Like many millennial women, Cami Tellez grew up going to Victoria’s Secret. At a certain point in time, the store was a paragon of femininity — and the coolest place to buy underwear. But times have changed, and in recent years, the lingerie giant has faced criticism for a lack of diversity and a narrow, dated perspective on what defines sexiness and femininity.
Consumers are now demanding more from the brands they give their money to and utilizing the opportunity to invoke change with their wallets. As a result, we’re seeing more and more brands committed to diversity and movements like body positivity, many of which are also philanthropic in mission.
Enter: Parade. Tellez is the co-founder of the newly-launched underwear brand (like really new, they just launched last week). The brand hit the ground running with three pairs of sustainably-made, size-inclusive underwear: a thong, a cheeky, and a boyshort available in XS-3XL. What’s more, the brand is giving 1 percent of proceeds to Planned Parenthood. This is underwear women will be proud to wear.
We spoke with Tellez a day after launch to learn why she believed women’s underwear was due for a reinvention, how it connects to feminism, and why texting is the future of e-commerce.
Why did you launch Parade?
Women are free-wheeling, dynamic, and creative people, and I wasn’t seeing brands that brought that to life in a multi-faceted way. I grew up going to the mall, going to Victoria’s Secret, trying on an ‘add-two-cups’ bras, and feeling like I had to transform. I’m excited to be launching Parade at a time that doesn’t embrace this one-note definition of sexiness.
What makes this underwear different?
I believe that building an incredible product starts with talking to the customer, so we surveyed over 3,000 women before we started building our product. At the core, Parade just feels completely different than any other underwear you’ve tried — it’s super soft and feels like a second skin. Our debut fabric Re:Play is made of recycled nylon, but it’s made of the finest yarns to create the smoothest 360-stretch and most adaptive body feel.
Our waistband technology, Freestretch, was developed by the world’s premier elastic manufacturer and works like sport-inspired performance recovery. We designed it with everyone in mind, so the underwear is incredibly adaptive. It’s honestly amazing –– we had more than 100 people wear test it and everyone involved has been a huge fan!
Parade is sustainably made. Can you tell us more about those initiatives?
We started Parade with a commitment to a zero-waste future. This means using recycled materials and compostable packaging. Our first fabric is made of pre-consumer waste created during the process of producing virgin nylon — it’s certified by Global Recycle Standard and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 to ensure that it’s free from chemicals that could harm your body and the environment. Our packaging is made of wood cellulose and cornstarch, and it biodegrades in 300 days. Our community is already telling us they’re excited about our sustainability efforts, but this is only the beginning of our commitment towards a greener apparel industry.
How did you decide to work with Planned Parenthood?
At the core of Parade is my belief that underwear is a connective tissue between your body, which is political and identity-driven, and style, which is all about creativity. To me, this makes it an incredibly emotional space imbued with the potential to make change. We were building Parade at a time when reproductive agency and access to sexual health were under fire — they still are — and I believe that Planned Parenthood is the core pillar in this fight.
To me, it was necessary to do something meaningful and transparent, so we donated $12,000 before we launched, and going forward, we’re donating 1 percent of all profits to Planned Parenthood of NYC. As a company, we also donate our time to the organization and volunteer with our community.
How is Parade using technology to differentiate itself?
While much of e-commerce still relies on email, we believe our customer is mobile-first, so we text our customer to engage with her, help her find what she wants, and allow her to restock her underwear instantly on her phone. We also believe in digital experiences — essentially rooms on the internet that you want to bring your friends to. We had one called “Press Here for Stickers,’ where people could request Parade stickers, and we sent out over 15,000 stickers before we launched.
Our biggest one to date was “Spin To Win,” where consumers could play a slot machine and win free underwear, then share with friends, and donate to Planned Parenthood. These experiences drove close to 70,000 people to our wait list before we launched. Fun is such an important way of how we think about everything we do at Parade, from how the site feels to our social presence to our product experience.
Parade drummed up a lot of pre-launch excitement. How did that happen?
All of Parade’s growth has been organic. I think it shows us how ready people are for a new underwear brand! It has primarily grown through the Parade Friends program, which is over 300 people right now, half of whom are in college. It’s amazing to me how excited they are to be part of a brand that has a really concrete mission and spirit. Our customers care deeply about sustainability and sex education, and they help us understand where to go next. They’ve brought so many of their friends along and helped us co-create the brand. Ultimately, they are the core foundation of the brand.
When we launched, there were a lot of people with 100,000 followers posting, sure, but I think what was most meaningful was every single person with 1,000 or 500 followers posting for the first time in their underwear. It’s new to actually see what women are doing in their underwear everyday, authentically.
Parade launched with three styles of underwear. What’s next?
We’re so excited to be launching something new in three weeks. We’ll be dropping product probably every two to three weeks after that — it’ll be pretty frequent. We really believe in underwear as self-expression, so there will be new colors and new styles, plus another fabric we’re excited about that we’re launching early next year. We’re addressing our product creation from the standpoint of how we are going to address all of her needs throughout the day. She needs different underwear to go to the gym than she needs to go to work. And so we want Parade to become the brand that she can turn to for everything.
What’s the one pair of underwear from the current selection every woman needs?
My favorite Parade underwear style right now is the thong — I’m not someone who really wears thongs, but we designed this one to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. It’s so comfortable, soft, and the waistband stays in place no matter what you end up doing. My favorite color right now is Casino, this incredible sunset pink color (fun fact: It’s named for the color of Robert De Niro’s blazer in the first scene of Casino!).