Hollywood stylist Karla Welch has worked her disruptive aesthetic on Justin Bieber, Stella Artois, Levi’s denim and Hanes Ts, and now she is turning her attention to the $26 billion global menstrual hygiene market with The Period Company.
Founded by Welch and branding guru Sasha Markova, formerly executive creative director of Impossible Foods, the health and wellness start-up offers six styles of period underwear starting at $12 for women and teens, including adaptable and trans boxers.
The Period Company branding wraps in self-empowerment and sustainability (each year in the U.S., approximately 12 billion pads and seven billion tampons end up in landfills) with a call to activism, highlighting in launch communications how little innovation has occurred since the tampon was invented “by a man” in 1931.
In the works for four years, the brand came out of Welch’s own experience with her teen. “The genesis was making Clem’s period the best experience possible and reducing the waste around my own,” she said, explaining that making a global sustainability impact around menstruation required making period underwear more affordable than what’s already on the market, and offering fully compostable packaging.
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The politically-outspoken stylist is also aiming to destigmatize menstruation. Case in point, a launch video featuring Welch at the sink rinsing her own period blood from the underwear. “Instead of telling people what to do, we’re hoping they ask themselves questions. If this grosses you out, ask yourself why.…Religion and patriarchy have turned us against the earth and our own bodies, but we’re not ashamed.”
The product is currently available online at period.co. When shipping to the 30 U.S. states that still have the so-called “tampon tax” on hygiene products (rather than including them among such tax-free necessities as groceries, medical supplies and even Viagra), The Period Company will cover the tax. The brand will begin wholesaling in early 2021, with an eye toward selling at Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and other mass retailers.
The underwear is made of organic cotton with four layers of absorbency. “We’re not fancy La Perla, we’re like good comfy Jockey. We’re your period underwear that you already wore, but it actually does the job it’s supposed to do,” said Welch, adding that they made a deliberate choice not to include any odor-reducing metals, which can be toxic.
In future, she plans to add holiday colors, skin tones and sport styles, as well as lower absorbency options. “I wouldn’t call it a fashion category, it’s menstrual health. But it’s also great for incontinence,” said the stylist. “That’s another huge area that has been neglected. Who’s thinking we’re not important enough to make progress on that front? Why should we be satisfied with a diaper?”
While the pandemic delayed the launch by a month or two, it reinvigorated the mission, Welch said. “COVID-19 and the civil rights movement has forced us to look at everything differently.…This is the perfect time to try period underwear. You’re at home, give us a try. This a small change that could make a huge impact on your own personal waste.”