Ever heard of deadstock fabric? There’s a huge amount of it circulating within the fashion industry. Also known as surplus or overstock, deadstock fabric refers to material that has been left over or not sold within a supply chain.
Realising this, as well as the fact that there are currently a huge amount of clothes that aren’t worn or sold, Amanda McCourt and her sister Katie set out to create a solution through Pantee; an underwear brand creating comfy, sustainable women’s underwear from upcycled t-shirts.
This conversation with co-founder Amanda takes us on her journey to building the brand, the considerations they had to take into account when producing, the need for more inclusive, diverse bodies in the lingerie industry and navigating sustainability and growth as an independent brand.
Discover full show notes to the episode here. New to this podcast? Listen to our intro episode.
(6:02) Pantee was born out of a realisation that there were huge amounts of brand new clothes that never got worn or sold. After stumbling upon a YouTube video of someone turning a t-shirt into underwear and claiming that “it was the most comfortable thing they’ve ever worn”, Amanda decided to try her hand at creating them herself.
(7:28) Amanda shares that her favourite story to tell others is how they went about getting their first samples. Simply put, her first attempt of asking her local tailor to create the underwear did not go as planned but instead paved the way for her next few successful samples.
The process of upcycling deadstock
(9:50) Amanda speaks about how complex and lengthy the process of figuring out their supply chain was, while still making sure they were efficient and conscious about the environment.
(10:29) “With Pantee, from the beginning, a lot of this has been based for us on building relationships with people that we can trust and working with people that really understand and are in line with our vision.”
(11:59) When Amanda and her sister were sourcing for factories to create their vision, many were not keen on the idea of turning t-shirts into underwear because how much more time consuming and complicated it is to do compared to just using deadstock fabric. However, being clear about their own principles guided the two through finding a solution for their manufacturing process.
Pantee’s value-driven principles
(15:34) Amanda shares how Pantees have always been created in limited quantities and something that they are striving towards is to partner with brands who have deadstock waste. They want to show brands and businesses that deadstock waste is not something that needs to be disposed off discreetly.
(16:22) Functionality and comfort is another key aspect of Pantee’s products. When they first launched on Kickstarter, they talked more about the sustainability messaging of the brand. However, as they’ve gone in, comfort and functionality of the product is something that they started focusing on. As such, Pantee has been exploring other sustainable fabrics to create the comfiest underwear that doesn’t compromise on style or the environment.
(17:31) Amanda discusses her plans to remove sustainability from their marketing and instead build in sustainability through accreditations. Pivoting their messaging from sustainability to functionality and comfort is something Pantee has been working towards.
Creating a positive body image in the lingerie industry
(19:58) Championing people and the community has been crucial for Pantee and their decisions – from product design to functionality. By photographing Pantees on different body sizes, the brand has been able to represent its audience and portray a healthy body image.
(22:04) “You want to be able to see someone wearing something, and that person to look or kind of resemble you. Because otherwise, you can’t really picture yourself or you start to want to look like that person.”
(23:30) We discuss how the lingerie industry is transforming today and how there is a mix of new, sustainably-minded brands and also big brands that don’t seem to be changing their ways for the better. Amanda believes that more people are able to recognise when sustainability is performative or “genuinely at the core of their business” and this gives little room for big brands to make mistakes. At the same time, she acknowledges how big brands are “like massive cruise ships” and it will take time for them to pivot unlike smaller brands.
(27:57) A piece of advice Amanda would give to brands in their early stages is to print out B Corp’s application process and use that document to guide them through their decisions and processes. With Pantee, they used that document as a tool to ensure that they are on the right track to becoming B Corp-certified.
(29:30) Amanda also urges brands to create goals, write them down and to look at them everyday and every week so they know what they’re moving towards.
“Sustainability – treat it as governance in your business, something that helps all the clocks turn the right way. Just make sure its at the core of what you’re doing and what you really believe in and it’s not a marketing message.”
(30:49) Opposed to the idea of ‘selling sustainability’, Amanda shares how the brand is planning to pivot sustainability away from their marketing. She expresses her desire to create a ‘traffic light system’ on their website in the future to ensure transparency with their customers on things that need to be improved.
(35:29) An interesting analogy Amanda saw online was how a brand using sustainability as their front-line marketing tactic can be paralleled to a “restaurant shouting about them having a clean kitchen”. Ultimately, sustainability should be ingrained in a brand’s processes and shouldn’t be something that they are “shouting about”.
Learning and growing as an independent brand
(36:50) From successfully launching their crowdfunding campaign to being featured in the press, Amanda shares Pantee’s key milestone. However, above all, she feels like their returning customers are ones who make their day.
(40:55) One of her key learning points is being able to take a moment to give herself the praise, love and credit for their successes although it might be difficult to.
(43:26) Another piece of advice Amanda would give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to find their tribe – whether that is the community, businesses or journalists. Figure out the people who are passionate about what you are doing and the story you are telling.
(50:04) Amanda shares her struggles as an entrepreneur from dealing with rejections to unproductive days. Being able to embrace those challenges has helped her overcome them.
(57:23) Ultimately, Amanda notes that ‘made better’ means constantly improving themselves instead of comparing themselves to others all the time. It is “how the product looks and feels on and how it makes women feel.”