As we launch the first-ever female underwear for the JustWears community, we've all been reflecting on the brand's journey so far, and what this means for the business and community as well as the world around us. It has also been a time of considering the company's roots so that we can further crystallise what our offering is to the world. Our founder, Yang Liu, tells us about the life experiences that led her to be passionate about improving the well-being of our customers and the workers and communities affected by the textile industry.
Yang Liu grew up in China in Yunnan and experienced firsthand the effects of the cotton industry. This region is used for growing cotton for the textile industry, with 75% of the world's fashion exports containing the material. The cotton plant requires huge quantities of land and water to grow, as well as dangerous pesticides and chemicals.
With more than 250 million people across the world involved in the production of it, finding sustainable solutions to cotton rearing is essential for the industry to improve the well-being of those who work with it, as well as the environments it affects. Organic cotton initiatives have increased over the last decade, and while this improves the conditions of the workers and communities who suffer from intensive chemical and pesticide use, it doesn't resolve the water and land necessitated for its production. With limited freshwater resources across the world, finding alternatives to the cotton plant for our garments is essential for the well-being of those in climates with increased water scarcity.
Experiencing many droughts as a child, Yang describes "I remember my dad having to keep put a bucket under the water tap so we could wash our hands and clean the vegetables." The local economy where Yang grew up relied heavily on the growth of cotton to export, which impacted the environment and people living there. "I saw the negative impact of an unsustainable, commercial, economy. "I thought, 'I wonder if there is anything I can do to achieve that commercial impact without sacrificing social impact.'"
At eight years old, Yang experienced a life-threatening traffic accident that paralysed her and killed several other passengers. "The doctor told my dad that I was not going to walk again," Yang explains in her TEDx talk last year standing in front of 800 people. "But today I'm standing in front of you on my feet, I regained my ability to walk and what's more, I have gone on to live a life that I would never have anticipated." In the weeks that followed the accident, Yang's father left a lasting message with her, when she protested about how unfair this experience had been: "Because I am still alive means that everything is possible."
Yang's journey has uniquely positioned her to want to lead a life of meaning and impact. To leave an important mark on the world, that benefits the communities she grew up in, and to recognise the importance of comfort in our lives. "I feel really grateful that I survived and I'm alive. This second life was gifted to me and I am motivated and driven to live the second life meaningfully." In 2010, Yang went to Nanjing University, considered to be one of the best agricultural universities in the world. She describes being exposed to some of the most innovative, sustainable materials of the moment within the labs. Making the dream of creating an improved, commercially viable textile solution viable. "The whole idea of creating a brand, and creating tangible value to have an impact on people's individual lives and also broader society is what I feel personally motivated by."
Fast forward a few years and Yang began to dream up JustWears after meeting Alex Walsh when travelling. Hearing male friends always complaining about the discomfort from their underwear, as if it were a simple, unchanging fact about men's boxers, Yang realised there was a solution. This was when the idea of JustWears was truly born. The duo began working on the idea and launched in 2018, after being the most backed Kickstarter in the UK and with a 500-strong waitlist of men waiting for the product. Alex and Yang are getting married later this year.
"For the last five years, this business has served the other half of the population, right? So I wanted to treat the many women who support me along this journey too." "I truly believe that being nice to yourself, being kind to yourself, and treating yourself well is what we want our customers to be able to feel."
Fast fashion and poor-quality design are much bigger issues for women, because the fast fashion industry capitalises on the insecurities of women, making them more susceptible to purchasing based on what they think they should look like, rather than how they are. This is the antithesis of the JustWears brand. We believe that you should aspire to be yourself, not anyone else. And so we create exceptionally soft and comfortable underwear that makes you feel like you. Just more comfy.
Like our men's products, we have crafted the thongs and knickers from MicroModal Air. MicroModal Air is a viscose material, which means it is made from renewable plant fibres. Because it is made from beech trees, it is a naturally renewable fibre. Lenzing uses responsible forestry to grow the trees used, which also ensures the safety and well-being of those involved in the production. They also reuse the chemicals used in the production, which keeps them from harming the environment. It is also more hardwearing than other sustainable materials such as bamboo, which makes it last longer so you can rely on the comfort for years to come.
We have created a women's product with the same attention to detail, with rounds of samples and testing to ensure the best fit possible because not only can we make double the impact, but we can also extend the same comfort, confidence, and courage to our female community.