The indie lingerie brand, cofounded by “Modern Family” star Sofía Vergara and Renata Black, has secured $6 million in a series A round. Now, the New York-based e-tailer, which was established in 2018, has some lofty goals: to become the industry leader in seamless innerwear.
“The goal for EBY is that every single woman who is wearing leggings should be wearing EBY underwear. Hard stop, period,” Black, who also serves as EBY’s chief executive officer, told WWD. “Why? Because I don’t care what product you put next to our product, we are the authority when it comes to seamless because of our technology. It’s a technology that solves the one problem that women have, which is riding, bunching or picking a wedgie where you don’t want to. So it’s really a performance-based product.”
EBY, which stands for Empowered by You, uses a patented flocking, or “no-slip-grip,” technology for its seamless panties and bralettes.
But Black added that the company’s objectives include more than just selling underwear — or even to be known as another female-founded business, or a size-inclusive brand. Rather, EBY aims to have a purpose. That’s why 10 percent of proceeds from EBY underwear go to the Seven Bar Foundation, a nonprofit that supports women living under the poverty line by providing them with loans so they can start their own businesses.
“How many brands are size inclusive?” Black said. “It’s a given [at this point]. There’s representation, of course. That shouldn’t be a novelty. But being able to enable women to make an impact with the one decision she makes, that’s awesome. I can make an impact with just the underwear I decide to wear. There was definitely a hole in the market, because nobody was really doing that.
“People are now looking for more purpose within the brands that they’re supporting,” Black continued. “Most of our demographic wants to have an impact.”
Meanwhile, EBY, which began as a subscription model, supplying shoppers with three pairs of underwear once every three months, now operates fully e-commerce, allowing consumers to select between the monthly membership or buying a la carte.
“And some people are, like, ‘Do you really need subscription underwear?’” Black said. “When you’re getting three pairs of underwear once every three months, it’s kind of a blessing. Especially if you’re super busy. Or, if you don’t feel like doing laundry.”
Black credits former Victoria’s Secret CEO Grace Nichols as one of her earliest mentors and the person who taught her to pay careful attention to consumer habits.
“She’s the one that really made me sit in stores, see how women shop and helped me formulate the best product, and also worked through the message with me, which is ultimately why we’ve been so successful,” Black explained. “We’ve modeled EBY’s subscription service to model our customers’ behaviors. And the product is something you actually need.”
“Women are usually buying underwear three or four times a year and buying them in handfuls,” Black continued. “I know that because I spent the first few months prior to launch just sitting in stores, watching how women shop.”
The result led to EBY doubling revenues between 2018 and 2019, Black said, which led to the e-commerce expansion in September 2020. The CEO added that the firm is on track to once again double revenues in the year ahead.
“In less than three years, we’ve had over 10,000 five-star reviews,” Black said. “That’s a lot for a small company like ours.”
The success also attracted the attention of investors, including Colt Ventures, which led the series A round.
“Now more than ever, we are excited to invest in a female-led company, such as EBY, that is bursting with market potential and has a notable social mission to support women globally,” said Sundeep Agrawal M.D., managing director at Colt Ventures. “Just like Colt Ventures, EBY is laser focused on the future. We are excited to support Eby as the company enters its next growth phase.”
Other investors include Azure Capital; Robert DiRomualdo, Ulta Beauty’s chairman of the board; Ken Goldman, former chief financial officer at Yahoo, and Duncan Niederauer, former chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange.
Vergara, for her part, is no stranger to the fashion and retail industries either. The actress launched Sofía Jeans by Sofía Vergara with walmart.com in 2019, which includes a full assortment of apparel pieces. Earlier this year, Vergara said she was moving into the beauty space as well. She also has collaborations with sunglasses brand Foster Grant and Payless shoes, and had a four-year deal with Kmart that included apparel, accessories, swimwear, shapewear, jewelry, luggage and home goods. In addition, Vergara has had licensing and endorsement deals with a wide range of companies and brands, including Cover Girl, Head & Shoulders and Kay Jewelers.
“This has always been a part of my career,” Vergara told WWD in 2019. “I like being creative with the businesses that I join,” adding that she chooses opportunities based on if it’s “something that I really use, that I really like, that I’m really going to wear. It has to be real for me — if it’s a shampoo, if it’s a perfume or if it’s an underwear.”
As for EBY, which has about 20 employees right now, the start-up plans to use the added funds to pump up its staff, including hiring a chief operating officer to help run the company; increase marketing efforts, including using influencers in future campaigns; further product development, innovation and new categories, and expand internationally with e-commerce businesses in Canada and the U.K.
First on the list is EBY’s limited-edition Seamless Luxe Collection, which launches today.
“Post-COVID-19, what our customers said was, ‘I want to put makeup on. I want to get my hair done. I want to wear heels. I want to hang up my sweatpants and I just want to get dolled up and look beautiful,’” Black said. “And that’s really what the Seamless Luxe Collection is about. But also not having to sacrifice comfort.
“We have some really cool new product launches [coming later in the year],” Black continued. “We have a mesh launch, seamless mesh, seamless period underwear and a seamless cotton collection. So, it will be a one-stop shop for all things seamless.”