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30 Dec

Stripe & Stare’s Sustainable Formula

Back in pre-pandemic times, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum selected Stripe & Stare because the underwear brand of the long run. It was through the museum’s 2016 retrospective on underwear through the ages and the way undergarments have mirrored women’s liberation. 

Stripe & Stare makes knickers out of beech trees and Tencel micro modal fabrics. Courtesy Photo

The British-based brand was just getting began then. (Stripe & Stare officially launched in 2017 after roughly a decade of research and development into sustainable fabrics and sourcing.) However the museum selected the newbie brand precisely since it reflected the theme of the exhibit: Stripe & Stare’s fabrics were soft and freeing. 

“They said they chose our product due to our commitment to sustainability and the fun, flirty designs that supply maximum comfort, which represented the long run of underwear,” Katie Lopes, cofounder and inventive director of the firm, told WWD. 

Stripe & Stare makes bras and sets. Courtesy Photo

The uber-girly assortment can be fitting for a museum. It’s like candy for the eyes. There are energetic neon colours, alongside designs of stripes, stars, rainbows, hearts, animal prints, catchy phrases and other playful patterns. There are also rompers and tanks and men’s underwear and bathing gowns. (That’s British for robes.) 

Underwear from Stripe & Stare. Courtesy Photo

The choice aside, shoppers only need to the touch Stripe & Stare’s fabrics to feel how soft they’re: the knickers and pajama sets are produced from beech trees and Tencel micro modal fabrics, grown in a forest from responsibly-sourced trees. Packaging is produced from biodegradable plant materials with a reminder to compost after use and tags are all made from recycled cardboard. The brand became an authorized B Corp in 2022. 

Stripe & Stare products are available biodegradable boxes produced from plant materials. Courtesy Photo

But Lopes — a former shop owner and buyer in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, and later in Notting Hill — was planting the seeds for sustainability long before it became an industry buzzword. 

“I had my very own stores in London, selling contemporary fashion brands reminiscent of Rag & Bone and Zimmermann, and I couldn’t find a fantastic pair of underwear for on a regular basis wear,” she said. “So I began developing our own range for our customers. It was at a time after we were starting to grasp the damage fashion was doing to the planet. So it felt like in the event you were going to start out something latest it ought to be done in a greater way. The 2 key issues I wanted to deal with were comfort for on a regular basis — something that was not boring and frumpy — plus sustainability. This is especially vital for underwear, which is something that can’t be bought secondhand and something we use on a regular basis. At the moment just one percent of underwear was sustainably sourced. 

“Founding a business is super tough, but knowing we now have a fantastic product gives us confidence,” she continued. “Our primary source of latest customers is thru word of mouth. We need to make sustainable underwear mainstream.”

Stripe & Stare cofounders Katie Lopes, left, and Nicola Piercy. Courtesy Photo

Fast Forward six years — and with the assistance of cofounder Nicola Piercy— and the London-based brand is growing fast. Revenues surged greater than 3,000 percent between 2019 and 2022, with a current valuation of roughly $15 million. The direct-to-consumer startup’s business has also grown to incorporate wholesale partnerships, each within the U.K. and Stateside, with the likes of Selfridges, Shopbop, Revolve and Bloomingdale’s. Zalando is coming in January.  

“We love partnering with retailers,” Lopes said. “It’s a fantastic way of getting in front of latest customers.”

LoveShackFancy entered the underwear market by the use of a partnership with Stripe & Stare. Courtesy Photo

There have also been collaborations with LoveShackFancy and The Home Edit. The brand is currently in talks with other brands within the U.S., Australia and Brazil, in addition to a possible partnership with a European influencer, although Lopes declined to say who. 

Pieces from the LoveShackFancy x Stripe & Stare collaboration. Courtesy Photo

The style entrepreneur added that past collaborations have yielded seven-figure revenue returns, while increasing overall brand awareness. “Luckily, so many ladies love our range and are joyful to inform the world. So we now have all the time had a lot of partnership options,” she said. 

It’s not only consumers who’ve taken note of the brand. Investors have also noticed growth. The brand has been approached by potential buyers, all of which Lopes has turned down — for now.

“Now we have really been in the fitting place at the fitting time,” she explained. “The #MeToo movement saw a seismic shift in women’s underwear shopping habits. In a short time women wanted underwear that was super comfortable while still offering a fantastic aesthetic. The times of sexy, uncomfortable underwear designed with the male gaze in mind now not felt right for contemporary women. The importance of purpose-led shopping also increased with consumers caring an increasing number of how and by whom their products are made. And the pandemic was one other factor with an increasing number of shopping online and other people at home wanting to speculate in comfort.”

Briefs from Stripe & Stare. Courtesy Photo

To assist with the brand’s rapid growth, Stripe & Stare brought on a latest chief executive oficer last September. Cathay Newnes Smith, who hails most recently from British clothing retailer Boden, brings together with her greater than 20 years of retail experience and expertise in product, merchandising, buying and marketing.  

“Nicola and I don’t have the brand growth background that Cathy has. So she really knows what it takes to turn into a giant business, while we bring the brand identity and start-up mentality,” Lopes said. “She is bringing infrastructure to Stripe & Stare, which has been in start-up mode for the past five years, just maintaining with the demand. However it is time to work on our systems, range planning and constructing the team to organize for further growth. So it’s a fantastic combination.”

Sleepwear pieces from Stripe & Stare. Courtesy Photo

With Newnes Smith’s help, the Stripe & Stare team goals to grow its valuation to $100 million by 2027. 

“We’ll get there by increasing our customer base through collaborations, partnerships, digital marketing, wholesale [business], pop-ups and events,” Lopes said. “Now we have seen huge success with routes reminiscent of podcast partnerships, influencer partnerships from micro to macro and dealing with women we admire to assist spread the word.

“We still face many challenges — from increasing supply chain costs to a cost-of-living crisis to a looming recession to increasing digital marketing costs — as all firms are facing,” she continued. “But we’re in a superb spot to weather the storm. While we keep our numbers conservative and are fairly risk averse, we’re also very ambitious, so we realize it’s possible. The underwear market is so big. We don’t need a really big piece of it to realize this.” 

There are plans to grow the assortment with latest silhouettes and innerwear styles, although Lopes said the main target will all the time be on intimates and “cool, comfortable, sustainable underwear.” 

“If we were to diversify an excessive amount of into fashion we might find yourself doing a number of things badly,” Lopes said. “We’re real believers in doing one thing well and being very focused. Our aim is to sell one product to hundreds of thousands of girls — there is a large market on the market for us to capture.”

Prints from Stripe & Stare. Courtesy Photo

As well as, Lopes said Stripe & Stare is considering entering physical retail or pop-up shops to assist expand brand awareness. She is currently in talks with Leap — a platform that supports e-commerce brands as they arrange shops IRL — to make the jump from digital to physical. 

“It’s a superb time for deals in retail and we’d have a look at any pop-up as a branding and marketing activity for customer acquisition and a spot where we will tell our sustainable story as much as a revenue stream,” she said. “There’s a lot scope to expand in underwear and sleepwear.” 

Lopes said she might even be open to selling the brand “in a couple of years,” but added, “while we’re constructing the brand, it may be that we’re having fun with it an excessive amount of and need to continue to grow the corporate ourselves.” 

Expanding on her wishlist, Lopes said, “If we had an infinite budget, I’d love an area in London and Recent York. One within the West Village and Chelsea or Notting Hill. But I feel that may be a way off in the intervening time.”

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