We’re loving Thundress’ dedication to protecting women’s health and commitment to creating a community where women can talk-shop in a supportive, relaxed space. Founder, Tylea Simone Richard, talks more about why she wants you to be aware of your underwear…
Tylea Simone Richard
A few years ago, I went to a job interview with an older man who’d been working in the New York City textile industry for his entire career (I would estimate 40 years or so). He asked me the standard interview questions and then abruptly advised me never to wear underwear. He explained that the chemicals in fabric were really bad and, leaning forward intently, told me I shouldn’t wear them at all. I was freaked out and uncomfortable by the non-sequitur and spent the rest of the interview totally preoccupied with his discussion of my undergarments.
In order to make sense of what happened, I did some furious internet research when I got home. Although it didn’t excuse his creepiness, I found out that he was telling the truth: there are approximately 130 textile-related chemicals that have a high to medium probability of release from textile articles. The chemicals of greatest concern for textile-to-skin contact are azo dyes and fragrances (Swedish Chemical Agency). According to another study by the European Consumer Organization, “sweat and movement friction can facilitate the migration of hazardous substances from the fabric to our skin.”
There haven’t been any long-term studies on the effects of these chemicals in the body, but the Swedish Chemical Agency warns that substances that may cause severe health effects “should be avoided in articles with direct and prolonged skin contact.” And of course, we know that the skin is very absorbent, and the vagina (a mucous membrane) is even more so. Plus, most women wear underwear against their vaginas all day and all night for most of their lives.
This discovery prompted two realizations: (1) the textile industry is one for the largest polluting industries in the world and it is having a negative effect on both the environment and our bodies, and (2) we have to find a better way to talk about our underwear and the body parts they’re meant to protect.
That is why I created Thundress, an underwear company on a mission. I believe that the lack of attention to the impact of harmful chemicals on women’s health and reproduction is a dangerous one and symptom of broader gender inequality. I am dedicated to reducing the amount of harmful chemicals that we are exposed to through our most intimate garments and creating a space where we can have these discussions in a safe, relaxed and supportive way.
All of our underwear is made from 100% organic cotton that is grown, spun and knit in the USA. The dyes are azo-free and the inner crotch lining is always undyed and unbleached organic fabric. Finally, the underwear are cut and sewn at a worker-owned factory in North Carolina. It’s an ambitious supply chain for a new company, but one that is ultimately driven by the belief that our most sensitive places should be free from toxic chemicals.