Celebrity Stylist Karla Welch Wants to 'Change the Trajectory' of How People Feel About Periods

Celebrity Stylist Karla Welch Wants to 'Change the Trajectory' of How People Feel About Periods

As Seen In

Welch, who launched The Period Company in 2020 with Sasha Markov, spoke to PEOPLE about why her brand is so much more than just period underwear.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch vividly recalls how "traumatizing" it was to have a period as a young person. And when her own child got their period at age 10, she went through it all again.

"It was disastrous for me as the mom," she tells PEOPLE. While she hated the amount of waste she was creating with period products as a young woman, she hated even more that her child had to navigate menstruation at such a young age when it's still a topic that is taboo to some people.

"My 10-year-old could barely get to school on time, and then for them to have to think, 'Oh, I might also have to change my pad at school,' It was just kind of heartbreaking," she shares. "For a little kid to deal with pads and tampons is a lot. So I thought, 'You know what would be really easy? A really great pair of underwear that absorbs enough to last them through the day.'"

Welch was well-aware, though, that period underwear were already on the market and had been for years. It was something that she considered using herself years ago but couldn't stomach spending upwards of $40 a pair knowing she would need multiple pairs to get through one menstrual cycle.

"I decided I was going to make one that is something that everybody can access because it's going to be affordable, and I'm going to completely change the landscape of a sustainable period," she says of her idea for The Period Company.

Welch, who counts celebs like Olivia Wilde and Tracee Ellis Ross as clients, used her knowledge of clothes and the retail industry and teamed up with marketing pro Sasha Markov to launch the brand in 2020, smack in the middle of the pandemic, which she says she used to her advantage.

"If there was ever a time where people were really open to behavior change, it was then," she tells PEOPLE.

The Period Company offers a variety of absorbent underwear that can be washed in the sink or in a washing machine, all at $9-$12 a pair, making it more accessible for more people. But more than offering underwear, The Period Company is also a resource for everyone who has periods (and even for people who don't), because it's a brand that champions people.

"If you talk about something, you gain the power of it, right?" Welch says of bringing the conversation about periods to the forefront. "I wanted to restart the conversation about periods and show people it's nothing to be embarrassed about — it's a super power. We can change the years of [people] saying it's shitty. It can be a shitty, painful thing, but we can also make it into a better story. I wanted to make a great brand that really believes in the power of it and opens that door for conversation."

The Period Company's underwear, which just launched in Wal-Mart and can be used for any other kind of leakage people experience, won't break the bank, which was extremely important to Welch when developing the product. And while you might wonder how a small business was able to create a product with such a low price tag, she tells PEOPLE it really wasn't that hard — because she refused to do it any other way.

"We just decided we were going to do this really differently," she says. "We are so lean and do it our own way. We made the decision that it was more important for us to make less money than be mass, and to have people be able to afford it. It comes down to dollars and cents."

Welch takes the cost of the products so seriously that she even lowered the prices on some of the underwear styles. And everything she and her team have done seems to be working. She tells PEOPLE that sales are up quarter over quarter and customers tell her that The Period Company has been a game-changer for them.

"Who the hell ever really says they love their tampon? Literally no one," she says with a laugh. "People tell us this has changed their lives, and for me, getting to the end of my period life, it's meant my own relationship with my period has completely changed."

But if you're not someone who bleeds, The Period Company is a multipurpose underwear that also works well for incontinence and any other leakage. Welch points to people who are postpartum as a large customer base who have raved about wearing these underwear. She promises there truly is something for everyone.

"We can give dignity, which is such a huge thing," she says of encouraging anyone to give these underwear a shot. "Nobody wants to wear those big-ass plastic diapers. Let's give you a cute pair of underwear that I designed and made. They're like a cute little granny panty."

The Period Company is also working to eradicate period poverty around the world, so they work with organizations to sell their products at cost to be distributed to people in need. They also organize matching events on social media where they'll partner with a celebrity — generally Welch's styling clients — and for however many pairs of underwear that celebrity's post gets, The Period Company will match the amount and donate them. Welch says her client Sarah Paulson recently participated in a matching event, which resulted in them donating about 10,000 pairs of underwear.

It all comes back to her mission to "shift the story" and make periods a little less traumatizing — for everyone.

"Imagine what it would be like to say to yourself, 'I love my period,' or 'This is amazing,' because you don't have all that waste and you don't have that trauma of being told it's gross," she says. "If we can get this across to a young person, we can change the trajectory. It's so fixable, and that's such an exciting prospect for us."