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Dear Kate’s Superpowered Underwear

In our current era of over-sharing, what a woman’s body goes through after the birth of a baby is rarely spoken about in detail. But behind the scenes at the high-performance underwear brand Dear Kate, nothing is off limits. “There’s no such thing as TMI,” says 27-year-old founder and CEO Julie Sygiel.

The brand, which launched in 2011 under the name Sexy Period, originally offered women stylish yet functional underwear for that time of the month. But it became clear that the designs—powered by a patent-pending three-layer lining called Underlux—had another important purpose. “I started to get feedback from moms,” says Sygiel, “who were like, this is amazing! I just had a baby and it’s been pressing on my bladder for nine months. I love wearing your underwear—and not for period reasons.”

She re-launched her brainchild in 2012 as Dear Kate (the name is meant to evoke a trusted advice column), and new moms—many experiencing incontinence, which affects one in three women after the birth of their first child—are now some of her best customers. “A lot of them have shared with us that it’s such a shock when they go to do a jumping jack or start exercising and they’re peeing a little bit,” she explains. “They’re like, this has never happened to me before.”

Dear Kate hatched in 2008, when Sygiel was taking an entrepreneurship class and studying chemical engineering at Brown University. She wrote a business plan focused on creating better underwear for women. “There are all these highly advanced textiles and innovation happening in pretty much every area of our lives, including our clothing, but no one is talking about issues that women have during that time of the month,” she explains. Two years of research and development, some 200 handsewn prototypes and a lot of outside opinions later (“All these experts kept telling me, you have to laminate a plastic film to the fabric if you want it to be leak-resistant. But I didn’t want a Gore-Tex jacket in my underwear.”), Sygiel hit the sweet spot. “We were able to create a garment that’s not meant as a replacement for a super-plus tampon or whatever you’re using for bladder leakage, but it’s a back-up,” she says. “For a lot of people, that’s all we need.”

The brand entered the sport-underwear game in the summer of 2013; the first batch flew off the virtual shelves and a second production run, which was twice as big, sold out. The Hazel Sport collection remains one of Sygiel’s top sellers today, and her offerings include active wear, too: A yoga pant and short feature the same super-wicking, chafe-free fabric as the underwear—and require nothing worn underneath.

“At the end of the day,” says Sygiel, “we’re fulfilling a need that has a really positive impact on women’s lives.”

Pictured above: High-rise yoga short (left); Jackie collection hipster (right column).

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