BLOG IMAGE Kristy Chong

Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder, Modibodi

Every time we catch up with Modibodi CEO and Founder Kristy Chong, she’s busy launching a new product to the market to provide clothing options that improve sustainability and reduce single use. Kristy’s focus on constant product innovation, even within Modibodi‘s existing product range is second to none. Her newest offering includes reusable nappies, and introducing recycled nylon fabric to Modibodi‘s range to decrease landfill and energy use.

Along with her dedication to eliminating disposable wearables, Kristy is committed to challenging stigmas and stereotypes surrounding periods, and in late 2020 launched ‘The New Way to Period’ campaign, which was initially banned by Facebook. The decision was overturned after significant community outcry.

To top it all off, Modibodi are donating over $2,000,000 of reusable products in 2021.

Tell us about Modibodi’s latest product developments to improve sustainability.

During 2021 we re-imagined several our popular products in a new pre-consumer recycled nylon fabric. Not only does it feel sleek and smooth and perform exceptionally well, but it also reduces the amount of textiles waste heading to landfill, and, because we’re not needing to manufacture virgin nylon, we’re reducing our energy use, water consumption and carbon emissions.

This includes some of our popular Seamfree underwear styles, as well as a new Active  Leak-proof Leggings launched earlier this year.

Another major development is the launch this month of our new reusable nappies. These are designed to completely replace disposable nappies which would otherwise end up in landfill, where they take hundreds of years to break down and potentially leach chemicals into the soil. We’ve created a reusable nappy with an all-in-one design which fits like a regular nappy and is machine washable to make it easier for parents to rethink reusables and make the switch to a more sustainable solution.

Modibodi are donating over $2M worth of reusable products in 2021. What impact will this have?

Giving back is at the heart of the Modibodi business and is part of the brand’s DNA and purpose to ‘create limitless positive impact’.

Our ‘Give a Pair’ program was created to allow donations which are used to put packs of reusable period underwear into the hands of those in need, so they don’t have to use makeshift products to manage their period, such as toilet paper, newspapers or fabric, or stay home from school or work because they have no alternative.

We’re donating $2 million worth of reusable underwear in 2021 to help people in need manage their periods with dignity – that’s 100,000 pairs in bundle packs of five to help 20,000 women in need.

These donations will help vulnerable and disadvantaged women, girls and people who menstruate ranging from those in developing nations to school children to victims of family violence to those experiencing homelessness. By giving people a way to hygienically, conveniently and comfortably manage their period, we’re helping them participate in daily activities such as education, work and social activities which helps reduce gender inequality.

We work with a number of local and international partners to help our charitable donations reach those most in need. These include Plan International Australia, Bloody Good Period (UK), Ma’i Movement (USA), Maasai Water Project (Africa), Mission Australia, The Period Place (NZ) and more.

To overcome language barriers for those receiving our reusable underwear, we’ve created explanatory posters and wash bags using diagrams rather than written language, as well as educational posters and videos to help our charity partners explain how to use and care for our garments.

The ‘Give a Pair’ program also provides charity in times of crisis, such as delivering reusable underwear to frontline workers at a grassroots community level, including during the Australian bushfires or to frontline health workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in both Australia and the UK.

We’re proud to report that up to 25% of our customers make a donation to the programme during their purchase.

How is Modibodi improving sustainability in 5 key areas?

We’re working with our partners and suppliers to challenge each other to find more efficient, earth-friendly ways of working. We’ve identified five key areas for improvement to make the biggest impact for people…and the planet.

  1. A better way – we’re continuing to create reusable products as a more sustainable alternative to single use disposable pads, tampons, liners, partum and post-partum and nappies.
  2. Better materials – we know our fabric choices have an environmental impact, so we’re constantly striving to source and improve our range of environmentally-friendly fabrics. We use bamboo because bamboo plantations grow rapidly, require little water and self-regenerate without the need for pesticides, insecticides or fertilisers. Our core line of product gussets are made from Merino wool which is natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainably harvested and manufactured without harsh chemicals. We use organic cotton because, compared to traditional cotton, it saves a vast amount of water, is grown without harmful chemicals, helps the soil retain its natural nutrients and protects farmers, factory workers and eco-systems from chemical exposure. We use pre-consumer nylon to eliminate the need to produce virgin nylon and reduce the amount of fabric waste heading to landfill. Plus, recycled nylon is produced without the use of petroleum, saving water, energy and additional Co2 emissions.
  3. Better packaging – Modibodi uses compostable ComPOST parcel bags made from GMO-free renewable plants and compostable resin – avoiding 60% of Co2 emissions compared to a traditional plastic parcel bag. We also use recycled and recyclable cardboard when necessary.
  4. Sustainable production – Ethical manufacturing and environmentally-friendly production are key to our commitment to being a sustainable brand. That’s why we work with our suppliers to learn, improve and set environmental and social standards which give us confidence in our products throughout their life cycle. We work with our factories to improve their understanding and commitment to sustainable production. During 2021-22, we’re moving our factories towards the Oeko-TEX STEP process, which certifies a commitment to sustainable production and a process of continuous improvement. Our first factory is already certified.
  1. Responsible sourcing – Each year, our manufacturers are audited under the Business Social Compliance Initiative, BSCI, which we use to ensure the ethical working conditions in our factories. This includes: freedom to gather, fair working hours and pay, health and safety, no child labour, and following the principles of the International Labor Organisation.

Modibodi’s ethos is that periods are a very natural process. Tell us about your campaign to reduce period stigma, and what inspired it.

We launched ‘The New Way to Period’ campaign in 2020 in a bid to end the centuries old view that periods are ‘gross’ or shameful and to encourage a more sustainable approach to managing periods.

While the marketing of personal hygiene products has come a long way, many brands still feel the need to hide or gloss over the very natural process of having your period – which was a key factor driving a campaign of this unique nature.

The short-term campaign objective was to educate people about a truly innovative and eco-friendly way to manage periods and other leaks, and show them that they have more choices, while the long-term objective was to help shape culture by breaking down taboos surrounding periods.

The film features various people in the midst of their menstrual cycles experiencing visible pain and discomfort. It shows images of red-stained bed sheets and bathroom bins filled with used sanitary items and tissues, as a voiceover states “we’ve always been made to feel uncomfortable” during their time of the month.

Modibodi faced a substantial barrier when the film was banned by Facebook for being ‘sensational’ and ‘shocking’ for showing blood, with Facebook claiming the scenes showing red liquid representing blood had to be edited out. YouTube also initially blocked the ad but later rescinded the decision following a review. Following significant industry backlash and community support, Facebook reinstated the film.

The ban from Facebook shows the world has a long way to go in normalising the conversation around menstruation, however, the decision to reverse the decision and approve the ad is proof the campaign made an impact, and broader society is being WOKE to this ordinarily taboo subject.

Modibodi was overwhelmed by supportive comments received from men and women of all ages, confirming the campaign is starting conversations. Outside of this campaign, Modibodi will continue to communicate and educate to ensure stigmas can be broken for all people regardless of gender, identity and age.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.