Hollywood super stylist Karla Welch, the brain behind the wardrobes of Justin Bieber and Tracee Ellis Ross, has collaborated with branding expert Sasha Markova to create The Period Company. Its aim is singular: To change the archaic story we have been told about our periods through its revolutionary, waste-free, leak-free, affordable, non-toxic underwear for all. Because, the double act believes, periods are superpowers, and when we let them flow, rather than clogging ourselves up with unnecessary products – while filling landfills in the process – incredible things might happen. Period.
The genesis of the idea for menstrual underwear came four years ago when Welch’s teenager, Clem, got their first period. “To be honest, it was disastrous,” Welch tells British Vogue of the poorly formulated, expensive and wasteful menstrual products available. “Seeing Clem at the the beginning of their cycle, as someone coming to the end of their own periods, put it all into perspective for me,” explains Welch of mentally counting the sheer volume of plastic a person accrues during a lifetime of using tampons and pads. “Generation Z don’t want to use disposables, we have to change the narrative of what young people are told.”
Welch acknowledges that The Period Company is not the first brand to produce menstrual underwear – which is just like normal underwear, but can absorb a whole day of heavy bleeding – and hopes that it will not be the last. But, she says, “we have a unique skill set to make huge inroads”. Its six underwear styles, including adaptable pairs, sleepers, boxers, bikinis and junior briefs in a wide range of sizes, are designed to have a classic feel for anyone to wear – even when not on their period. The super-absorbent four-layered organic cotton design, with no added chemicals, has been medically regulated by the company’s chief medical officer, Dr Sade Imeokparia (NB: not all period product companies have these roles).
Lower-absorbency underwear will eventually be introduced, along with more styles and colours, but for now the team is concentrating on instigating “behavioural changes to build up trust”. “They aren’t fancy,” attests Welch, who along with Clem, has personally tried every prototype. “If the goal is to end waste, then the underwear can’t be $50.” Each plain pair, accordingly, is priced $12 (£9). “We don’t want to leave anyone behind.”
The Period Company’s campaign utilises previous period product advertising in a mash-up video that shows just how outdated the information we’re given about periods often is. “Among all the male-dominated advancements, who is caring about us?” asks Welch. “We’re a company for the new world. We want to have a sense of humour. The reason we’re in this mess in the first place is because we didn’t ask questions.” (Check out The Period Company’s FAQ page – which includes the lighthearted query, “Can Period take care of WAP?” – to see exactly what Welch means about keeping the tone light).
“Change is coming,” affirms Welch, who believes that plastic period products play a part in our dissociation from nature. “Just like water always finds a way to flow, our periods should flow,” Leaking is just an issue we’re taught to worry about by the companies who sell us products which, we all know, don’t actually prevent leaking. “Using Period means shaking off some of that programming: what you experience with Period might feel like leaking, but is actually flowing… The difference is just a state of mind,” says the brand. What are you waiting for?