Good: What inspired you to pursue the idea of period-proof underwear as a business?
Michele Wilson: I was actually on a family holiday in Rarotonga with my girls and got my period (always the way). [I was] trying to decide what to get in Rarotonga to manage my period — I didn’t want to contribute to the waste of the small island by buying pads or tampons, and cups are not my cup of tea. Looking at my two girls playing I began to think, what does the future look like for them and why is it 2018 and there are no modern comfortable options. When I returned home, I called my best friend Kylie [Matthews] and we began calling manufacturers and working with textiles and labs to find absorbent moisture-wicking fabric to develop our range of period-proof underwear.
How challenging was it to start this business, and what learnings from your previous business did you bring with you?
We were lucky that we both had start a business and were able to grow them into flourishing companies, so a lot of the groundwork we knew how to do. But the biggest challenge for us was in all the little things that come with running a fashion brand, like sizing and getting that right, finding sustainable fibres and antimicrobial technology as our underwear are more than just underwear — they have a purpose and we want that purpose (to absorb your flow while keeping you dry and fresh) for many years.
How do you ensure your products are eco-friendly and ethically made?
We use a 95 per cent organic cotton and do admit that although our period underwear are a lot more eco-friendly than all of your other menstrual management products like pads and tampons, there is a lot of work to be done in the field of sustainable and slow fashion. We are working really hard behind the scenes on the launch of a brand new world-first fibre in period underwear that is very sustainable and eco-friendly, which we are very excited to release.
How does period-proof underwear work in order to be able to replace all single-use menstrual products?
I am Eva is just as thin as your ordinary underwear but actually contain four pretty high-tech layers in the gusset. The top layer is moisture-wicking, which means it draws the blood away from your skin and into the next layers quickly. The second layer is antimicrobial so dispels any odours and bacteria and keeps the wearer feeling fresh. The third layer is the magical absorbent layer and absorbs two tampons worth of flow and the last layer is leak proof. Women can replace all single-use items and still change nothing more in their day other than the underwear they use.
How challenging is it convincing women to try this new method?
Funnily enough, not challenging at all. Most women we meet want to give it a go. I think it’s a sign of the times. Cups were invented in the '30s and although they do the job, they come with barriers to a lot of people so period underwear is just a more modern way in 2019 for women to manage their period in comfort, and sustainably.
What would you like to achieve with this business and what’s your future goal?
We want all women to have access to I am Eva because the feedback we have been getting is that I am Eva is life-changing. We are working with the government to see all schools supplied with I am Eva, we have a buy one donate one model and donate 5 per cent of all underwear that we make to charities. We are also working on becoming WINZ-subsidy approved. Our future goals include introducing our new more sustainable range and extending our range and hopefully going global!
Tell us more about the period proof underwear product. Is it comfortable? How it is made? How does it hold liquid ensuring no dampness and odour?
The magic is all in the technology. The fibre is now available to actually absorb liquid quickly, keeping the fibre dry. It seems pretty next level, and it is, but women just need to trust that the technology has [been] developed so well in fibres in order for us to achieve this. They are extremely comfortable — in fact, women should feel no difference to wearing their normal underwear on a non-menstruating day to wearing their AWWA period undies on a menstruating day! Isn't that pretty phenomenal?!
You have created the End Period Poverty movement. Can you tell us more about this? How can your customers support the movement?
Girls missing education because they are on their period is not OK. It’s a gender-equality issue and unless it's fixed pronto it will continue to have a negative spin-off effect to women in our generation and generations to come. We donate 5 per cent of our underwear to charities and have a buy one donate one model but realise that this is only scratching the surface. We also work with great education providers such as NEST and Kate Meads who are providing education to girls on how they can manage their periods. Finally, we have been working with the government to ensure menstrual products are provided to all school students and will see a proportion of those products being reusable.
You can find out more about AWWA, or order yours now at awwathelabel.com