new home. The brand takes sustainability seriously, using organic cotton, recycled nylon and merino wool across its collection. Signature styles are available in the brand’s full-size range (XS–4XL), although the team are working to expand this offering as much as possible.
Vibrant prints define Bimby & Roy’s coveted collection of underwear that isn’t just underwear. From sleep to swimming and even a hot yoga class, the soft, stretchy and quick-dry styles are designed to cross all aspects of daily life. Sisters and co-founders, Mindy and Jessica, grew up in Fiji and have chosen to partner with the first solar-powered garment factory in the region to produce the brand’s wares. Signature designs are sublimated onto materials using heat, which helps to maintain vibrancy and colour free from cracks, for longevity in your wardrobe.
Launched as a response to the amount of waste associated with everyday products, Nat’v makes basics that are better for people and the planet. Founder Sandy Ronalds describes sustainability as a “before-thought”, hinging the entire business on doing better. Products are made from Oeko-Tex Standard 100-certified Tencel, while all ink used on packaging is soy-based; the tissue paper pieces come wrapped in is acid-free and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); and even the mailers are made from certified compostable material. Ronalds declares that there are “no toxins and no wedgies”at Nat’v headquarters.
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