It didn’t take long for Joanna Griffiths to realize she had a hit on her hands.
The founder of the Canadian underwear label Knix Wear launched a crowdfunding campaign on Sept. 14 to pre-sell the brand’s next product innovation, an 8-in-1 convertible, wear-anywhere hybrid bra, aiming to raise $30,000 to pay for production costs.
Knix Wear reached that goal in less than two days and, in one 36-hour period, pre-sold more than $100,000 worth of the space-age ‘Evolution’ bras.
To date, the campaign has raised more than $350,000 — 10 times its original target — and has a reasonable shot at becoming the most successful fashion campaign of any kind funded by Kickstarter. It has 26 days left in its campaign to catch the current record holder in the category, Flint and Tinder, which raised just over $1-million to underwrite its ’10-Year Hoodie’ in 2013. (It’s already the most successful lingerie-related project on any crowdfunding platform.)
“It feels really good, I’m not going to lie,” the Toronto-based Griffiths told Lingerie Talk. “You work really hard at something, and you expose yourself to the world and there’s always a chance it’s not going to go the way you hoped.
“But as a team we believed this was our best product yet. This is a huge step for us, and a great boost of confidence. … We’re really overwhelmed.”
So what’s behind the instantaneous enthusiasm that greeted the ‘Evolution’ bra?
Knix Wear is the latest in a growing list of underwear brands that have zeroed in on perfecting the elusive Holy Grail of the lingerie industry: the all-purpose performance bra that looks good, does its job and, well, feels great no matter how long you wear it.
Knix Wear calls its ‘Evolution’ line “the world’s most comfortable, versatile and technologically advanced bra” — a big boast in an industry full of marketing hype, but one that might well prove true.
This multi-tasking marvel has more features than an iPhone. Its high-performance Lycra blend offers 4-way stretch and is anti-microbial, moisture-wicking and quick-drying. It’s fully reversible and, with detachable and interchangeable straps, can be worn 8 different ways.
But the secret sauce here is Knix Wear‘s patented construction method — a seamless bonding of two fabrics that creates a supportive underbust band that needs no wires and “moulds to your shape”.
The ‘Evolution’ is aimed at active women who would typically switch bras when going to gym or a yoga class, then switch back to something more comfortable and design-friendly when they head back to the office or home.
“You might never want to take it off,” the company says in a marketing campaign that mixes bold claims and, because it’s Canadian, a dash of unassuming modesty.
Knix Wear has enjoyed continuous growth since launching 2½ years ago, and this is the second time it has pivoted — successfully — toward emerging market trends and customer demands.
With a keen interest in performance fabrics and manufacturing technology, the company began as a specialty product offering stylish incontinence panties. A year later, it moved into the exploding athleisure market with a collection of sporty performance underwear styles called FitKnix.
Knix Wear sold more than 100,000 pairs of its performance panties but found itself besieged by copycats, and looking for ways to distinguish itself in the crowded marketplace.
“Performance and design has always been our point of difference,” Griffiths said. “We were always thinking about what we can do next. How can we improve this baseline of what we’ve already created?”
By any measure, the company had achieved an enviable level of success in a short time, with more than 350 retail distribution points and a large online presence (half its sales still come from its direct-to-consumer channels). But it took some nudging from both Knix Wear‘s suppliers and its customers to trigger the move into the riskier, and more technically challenging, category of bras.
“It started with our suppliers and their seamless bonding technology,” Griffiths said. “We had had a lot of requests for bras, and when I saw this technology I saw an opportunity to do something great with it.
“The biggest thing we’ve done is creating support and lift using this bonded construction, and doing it without an underwire. There are a lot of bras in this market, but what we’re doing is unlike any of the bras out there.”
The ‘Evolution’ bra’s massively successful pre-sale campaign was no accident, either.
Knix Wear relied on crowdfunding to successfully finance its first two collections, but its entry into the bra market required almost military stealth and precision.
After lengthy research and development, it conscripted 70 ‘average’ customers to wear-test its prototypes for the ‘Evolution’ bra and talk about it on their social networks. It photographed its amateur model-testers, with a varierty of body shapes and bra sizes, and then last winter began teasing customers with images of its forthcoming product on Instagram.
“That built up a lot of demand for it,” Griffiths said. “We found that the #1 most-searched item on our website was ‘bra’. We have a good network of customers who have been buying our underwear for the past two years, and we were getting a lot of inquiries about it.”
When it came time to launch the Kickstarter campaign, Griffiths said, “it was our third crowdfunding campaign so we knew what to do.”
That meant offering great rewards on “early bird” orders to incentivize early adopters and generate fast buzz on social media networks. The “early bird” reward packages sold out immediately but, luckily for both Knix Wear and its fans, there were plenty of other options for pre-ordering the ‘Evolution’ (which will retail for about $65 CDN).
The early success of the campaign will accelerate production on the ‘Evolution’ and increase the company’s capacity on all fronts (it currently operates with seven full-time and three part-time employees). Last week, Knix Wear sent out surveys to the first 3,000 customers from its Kickstarter campaign to finalize color and size choices, and will start production “immediately” to ensure a November delivery.
The response to the campaign also validates Knix Wear‘s research into how women’s bra needs are changing, Griffiths said.
“It’s a pretty good indication of what the appetite is for a hybrid bra. There’s clearly a demand for it,” she said.
“We had no interest in making a traditional bra. Women want something new and different and comfortable that adapts with them. They are moving toward multi-tasking products that deliver both the functional benefits and the fashion benefits. This is a huge bonus for women.”
It will also give the company enough financial security to ramp up R&D on its next venture, which will likely be a high-impact sports bra and which, like the ‘Evolution’, will probably merge current best practices with some as-yet-unseen technological advances.
Griffiths’ business strategy is like the mindset of a ballplayer who’s always thinking of the next game, even after slugging a game-winning home run.
“We’re always pushing ourselves to be more,” she said.